Blog Journal of keystone précis

Curtain as Architecture

In its structure, the Casa de Musica is a sight to behold. Its location makes it stick out like a sore thumb – in the middle of the old city of Porto. The structure is built of white concrete and has countless steps and different rooms. The rooms are different not only in size but also in shape and have spectacular views. It is an illustration of great architecture.


The curtains were part of the design in this building. However, the true range of their technical performance was unclear and could only be understood as the process of conceptualization continued. Not surprisingly, the architect’s inclusion of curtains was purely meant to serve a visual purpose.  Tests were done to determine the appropriate colour, texture and fabric for the curtains. The tests revealed that even the smallest shift in position, scale, material or structure has a considerable impact on the performance and potential of a room. [1]

Six separate curtains were made for the concert halls. While some curtain layers are barely recognizable, others have a three dimensional rhythmic structure and take up space as much as they are space in themselves. Types of curtains used are sun screening, blackout/acoustic and view-filtering.


The shape and design of the concert halls were meant to integrate sound, air, light, curtain storage and machinery. These were all meant to be a part of the actual building. Walls of varying degrees of transparency and mass were incorporated to create an acoustic and atmospheric feel to the rooms. Other features noted in the rooms are sound-reflecting and absorbing surfaces, orchestra pit and public – with all planes, forms and volumes, hard and soft, porous and massive. [2]


For efficient functionality, the architects, users, contractors, theatre and acoustic engineers and the production people, must approve every curtain idea developed. A lot of time, knowledge, research and resources went into the development of the Casa de Musica; and the result is truly a remarkable sight.


Second Skin


This essay considers the use of skin in design. Elements of the skin that mirror design elements are: its ability to change in shape, its response to different environments, its density or porosity and its elasticity. On the inside is where all the important functionalities take place. There are designers in the 21st century who use skin as an example to experiment with complicated structure to design innovative surfaces for products and buildings. [3] This has resulted in the creation of skin-like objects to help create the natural surface of the skin. Numerous examples of skin-like materials exist. Thin planes of material are molded, warped or pumped with air to become load-bearing structures while materials that react to light, heat, touch and mechanical stress are used.


In the 1940s and 1950s, organic forms and materials provided designers with a humanist vocabulary that resulted in a technologically enhanced body.  Examples of designs inspired by the human form are: Hersog and de Menron’s ‘Jingzi’ lamp, Mathieu Manche’s ‘Fresh’ latex vest and Hella Jongerius ‘Pushed’ washbasin. Materials used to make these designs are techno-gel, latex and apligraf. The visual effect created on the design creates the aesthetic impression of the human body.


Developments in the creation of such materials have been noted. Environmentalists warn against an ecosystem unhinged by genetically altered species. While living skin has become a commercially manufactured product, objects and buildings have come to resemble natural organisms. [4] The result is the ushering in of an era of the unknown. Though they protect us from invisible danger, these industrial skins may be nurturing something that we have never seen. In fact they could in fact be the beginning of the creation of an alien.


Surface-Driven Architecture


A noted shift in interest exists to the theories if Deleuze and Guattari who put more emphasis on transitions, experimentation and material presence. New digital design tools have enabled architects to appreciate their work at the surface level much more. With technological advancements, architectural design has been integrated into the virtual world as well. This has resulted in the creation of displays that have a greater appreciation and mastery of surface effects.


This article summarily presupposes that contemporary architecture denotes a process of surfacing, which results resulting in more emphasis on the surface level. This results in the neglect of the dialectic Derridean theories of language. As the term suggests, surfacing denotes actual surfaces – those that one can touch and feel.  Surfacing is the process of making a concept visible. An architect pictures a design in his mind, surfacing causes it to become experientially apparent. Coupled by emerging computer technologies in architecture, more priority is placed on surfacing.


The growing popularity of this theory is linked to pessimism and shallowness. The argument that surfacing serves to conceal or mask a greater element is too extreme. The surface also reveals what has been concealed depending on its appearance, feel and design. It is a sense giving something virtual a surface or a body.


Surfaces need not be hyper to fuse the material with the spirit of the design. Hypersurfacing, as the term connotes, involves the creation of a surface that is more pronounced in its expression and an act of falling into the surface. However, to fall into the surface one should concur that every surface is always surfacing.


In conclusion, technological developments are a major contributor to a renewed prioritization of surface and surface effects. Architecture has always been an act of surfacing. [5] The new concept in architecture combines Deleuzian theories and digital technologies. The result is a merge between surface and structure.












Islami, S. Yahya. “Surface-Driven Architecture.” 671-681.

Lupton, Ellen, “Beauty and Economics:  Second Skin –  New Design Organics, ” (2002), 122-135.

Musica, Casa da. “Curtain as Architecture –  Sound View and Light Regulating Curtains , ” (1999 – 2005),  364-385.



[1]Musica, Casa da. “Curtain as Architecture Sound View and Light Regulating Curtains , (1999 – 2005),  364-385.

[2]Musica, Casa da. “Curtain as Architecture Sound View and Light Regulating Curtains , (1999 – 2005),  364-385.

[3] Lupton, Ellen, “Beauty and EconomicsSecond Skin New Design Organics, ” (2002), 122-135.

[4] Lupton, Ellen, “Beauty and EconomicsSecond Skin New Design Organics, ” (2002), 122-135.

[5] Islami, S. Yahya. “Surface-Driven Architecture.” 671-681.



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