“Expansion joints are ugly.” We occasionally hear this objection from architects.
Notwithstanding that eye-of-the-beholder thing, it may be true–if you actually see the joints.
Most people don’t ever notice expansion joints. They’re certainly not the visual focal point of architecture.
As expansion joint material manufacturers, in order to inform designers about our products and how they work, we need to show close ups. However, it’s more likely that they’ll never be seen.
We continue to innovate to provide aesthetic improvements in our product offerings, however, decisions made early in the design process can be as big a driver in making joints unnoticeable.
The following images show an expansion joint from various vantage points. The purpose is to illustrate that, even if you are cursed, like us, with the obsession of not seeing the architecture for the joints, it takes a dedicated curiosity and a practiced eye to pick expansion joints out of a well-designed facade.
What shopper choosing between TJ Maxx on the left or Wegmans to the right, even knows this joint exists?
Placement, color choice, use of facade plane changes, shadow lines, and camouflage are all design options for softening the visual impact of structural expansion joints.
Ultimately though, it is indifference–of patrons, pedestrians or even architecture observers–that results in expansion joints being generally unnoticed.
From 15 feet away, if you’re not focusing on getting through the revolving doors to the left of this curtainwall to brick interface, you might just discern the Seismic Colorseal joint that divides the two facade elements of this corporate campus for Dell/EMC Corporation.
Here’s how they did it at Navy Pier in Chicago. A fantastic parabolic louver filters sunlight and hides the window wall expansion joints from even the most practiced eye.
The expansion joint here is between the brick and the curtainwall. The choice of “charcoal” from the Colorseal color range, as well as the location of the join is the key to its obfuscation. That, and the fact that patrons at a New York Mets game, are not likely to have their attention focused on where the joints are.
Expansion joints in the horizontal plane require a bit more creativity to make them unnoticeable. This clever bit of camouflage at the Venetian in Las Vegas was achieved by creative color design and the careful execution of a deck coating application over the SJS System cover plates by the applicator.