‘It starts with a pretty face: Façade design as lever for iconicity’

In Photo: When a structure presents a thoughtfully designed façade, like the buildings at Central St. Giles Court in London, it immediately becomes a recognizable building—a landmark that stands tall in its location, an enormous signage that pins down directions.

OTHER than being located within a prime destination, property valuation and real-estate selling prices are mostly dictated by their aesthetics.

A community teeming with vibrancy and life tend to lure more people, including homebuyers, retail players and a host of other related businesses. Apart from all the glitz and glamour that lively streetscapes exude, a more striking feature that warrants greater attention—from both property buyers and investors alike—are the quirky façade designs of real-estate properties may it be residential, commercial, or leisure developments.

Danish urbanist Jan Gehl, who came out with a study about the behavioral effects of urban street design, revealed that urban denizens tend to “walk more quickly in front of blank faÇade,” as compared to when they frequent open, active façades where their imaginations wander and life pops right before their very eyes. “They simply bear down and try to get through the unpleasant monotony of the street until they emerge on the other side, hopefully to find something more interesting,” wrote Collin Ellard, an environmental psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, in his entry “Streets with no game”, published by Aeon Magazine.

The science of ‘interesting’

Iconic building façades, like the Main Building inside the University of Santo Tomas, reflect the creative and visionary outlook that the community espouses.

Gehl’s observation has also revealed a lot more about the behavioral tendencies incited by dynamic cityscapes.

According to him, people who are surrounded by open and lively façades tend to take in their own brand of pleasant experiences from their surroundings. “They pause, look around and absorb their surroundings while in a pleasant state of positive affect and with a lively, attentive nervous system,” Ellard noted, citing the findings of Gehl’s observations. These emotional states, then, encourage people to develop the urge to belong there.

This observation, in turn, has been recognized by a lot of other cities overseas—an attribute that, perhaps, has the possibility to inspire urban designers and property developers here in the Philippines. Cities like Stockholm, Melbourne and Amsterdam, Ellard said, now impose building codes that require designers and developers to continue “injecting life” into the existing streetscape via thought-provoking façade designs.

Bringing a quirky concept to life

Quirky building designs, like this one in Amsterdam, warrant greater attention from both property buyers and investors alike.

Like conceptual pieces, iconic building façades and street designs reflect the developers’ creative and visionary outlook. These may come in the form of actual or sample projects that reinforce the values that developers live by.

As I have mentioned here in my column in the past, the impact of design calculates the iconicity of a development. When a structure presents a thoughtfully designed façade, for example, it immediately becomes a recognizable building—a landmark that stands tall in its location, an enormous signage that pins down directions.

Iconic façade design can serve as a highly efficient marketing tool for a lot of designers and developers. When a prospective property buyer walks into a showroom and asks for a concrete example of an idea that caught their attention, they may not necessarily know what are you talking about right at the onset. But if you cite specific examples, or iconic projects that you have brought from the tracing paper into reality, they easily get the picture and regard you as a credible designer of developer that they can fully trust.

Here in Metro Manila, we already have a plethora of iconic buildings and streets to be truly proud of. Of course, we have the classic examples, like the San Miguel Corp. Building in Ortigas—designed by the famed and acclaimed Mañosa brothers—and the Zuellig Building on Makati Avenue, which stands out as a testament to the local industry’s efforts to champion green building standards. We also have the Instagram-worthy façade designs of SM Aura and The Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City, the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay and the Main Building at the University of Santo Tomas in España, Manila.

There are lots of other iconic buildings and structures that we all can truly be proud of. It’s just a matter of taking the time to appreciate the beauty of a well-thought-out design and the meticulous details that went into the curation of the humble masterpieces that surround us.

Image Credits: Design Wanted’s Instagram Page/Renzo Piano + Fletcher Priest Architects, UST Office For Admissions, Dirk Bakker via Instagram