The Shell is a dynamic structure combining style, space- saving efficiency and environmentally friendly technology.
Each of the shell’s fifteen levels has been built from white-washed concrete and is cross-shaped, with each consecutive floor rotated ten degrees clockwise to achieve the spiral effect. Curved steel pylons provide external support, while two internal shafts provide additional strength while also housing the elevator and stairs.
Two way ramps provide quick and easy access to each level, with another connecting the ground floor with level three, serving to hasten traffic flow when the lower levels are congested.
Car parks built in city centres are often blamed for encouraging the daily commuting of motorists between the suburbs and the CBD. The Shell attempts to offset this by reducing its own carbon footprint significantly through its use of solar panels, which line the roof of the structure. These generate enough power to ensure that the shell is totally independent of electrical sources of energy.
The Vitra Design Museum:
The Shell has taken key forms and styles from the Vitra and attempted to somewhat rationalise them. Whereas the Vitra is an amalgamation of random geometric forms, the shell uses some of these shapes to create a more logical, coherent result, while still maintaining visual dynamism.
Why was the Vitra Museum used in the way it was?
The primary function of a multi-story car park is to save space, and therefore they must be efficient and compact in design. The “changing swirl of white forms” that characterises the Vitra Museum, while visually impressive, would have been unsuitable for meeting this requirement. Thus two main features of the museum were chosen - the cross and the spiral stair - and these were used to inspire a new structure that is both spatially efficient and interesting to look at. The other features used from the Vitra, namely the warped cube and the curved ramp, are simply tributes to Gehry’s design and to the way he was able to use random shapes to capture visual interest.
The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao:
Another of Gehry’s buildings, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, demonstrates the sort of free-flowing, curvaceous quality that the Shell aims to capture. Its free-flowing curves give it an almost organic look, and the same can be said about the aptly named Shell, with its shape bearing a distinct similarity to a spiral sea shell.
The curved, flowing lines found on the Guggenheim, such as the one in the image above, relate well to the smooth curves of the Vitra’s spiral staircase, and it is the combination of these two elements that led to the concept for the Shell’s overall shape.