Final_Josh Kuffner


When first approaching the design problem, I considered the existing building site and local climate conditions.  This investigation revealed that the cold storage building to be re-clad was not situated ideally on the site, more specifically, its longitudinal axis was oriented north-south. This results in large, 300’ long x 125’ tall facades that are vulnerable to low sun angles and solar gain, particularly on the west side.  Coupled with this thermal gain issue is Chicago’s climate, which can be characterized as humid continental; the innate temperature extreme between the hot, humid summers and the cold winters is particularly notable.  While the amount of human and machine energy generated on the deep 300’ x 125’ floor plates would negate much need for supplementary winter heating or thermal buffers, the building would be vulnerable to overheating in the summer.  From this information, it would seem like the best way to counter these climactic and orientation issues would be with liberal sun shading and an insulating façade.  However, the building’s massing as by far the tallest building in the surrounding cityscape, which allow for its impeccable views of the nearby skyline to the east, suggest a façade with a high level of transparency to best utilize this amenity.  To mesh these conflicting interests, I began to search for a precedent that could fully shade and insulate, and also provide panoramic views; ideally, a kinetic shading system paired with a double skin envelope.


The GSW Headquarters building in Berlin by Sauerbruch Hutton Architects matched these unusual requirements precisely; it was sited with massive east and west exposures, and handled the corresponding solar gain and shading issues on the west side with a double skin with operable shading fins integrated into its air cavity.  These fins are perforated aluminum panels controlled by the user, and can either be closed to provide a high level of shading, open to provide views and some shading from early afternoon sunlight, or slide to one side of the curtain panel to provide unimpeded views.  The polychromatic color scheme also appealed to me, as it brightened the often dismal weather of Berlin, a location not unlike Chicago.

GSW Headquarters facade. Image courtesy of:

After considering the GSW façade, I began to look for a way to emulate it in a way that would allow an even greater level of shading control, besides fully open and fully closed.  An unusual inspiration came to me from the Rotogate, a turnstile device at subway stations.  The Rotogate’s interlocking rods in particular interested me, as they suggested two possible degrees (interlocked and not interlocked) of opacity in addition to fully open.  I applied this strategy to the vertical fin concept at GSW, and devised a system of vertical pivots, each which would have two shutters.  The shutters would have staggered horizontal rods that would interlock when in the open position as well as when in the closed position, except with the next shutter over.

A Roto-gate. Image courtesy of:

Eventually, I discovered the Q1 Building by JSWD Architekten which uses a very similar system.  In the case of the Q1, however, the shutters do not interlock when closed, and therefore do not provide the three levels of shading.  The Q1 example also does not perform inside a double skin, rather, on a secondary framework outside of the building enclosure.

Q1 Building Facade. Image courtesy of:

Design Development

Applying parametrics was essential to the project, and the current scheme did not do so.  In order to improve yet further the experience for the user and add a parametric layer, the individual shutter rods would be responsive to the human scale, a consideration the existing building had failed miserably at.  The rods would be smaller but denser around the height of a seated or standing human, while larger and less dense as one moved vertically away from this ideal level.  Utilizing Rhino and the plug-in Grasshopper, a script was developed that used a Bezier spline graph to determine the density of the louvers, with many other sliders that could, among other things, adjust the louver scale, length, and number.

Shutters generated from initial Grasshopper script

After this initial script, in order to create a more dynamic appearance and more specific and efficient sun shading, the louver cross-section was changed to rectangular.  With this change were the addition of a louver angle parameter to best reduce glare, and also, specific scripts that catered to the building’s four distinct exposures.

The Grasshopper script for a south facade shutter with rectangular louver cross-sections

Interior rendering of angled rectangular louvers generated from Grasshopper script

Addressing the Site

The remainder of the existing site, a collection of low-rise buildings on the west side of the cold storage tower, was to be demolished per Perkins + Will’s program.  A 40,000 square foot addition was also to be placed here, allotting for extensive green space.  Following this program, I created a 5-storey setback retail building on the northwest corner of the site that is connected to the main building.  The setbacks adhered to the need for human scale on the site.  Further following this agenda, an offset of one structural bay would be applied to the main tower, so that pedestrian circulation would be routed under the building as opposed to next to a sheer 125’ wall.  Additional retail and the main office building lobby would be accessed in this sheltered walkway.  The main plaza in the southwest corner would slope down from the peristyle levels of the addition and the main building, which are, by virtue of the original building’s floor elevation, 3’6” above sidewalk level.  The slope would allow the building to interact more easily with the surrounding cityscape.  This plaza would be modeled loosely on one of the Chicago Art Institute’s gardens, which has raised planting beds and trees that create an intimate atmosphere which attracts outdoor interaction.

View of public plaza and retail addition

Chicago Art Institute south garden. Image courtesy of:

Further Development

To bring the project to its full potential, the addition of a polychromatic color scheme as inspired by the GSW Headquarters would be implemented.  An ideal candidate would have to be selected as the driver for this color, as to not trivialize its application.  Other considerations, such as tweaking the louver cross section for ideal sunlight reflection and for more effective use as light shelves would be explored.

Final Presentation

Kuffner_Final Presentation

DWF_Josh Kuffner

interlocking shutters bay

P3_Josh Kuffner

P2 – History and Site

P2 – History and Physical Condition

p1_Josh Kuffner_001

GSW HQ's sun shades and double-skin


The GSW Headquarters in Berlin by architects Sauerbruch-Hutton is a 22-storey, double-skinned building. Automated shutters inside of the double skin block intense sun during the afternoon; the building is oriented longitudinally north-south by convention of the siting and therefore must still perform efficiently despite this less-than-ideal condition. The facade acts as a thermal buffer and also ventilates hot air out at the top via the chimney effect.  This heat is quickly carried away from the building by convention of a large, cantilevered aerodynamic fin on the roof, which naturally accelerates hot air out.  The narrow width (11m) of the building also permits easy cross ventilation via a specialized system that does not compromise building acoustics.  As a side benefit of the automated shades, which operate based on the amount of direct solar gain, they are brightly colored, and create a beautiful effect in the often-dismal weather of Berlin.


This project in Berlin is in many ways parallel to the project here in Chicago, which is the reason I selected it. The orientation of the cold-storage building is also longitudinally north-south, a problematic issue regarding solar gain, and can be tamed with an automated shading device and double-skin.  While the GSW example uses colorful perforated panels, the concept could be made more parametrically-inclined with different degrees of perforation based on program needs (as per Morphosis’ San Francisco Federal Building and Caltrans HQ). The double-skinned facade is essential in my opinion for this project, as Chicago’s frigid winters and often hot and humid summers mandate some type of thermal buffer.  The GSW HQ reaps a 30% energy savings from its implementation of its double-skinned facade. Aesthetically, a bright, colorful facade would aid in brightening Chicago’s often dismal weather. Exploring the details of this facade will certainly help me with my own intentions for the cold storage building in Chicago.  The video showcases GSW’s double-skin construction.