The sparkling white Dior building in Miami, Fla.’s high-end shopping district is more than just a store. The building was designed to reflect the couture brand’s luxury image of refined elegance, innovation, and a sense of delight. “Dior is a fashion band, and we needed to create a building that reflected that,” says Abdurrahman Joomye of Barbaritobancel Architects.
The architects did begin with the idea of using precast concrete in the façade, but after coming up with the design, and testing multiple materials for color and durability, it was clear that precast was the right choice, says Benjamin Bancel of Barbaritobancel. “We needed a high-performance material that would allow us to create the large panels with no joints,” he says. “Precast was the best choice.”
Along providing the flexibility to achieve the curved panel design, precast concrete also delivered hurricane-resistant performance, which is critical for the waterfront community that regularly faces strong winds, salt air, and heavy rains.
The designers met with several precasters and ultimately chose Styl Comp, an Italian precaster, after tests of various materials showed their panels retained the crystal white color after 3 months of exposure to wind and rain. “They were clearly the best option,” Bancel says.
The building features high-density large white precast panels of varying sizes and curvatures with a white pleated detail. The team used special molds and adjustable anchoring and support systems made by B.S. Italia S.p.A. to support the panels without joints.
The concrete was mixed with marble powder to add a sheen and sense of luxury to the façade. To add further contrast, the designers embedded hidden light fixtures in the panels that define the sharp corners with blue light where the panels meet.
One of the biggest challenges the designers faced on the project was maintaining the pure white exterior of the façade over time. To prevent water stains, the designers sloped the panels slightly inward, which causes water to drip back toward the ribbed interior of the panels. The ribs offer channels for the water flow to silently away from the building.
To assemble the project, the panels had to be shipped in custom-built crates first via boat to a nearby shipyard, then they were trucked in one at a time over night. Because the panels were so large, the roads had to be completely closed for the 11:00-p.m. transfers.
The project was delivered seamlessly and the façade was erected over the course of 3 months. “The client was very happy with the result,” says Bancel. “It is a timeless design that will stand the test of time.”