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This office building in Mexico City filters sunlight through a flowing steel veil

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The design of the perforations was determined by a digital script that responded to the site's relationship to the sun's position. (Courtesy Belzberg Architects)

Since 1997, California’s Belzberg Architects has consistently delivered forward-thinking facade systems across North America. Profiles is a six-story commercial building draped in a diaphanous and perforated carbon-steel veil that partially resembling a stylish extraterrestrial ship landed in the heart of Mexico City.

Profiles is located mid-block, surrounded by rows of predominantly three-to-five-story structures. The south elevation of the project is highly exposed by virtue of its height, providing Belzberg Architects the opportunity to play with the building’s corner.

The facade consists of a CR Glass–produced curtainwall shaded by a cloak of perforated carbon steel fabricated by El Roble. Walkways are located between the screen and the glass, providing a significant amount of elevated outdoor space for the building.

Because it’s taller than its neighbors, Profiles has two prominent elevations. (Courtesy LGM Studio)

The primary function of the carbon-steel veil is to serve as an exterior-shading device, and to this effect, the design team used a digital script to randomly distribute the perforations. “The holes were constrained to a specific range of diameters and with minimum dimensions for separation between edges,” said Belzberg Architects. “The resultant quantity of holes was not significant for us from a design standpoint, but there was specific attention paid to the resultant open area as percentage. We targeted 50 percent open area to balance views out with effectiveness as exterior shading.”

Across the two elevations, circular segments of the perforated material remain attached as protruding disks. The protruding elements referred to by the designer as “chads,” establish a dynamic effect over the facade; during the day they cast shadows across the building, while at night they reflect interior light for a lamp-like effect.

Carbon steel, as opposed to steel or stainless steel, contains a greater proportion of carbon—up to 2.1 percent. As a result of this larger carbon content, carbon steel possesses a malleability highly suitable for undulating second skins.

The steel veil effectively shields the interior from sunlight during the day and reflects interior light at night. (Courtesy Belzberg Architects)

In total, over 450 carbon-steel panels—flat, single curved, and double curved—are draped over the facade. There are two standard dimensions for the panels: approximately four feet by three feet, and four feet by eight feet. Each panel is linked to a four-inch-by-four-inch hollow structural section via bolted connections.

Although the facade was digitally designed and partially CNC-fabricated, significant segments required hand-bending; the chads had to be welded by hand. Double-curved panels were measured against CNC-milled formworks for accuracy.

Profiles is one of five recently completed or underway projects by Belzberg Architects in Mexico City for developer Grupo Anima.

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