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From Window to Balcony at the Touch of a Button

The urban spaces of today tend to involve building upwards rather than outwards, with high-rise living and luxury skyscrapers now considered the norm. One of the challenges for architects now is to find a way to maximise the relatively small areas that these buildings offer, creating space where there was none.

That’s where the Bloomframe balcony comes in. Designed by Amsterdam-based Hofman-Dujardin Architects, and developed by French manufacturers Kawneer, this amazing creation can transform large glass windows into safe, spacious balconies at the touch of a button, increasing the living space for those living in high-rise buildings.

Kinetic facades have been popular for some time in the architecture world – they’re often designed to enhance the building in a number of ways, whether it’s by providing shade from the sun or even making it look great from the floor below. But this exciting development could mean that facades will now play a huge role in making high-rise living more spacious, and providing outside areas for inner-city residents.

The product is made largely out of aluminium, and as you might expect, safety standards are absolutely paramount to the success of the project. Safety testing has been carried out to the very highest levels, in accordance with the construction standards that are currently in place.

The idea from Hofman-Dujardin is not a new one – in fact, it first ‘went viral’ on the internet in 2008, giving users a glimpse of their project in a computer-generated clip that was widely shared. The firm showcased a working prototype later that year, with a huge scale model presented at an international construction exhibition. The design featured an upper glass section and an opaque panel, which folded down and would eventually become the floor of the balcony. At the time, this was hailed as the future of high-rise living.

But now, the future has arrived! After working hard on the creation for the best part of a decade, the architects presented an updated video of the Bloomframe in action in 2016. The clip showed a whole apartment building covered with Bloomframe balconies – some of them in classic window form, and others with emerging balconies. The maximum weight that can be accommodate by the balconies is 350kg per square metre, and it can create an outside space that is up to 3m long and 2.4m high.

The cost of introducing and maintaining ‘kinetic windows’ will mean that they will be the preserve of luxury developments for the time being – but now the technology is in place, it will only become cheaper and more accessible for other developers to introduce.

Alcoa Architectural Systems then set about creating the product in aluminium. The safety features of the product are critical to the success of it if adopted by architects and construction firms. To date, it’s reported that extensive safety testing has been carried out in accordance with current construction safety standards.

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Alex Wright, Editor