Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene is making architectural headlines again, this time in the design of a proposed new US Embassy in London. The Los Angeles Times' Culture Monster blog had a nice review of the design this week. Here's what blogger Christopher Hawthorne had to say about the plastic feature:
The embassy's cubic form will be wrapped on three sides in ETFE -- a transparent polymer and the same flexible material used on the outside of the Water Cube swimming arena for the 2008 Beijing Olympics -- that will not only shade the building but also hold flexible solar panels. (The north side, facing the river, is left uncovered.) The roof, meanwhile, will be covered with an array of solar panels that will hide mechanical equipment while producing electricity. In a phone interview Monday, KieranTimberlake's James Timberlake said the goal is a building that creates more energy on balance than it uses. Ultimately, the embassy's success as a piece of architecture will largely depend on how the ETFE scrim operates visually. If the architects can manipulate it to curl or bend dramatically away from the boxy form underneath or to reflect light in novel ways, the building will likely carry a sculptural power to go with its operating efficiency. If not, it may fade into the skyline, resembling a well-tailored but conventional office building.If this all sounds familiar, it may be because not only did the Water Cube feature ETFE, but so did the design for a new rail hub in Anaheim, Calif. Like the US Embassy, part of the goal of using the material was environmental -- the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center was seeking a LEED Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.