Sustainable development is a challenge for architects too. A few examples.
This is “Water Tower” designed by Polish architect Hugon Kowalski for 2010 Skyscraper Competition organized by Evolo Magazine. Drawing inspiration from the African savanna, the “baobab skyscraper” comprises a water treatment plant, hospital, school and a food storage center, “to trigger economical development while bridging the cultural differences of the three different religions and languages” in Darfur.
The tower is built by clay bricks, to reduce the negative environmental impact of the materials. The building integrates two water circulation processes, first to heat or cool the building, which is accessible to the users, and the other fulfills the personal water requirements (kitchen and toilets) of the building.
The 5th International Bauhaus Award looked at how the ever-critical relationship between poverty and the housing shortage may be resolved. Two of the prize-winners caught my attention. Vigdis Haugtrø and Johannes Franciscus de Gier from Norway designed a construction of self-sustaining units with euro pallets:
And here you have low-cost housing for Temuco/Chile by Dutchmen Ralf Pasel and Frederik Künzel. Their project is to help the transformation of a shanty town into a legal neighborhood:
Look at this drawing to comprehend how it works:
Due to the small distance between the units, the owners can extend their houses themselves, by filling in the gap to the adjacent dwelling. This participatory principle actually incorporates the very traditional concept of “auto-construction”. The project allows each dwelling to have its front door on ground level and therefore have an individual address to the public realm. Moreover, the ground floor space between two initial service units can be used as living space, a workspace, a garage or even a small shop.
This project, by Mobius design house from Poland, has been granted first prize in 2009 Architecture for Humanity competition. “Ecomobi” was designed to perch on the sturdy rooftops of Eastern Europe’s post-socialist apartment blocks. Each mobile unit is 37 sq meter big and can be joined with others. While some social housing projects become cramped as families expand, these lightweight modules grow with their inhabitants. Furniture is built into the walls to optimize space, and each home incorporates recycled polycarbonate panels, hemp insulation and passive solar heating. And there are organic gardens that encourage inhabitants to grow and sell their own food.
Well, I’am a little bit skeptical. Most of my life I was living in such a human compressor, and am not sure if extra-inhabitants on the roof will make things better... What do you think?
Let’s go back to Earth. Article 25 is a UK charity that designs and delivers buildings for those in greatest need worldwide. Some of the projects include school for street children in Goa, orphanage in Ghana and (in the picture below) seismic resistant houses in Northern Pakistan, area devastated by a catastrophic earthquake in 2005.
Not beautiful, but local materials, reclaimed from the devastated areas, were used throughout the construction. This effectively reduced the cost of transport, usually a highly restrictive factor in the Himalaya region. Also local labour was used throughout the construction, supporting the local economy.
How about a paper house? Nothing new in Japan. Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is known for his use of inexpensive construction materials such as paperboard and cardboard tubes. Composed of plastic tarpaulins stretched over a cardboard-tube frame, the quick-construction structures first appeared in Rwanda several years ago when UNHCR realized that their original policy of sending a plastic sheet, instruction book and hatchet was leading refugees to cut down too many trees. These structures have been used after the Kobe earthquakes in 1995, for the Congolese refugees, and again in China’s Sichuan Province after the earthquake in 2008. In the picture: construction of a temporary school in Chengdu, China.
Picture credit: uptodatedesign.com, arkitera.com, bustler.net, gazeta.pl, worldarchitecturefestival.com, abitare.it