Felix Candela's Shells
University of Michigan
Description: Felix Candela designed and built one of the simplest and most practical shells: umbrella shells. Among his built umbrellas, only a few are perforated, including the High Life Textile Factory. This Factory consists of aggregated umbrella shells with distributed perforations. Although the shells are tilted towards north to create a saw-tooth cross section that brings reflected light into the space, the perforations also played a role in providing daylight. After the building was used as an iron shop, the perforations were covered with asphalt to reduce overheating of the space caused by the hot Mexican climate and the program of the factory. However, it was never studied if glare might have been another reason for covering the perforations, and if covering the perforations would truly have been effective in mediating the overheating. This research speculates Candela’s motivations in perforating the shells. It first examines where this building falls in his career and if he continued designing other perforated shells. Next, the building is simulated to assess its structural, daylighting, and energy performance, with and without the perforations. The goal is to understand the role of perforations on performance, and if covering them has helped to decrease the cooling load. The result of this study reveals design potentials of Candela’s less-talked-about project, the High Life Textile Factory, to better understand his motivation in perforating the shells: Were Candela’s perforations performative?
Credits: Niloufar Emami, Harry Giles, Peter Von Buelow