The new virtuality in architecture

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In architectural history, the term “façade” – derived from Latin “facies” (face) – denotes the representative outer shell of a building.

Squares and streets are shaped and defined by buildings and their design, by construction materials and artistic décor. In combination, architectural monuments, houses and their façades have developed specific and individual cityscapes – unmistakeable, unique and lasting.

Rooted in a modern industrialised, urbanised world and driven by technological progress – particularly in the spheres of photo and film and in the digital media – and by the concurrent radical changes in our lives and its perception, media façades have become a major topic. According to media artist Professor Joachim Sauter, they are turning into a new format: “The façade is the medial skin of architecture.”

New landmarks

Most major cities in today’s world have one thing in common: their faces keep changing continuously and perpetually, in boulevards and squares, especially at night when the light comes on and façades are illuminated. Gleaming pictures and letters merge into messages, digital pulses and screens create a new, fascinating world with an ever changing face. We receive numerous impressions and perceive things in parallel as they renew themselves incessantly. Buildings seem to disappear behind a sea of lights only to become real again the next morning. Medial cities change continually; they are virtualised. Consequently, they mirror modern, digital, global society.

The development and design of media façades is becoming a major interdisciplinary topic.

Designers, architects and artists alike are dealing with how to modify façades by means of new materials and lights or displays controlled by computers, thus creating fascinating unknown objects, space and buildings. This interaction of disciplines has spawned innovative design concepts and façades with changing visual manifestations and interactive features. Media façades attract attention and create a strong sense of identity. They have a lasting impact on urban space.

Design options for media façades

Design options for media façades include lighting (projections, window animation and lamps), screens, advertising features such as displays or banners, or mobile façade elements.

The purposes of developing design concepts for building façades by using various media are quite diverse. They reach beyond visual appearance and chiefly strive to convey information and trigger emotion, while developing relationships and dialogue.

By using moving images and changing interfaces, you can give visual messages a stage to attract attention, to trigger responses and action.

The application scope is wide, ranging from neighbourhood development to motivating people in companies and shopping centres to art and culture projects or advertising.


For economic reasons, media façades have often been on display only temporarily and not as permanent installations. However, the relevance of the “new” medium and the desire to implement ambitious concepts have been growing rapidly. In architecture and design, media façades are almost worshipped as a new form of art. No wonder because sophisticated planning, perfect engineering and skilful design open up completely new possibilities for designing and communicating which can make a building a spectacular, internationally recognisable landmark.