Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

Short films about sustainable architecture

December 8, 2009

Have been working with, doing subtitles for ten short films about sustainable architecture, to be shown at the Copenhagen climate summit, Decmber 2009.

Links to each one, plus a brief intro blurb I wrote to go with each:

Siebengeschossig bauen – in Holz Seven-storey building – in timber. In 2008, Berlin saw the construction of the first seven-storey timber-framed apartment building. Tom Kaden, of architects Kaden + Kligbeil, takes us through the project from top to bottom, as the building nears completion.

Jahili Fort in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi Jahili Fort in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi – Refurbishment, conversion and repair, by Roswag & Jankowski Architects. A visitor centre within a historic fort, including exhibition space, as well as the design and integration of “Mubarak bin London: Wilfred Thesiger and the Freedom of the desert” – an exhibition for the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH).

Das Kinderhotel am Neuklostersee The kids hotel at Neuklostersee. Once upon a time there was a little house… where you could spend a free night sleeping beneath the stars.

This is the story of a small disused transformer building, lovingly converted in every detail into a magical place for children (and for the inner child in us all). A real pleasure to make a short film about…

Ein Strohballenhaus entsteht.. Building a home from bales of straw… The Esserhof’, South Tyrol. Load-bearing straw bale construction? Prize-winning modern architecture? Are both these things possible in a single building? The answer is yes, and this film shows how…

The Esserhof holiday home was built in 2006 with a construction period of only four months. It achieved the ‘KlimaHaus A+’ rating, meaning that it uses less than 30 kWh/m² of energy to run each year.

Europäische Investitionsbank, Luxemburg European Investment Bank, Luxembourg
Ingenhoven Architects.
In early June 2008 the European Investment Bank opened its new 70,000 sq m administration building, which will be home to nearly 800 employees. The entire building is built on sustainable principles, and is the first building on the European continent to score a “very good” rating under the British “BREEAM” eco-standard.

Speaking from Luxemburg’s Kirchberg Place, architect Christoph Ingenhoven explains his position on sustainable construction and how it can be implemented in a modern, humane and environmentally-oriented architecture.

Werkerweiterung der Fensterfabrik Extending a window manufacturing plant – a landscaped building. A window manufacturer in Hagedorn needed to extend their plant – but how to do this in a protected landscape?

The architects came up with a compromise: allow elements of the landscape to become part of the building. A grass-covered (sedum) roof offsets the large scale of the building. The facade is surrounded by a perimeter frame wall of tall foliage – reminiscent of a typical forest edge – which allows the building to merge into the landscape.

Mrs. De Haan Mrs De Haan: A ‘Slow Development Plan’ for happy eco-entrepreneurs, Zwartluis, the Netherlands. The tale of Mrs De Haan, who so hated her work at an industrial slaughterhouse that she gave it up and changed her life completely – now she has her own piece of land and uses it to raise her own chickens, outdoors.

She’s one of many who use the choice given to residents of Zwartluis to combine living and farming on a small scale – a interesting possibility for leading a new, more sustainable life.

One day on a building site A day on a building site. An extension is added to a 1940s building on the outskirts of the city, using a timber system.

The film shows how much can be done in one day, using the tremendous efficiency of prefabricated timber elements: some detailed planning, plus about a week of prefabrication, results in an amazingly short construction time on site.

and also…

Werdwies Estate, Zürich – Building with social relevance. The Werdwies housing estate in Zürich’s old quarter neede to be redeveloped – the process around the planning and construction of the replacement buildings shows how such development can also be seen as a social and cultural process.

One of five project portraits as part of “Umsicht – regards – sguardi” by Schwarz Pictures.

Vrin – an Alpine village moves with the times. To counter the brain drain, and to secure its long-term viability, Vrin has refocused on its own qualities and strengths. Over the last 15 years, a pioneering model has been developed to allow the villagers to continue on an economically sustainable basis. The model includes a variety of new and significant additions by local architect Gion A. Caminada, who has become a driving force for co-ordinating and redeveloping the village. His motto: “Give your space a special quality!


