Sleek black rain screen reflects Porsche Design’s understated style.
In the world of high-end retail, first impressions matter. Knowing this, DXU, LLC principal Eric Styer took special care selecting a facade material for the Porsche Design boutique in Oak Brook, Illinois. “We were trying to play off Porsche Design’s simplicity and clean lines,” said Styer, referring to the clothing and leather goods retailer’s minimalist style. “Of course, this location is in a mall, so we had to deal with [their requirements] as well.” After first eliminating other options on budgetary, performance, or aesthetic grounds, the architect found himself drawn to Dekton, an ultra-compact surfacing material from Cosentino. Styer’s solution, a matte black Dekton rain screen featuring mitered joint detailing and integrated acrylic signage, plays up the material’s strengths to embody Porsche Design’s understated glamour.
“We were looking for materials that would meet Porsche Design’s design qualities as well as the mall’s,” recalled Styer. “They were pushing us to get granite on the exterior. However, that potentially leans in a direction we didn’t want to follow.” Specifically, Styer worried that the marbling on granite or another natural stone would distract from the overall impression he hoped to convey—of a solid block carved into masses and voids. In search of a similarly durable material, he reached out to Cosentino. The company mentioned Dekton, which was just being introduced to the United States, and suggested that the Porsche Design presented a unique opportunity to explore the material’s use in a new application (as a facade). Styer was soon convinced that the material, composed of naturally existing inorganic minerals subjected to a patented high-heat, high-pressure process, would help him realize his technical and aesthetic ambitions.
Styer, who half-jokingly referred to Dekton as “basically surfacing on steroids,” selected the material for three principal reasons. The first was its technical compatibility with his design. Dekton is manufactured in 5-foot by 10-foot slabs, thus reducing the occurrence of joints or seams. In addition, it can be miter-cut to mimic the appearance of cut stone. “That went back to the very simplistic, minimalistic impression we were looking for,” explained Styer. “For all of our fenestrations in the building we have three-inch returns tucked behind the storefront volumes; that aspect of the material was perfect for Porsche Design.” Durability was another important factor in the architect’s decision to go with Dekton. The Oak Brook Porsche Design store is located on a high-traffic corner in a popular mall, making it especially vulnerable to wear and tear. Given Chicago’s freeze-thaw cycle, Dekton’s resistance to thermal shock was also a plus.
As well as being technically appropriate and rugged, Dekton appealed to Styer on aesthetic grounds. Elegant but not showy, it captures the Porsche Design brand’s emphasis on quality over bling. And though the material was available in only a limited number of colors and finishes at the time (Cosentino’s offerings have since expanded to 23 colors), one of those combinations—the matte black Sirius—echoed the interior painting scheme. “In the interior, Porsche Design uses black glass, so if a high gloss black was available, we would have chosen that,” said Styer. “But they also use matte black paint, so [Sirius] was perfect for us.”
The Dekton panels were installed as a ventilated rain screen. “There were some complications, maybe something of a learning curve in the fabrication process,” recalled Styer. “A lot of that was due to the newness of the product in the States.” None of the components that had been used to install Dekton rain screens in the United Kingdom were yet available on the other side of the pond, he explained, so “the Cosentino team had to jump through some hoops to get them here.” The extra effort was worth it, however, as the particularities of the Dekton rain screen helped mitigate the difficulty of dealing with a preexisting structural rhythm. “For it being a pretty hard material, it was flexible in terms of some of the parameters we were looking for,” said Styer. “There were piers we couldn’t change, and a parapet element we had to tuck back into. To us, it seemed like a magic material.”
Styer is understandably pleased with where his hunt for an appropriate facade material led him—so much so that he looks forward to further experiments with Dekton. He mentioned in particular the capacity for bookmatching, and imagines a facade distinguished by a mirrored pattern. “It seems like you’d have more of an opportunity to do that with Dekton than with traditional stone,” mused Styer. “It’s a new aesthetic area I would like to investigate.”