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14. January 2021

Solar protection façade: Metal mesh as a reflection of freedom

The Liberty Fund is a charitable foundation for research and education in Indianapolis, USA. The central point and visual highlight of the 61,000-square-meter complex is the research library. It houses over 400 publications by renowned scientists. For the façade cladding of the 5,000-square-meter library building, architect Eric Rowland selected a very special solution made of stainless steel mesh from GKD: a two-layer mesh façade that employs etching on the outer skin to express the foundation's guiding theme – the ideal of freedom – and also serves as functional solar protection.

The Liberty Fund was founded in 1960 by Pierre F. and Enid Goodrich. In the integrated research library, the guiding theme of freedom is reflected in disciplines such as economics, political thought, history, law, and education. As a showcase piece, the two-layer solar protection façade visualizes the founders’ vision. Thirty large-format panels made of Omega 1520 stainless steel mesh form the outer skin. Each of these panels is dedicated to a century in the history of mankind and shows etchings of names and events that shaped the quest for freedom in the respective century. To ensure that an unwanted moiré effect of the metallic skin didn’t impact the legibility of the messages, the architects decided to have another layer of fabric inserted at a defined distance between the outer fabric skin and the glass façade of the building. For this intermediate layer, they chose Helix-48 metal fabric, which was developed for the American market. Customized brackets made of galvanized steel that hold the panels taut between the roof and foundation were developed for attaching this spectacular combination of fabrics. The woven double skin prevents the building from becoming uncomfortably hot in summer while also protecting the valuable books from exposure to direct sunlight. The transparency that is typical of the mesh creates a pleasant, daylight-bathed atmosphere within the library and allows the world of books to be seen from outside when the interior is illuminated in the evening. In addition, the weather-resistant, long-lasting, and maintenance-free fabric communicates with its surroundings: With the path of the sun and through the different lighting conditions of the seasons, its appearance changes constantly and lends expression to freedom of design in its own way.

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