Building facades around the world are being explored as digital mediums and being transformed to media facades to emit more than just advertising.

This new application has been coined “mediatecture” with many architectural practices now specialising in the art form. German architect Christoph Kronhagel describes mediatecture as the interface between virtual and physical spaces.

The concept has been notably brought to light by Emporis, an international provider of building data which has compiled a list of the world’s most impressive media facades.

The list recognises facades ranging from large scale installations to programmable facades to the luminescent outer skins of enormous soccer stadiums.

“What once began with lurid neon advertising hoardings in New York’s Times Square has grown beyond its initial purpose as a pure advertising medium to present itself today as a conveyor of artistic and social messages, transforming buildings into giant screens,” Emporis said in its release.

Some buildings even give the public an opportunity to participate through citizen-controlled facades where people can upload messages from their phones and building operators can communicate messages to the outside realm.

Tower of Winds

Tower of Winds

One of the first projects to make the list is ILUMA, a retail and entertainment in Singapore renowned for its crystal mesh façade.

Developed by Berlin-based architect and artist collective realities:united, the façade is clad in large crystals made up of a translucent polycarbonate hull and an aluminium back plate.

“By day, this 5,000 square metre façade wraps the building in a glittering cloak of large, sparkling crystals, while transforming the complex at night into a giant light sculpture on which video,” Emporis said.

Facades can also interact with their buildings’ external environments as demonstrated by architect Toyo Ito’s Tower of Winds tower in Yokohama, Japan.

The tower is clad in perforated aluminium panels that act as mirrors reflecting the surrounding city while the tower “reacts to weather conditions by translating climatic data such as light, wind and temperature into a play of colours made up of LED dots.”

While concerns have been raised regarding energy use, the GreenPix Zero Energy Media Wall project has created the world’s largest colour LED display which the architects say is fully self-sustaining.

Zero Energy Media Wall

GreePix/ Zero Energy Media Wall

The highly visible screen which covers the wall of the Xicui Entertainment Complex in Beijing has implemented a system whereby solar energy collected from photovoltaic cells during the day lights up the screen in the evening.

Mediatecture pioneer Jan Edler of collective realities:united expects the new technique to play a dynamic role in architecture.

“Interest in ‘media facades’ appears to be on the increase. We view media surfaces as forerunners of buildings that can actively change and adapt themselves. In this respect, the future potential of such developments is not to be underestimated,” he told Emporis.

Here is the final list in its entirety (in no particular order) of some of the best examples of media facades integrated into the urban setting:

media facades