The Interior Curtain Wall

Presented by: Virginia San Fratello

Students in the digital design build seminar at___ have been asked to design and fabricate interior curtain walls for site specific locations on campus. The purpose of the curtain wall is to protect the adjacent interior spaces from too much direct light and heat gain, to permit desirable views of the exterior and to enhance the appearance of the space within which the curtain is located. One of the problems this assignment addresses is that students of interior design are often not concerned with the effect of the exterior climate and solar orientation on the interior of the building. This assignment teaches future interior designers how to passively control the climate of a room using a curtain or screen, which means less demand on the HVAC systems and reduced consumption of fossil fuels – that means reduced greenhouse gases decreasing pollution and global warming. The method by which students are asked to address this problem is to analyze a window that they have been assigned. Students document and measure the amount of natural light coming in at different times of day over a period of time and simulate the solar conditions over the course of the year. Additionally, they document and analyze the programmatic functions that take place directly adjacent to the window – for example: projection, computer use, reading, sleeping… etc. The second problem this project seeks to address is that many interior design students are not exposed to hands on material manipulation and fabrication processes during their education. The method by which this problem is addressed is to ask students to experiment with novel materials and fabrication techniques. For example, one group of students investigated how a paper curtain might be fabricated using a Laminated Object Manufacturer (LOM) by Mcor Technologies. Another group experimented with the high performance, stretchy, silicone based material Dragon Skin. Extruded ceramics made with local clays, mylar, and recycled paint samples collected from local interior design firms are all materials that different students have attempted to manipulate in order to design and build custom screens and curtains. Working in groups, students explore their chosen materials potential and develop a material strategy by making samples and mock ups. For example, the Dragon Skin group was asked to consider possible thickness, thinness, elasticity, color additives, different techniques for mold making, etc. Finally, students consider connections and methods of aggregation. The curtains range in size from 4’x 8’ to 16’ x 8’. In groups, the students collaborate to fabricate the curtains and prototype a design based on their collective research. The design concepts are evaluated through professional practice peer review during the semester and through computational simulation. The students understand that the curtains they design are targeted at the construction and design industry and will be evaluated in the context of manufacturing, energy conservation, thermal performance, structural strength, durability, construction assembly, end use and disposal. All curtains have been installed in various sites around campus where students themselves and their peers have the opportunity to evaluate and measure the functional, mechanical, structural, temporal, solar and optical properties over time. The positive outcomes of this ongoing design build project have been to encourage the use of fabrication methods that minimize waste and engage in environmentally conscious manufacturing and often uses recycled or recyclable materials, serving to preserve the planet’s natural resources. The curtain designs also serve to reduce the need for expensive and energy consumptive heating and air conditioning thereby reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and reducing the amount of pollution produced to make energy.


  • Gramazio, F., Kohler, M., Digital Materiality in Architecture, Zurich: Lars Muller Publishers, 2008.
  • Iwamoto, Lisa, Digital Fabrications: Architectural and Material Techniques, New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009.
  • Warnier, C. and Vergruggen, D., Printing Things: Visions and Essentials for 3D Printing, Berlin: Gestalten, 2014.
  • Johnston, Lucy, Digital Handmade: Craftsmanship and the New Industrial Revolution, London, Thames and Hudson, 2015
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