Berlin’s 1987 IBA

October 13, 2009

Comment piece for October 2009 issue of Blueprint magazine (not published online), on how there’s much to learn from the former West Berlin’s IBA housing projects of the 1980s:

By the 1980s, Britain was in the process of withdrawal from state funded housing, atomizing the design of domestic architecture and leaving no real models, good or bad, for housing design on a large scale.  But while we were busy disposing of our public housing stock, over in West Berlin they’d gone back to the drawing board. The city had had its fair share of grim sub-Corbusian housing projects, which finally ran out of funding and public patience in the (then) backwater of Kreuzberg – a poor district, but also the heart of the city’s alternative and squatter scenes.   Luckily, the situation coincided with the planning of an international housing exhibition – the IBA (International Bauaustellung) 1987, which  morphed at an early stage from the planned ‘International Expo’ approach (put some new buildings in a park, photograph them, forget them) into something more ambitious.  The IBA became an attempt to repair an entire failing city quarter.

From the beginning of the 1980s up to the point when the Berlin Wall fell, the exhibition was responsible for over 5,000 new residential units, largely integrated into Berlin’s 19th century urban form of five-storey high density buildings around a network of internal courtyards and communal spaces.  A high proportion of the designs were procured through international competitions, resulting in work by Álvaro Siza, Mario Botta, Peter Cook, John Hejduk, Aldo Rossi, Frei Otto, Arato Isozaki, James Stirling and many others.  Zaha Hadid did her first building here; blocks by Rem Koolhaas and Peter Eisenmann face each other across a street.  The use of so many apparently disparate architects leads to some interesting contrasts not found elsewhere on this scale, and not at all in the monolithic planning which preceded it.  The Altbau (old building) element of the exhibition became a case study in sensitive urban renewal, rescuing and refurbishing around 7,000 apartments as well as providing schools, community centres and extensive landscaping, with projects often resident-led.

Curious then that the IBA is so rarely studied, or heard of, at least in the UK.  Perhaps it’s an issue of style; many of the designs are just too postmodern – that unacceptable face of the 80s – for contemporary tastes.  The IBA includes masterplans and several buildings by Rob Krier, brother of Poundbury designer Léon Krier, both of whom were known as postmodernists at the time, but have more recently been rebranded as ‘new traditionalists’.  Both are strongly linked to the New Urbanism movement, whose concerns about the urban environment and often appear sound, but is let down by an insistence on taking historicism to a slightly creepy level; visions of new towns dominated oddly Roman and other neoclassicist buildings, often designed by Rob Krier himself.

IBA buildings present a curious medley of postmodernism and other emerging styles such as deconstructivism (the Hadid block being one of the more recognizable).  Some buildings feature wholly unremarkable, almost bland, street facades.  But take a wander through the entrances to some of these blocks and you find yourself in communal gardens or overgrown Italianate courtyards, with some incorporating cafes, playgrounds and schools.  There are genuine elements of sustainability, from before a time when the pointless strapping of wind turbines and photovoltaics onto buildings became fashionable; in one large courtyard space you find yourself on a series of bridges over fields of reedbeds – the surrounding blocks recycle all their waste water.

Although a majority of the housing is public, there’s a complex mix of tenure, with the IBA stretching from the wealthy embassy district, eastwards toward the poorer areas of predominantly social housing.  Most of the housing seems to be genuinely liked by its residents, who are sometimes bemused by visiting architecture students and critics questioning them on matters of theory or style.  It helps that the buildings on the whole seem have weathered well, despite Berlin’s tradition of graffiti on every surface (Álvaro Siza’s pristine white walls were the most notable early casualty).

The wall that divided Berlin for over 28 years was gone by the time the final IBA projects were being completed.  Much has been written about how many of the key players in the IBA took the policies forward into what became known as the ‘Critical Reconstruction’ of the scarred city.  Yet curiously, looking back it appears that the reconstruction of the 1990s fell  mainly into the traps of either bland corporate towers (Potzdamerplatz) or obsessive historicist restrictions (Pariserplatz).  Lessons from Berlin’s IBA have been learnt elsewhere in Germany (a new IBA is currently underway in Hamburg), but the real legacy is perhaps proof that urban regeneration can be achieved on this scale, with architecture in a leading role.  It is ironic that back in Kreuzberg itself, the work of rescuing of failed neighbourhoods by the IBA laid the foundations for their increasing gentrification.