The application of reflective exteriors on commercial buildings has come a long way from the glitzy skyscrapers from the 1980s and 1990s where the focus was squarely on the building itself. Mirrored facades are now being used in innovative ways to connect buildings with their surroundings – both natural and man-made – adding an urban camouflage of sorts to high-rise structures.
In place of the glass-framed office buildings that have dominated the skyline for decades, building exteriors are increasingly being designed using materials such as mirror cladding or reflective stainless steel. This shift in materials is seeing a big transformation in the aesthetics of commercial buildings. By using seamless reflection to take on the characteristics of whatever is around, attention is refocused away from the building, resulting in the built space expanding or even dissolving into the surrounding environment.
Charles Wright Architects drew on a left-field inspiration for the Botanic Gardens Visitors’ Centre, with the design of the Centre’s exterior based on the suit worn by the alien-hunter in the movie Predator. The mirrored façade reflects the surrounding natural landscape, almost completely blending the building into the greenery.
The building is wrapped with stainless steel panels that are angled irregularly, addressing the sun glare problems that are often faced with mirrored facades.
The Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth is clad entirely with locally sourced stainless steel, wrapping the building like a folded curtain.
The shimmering surface reflects and refracts its surroundings, with the museum’s architects Patterson Associates drawing inspiration from the work of the Lye, who was well known for his kinetic sculptures. Gaps between the façade’s folds allows a small amount of light through, creating shadows on the concrete walls inside.