Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen some of the best, worst and most unusual that green architecture has to offer, from shipping container hotels to conference yurts. We’ve seen a host of exciting new ideas brought to the table – and here are a few that particularly won us over.
Bricks and mortar…on water?
It’s been hard to escape the Lilypad this year – thanks to a stunning design, jaw-dropping promotional images and an idea that seems way ahead of its time. A method of living on the two-thirds of our planet’s surface hitherto denied us – and doing so sustainably? Much more appetizing than growing gills, I’m sure we’re agreed.
Except – a nagging doubt. Look at the above picture. The word that springs to my mind isn’t “society” or “community” – it’s “elite”. Are sea-housing projects going to become something that local governments could afford to invest heavily in…or just a series of privately-financed, ultra-exclusive floating Dubais? If sea levels rise catastrophically, would the less wealthy be left stranded?
The Rise of the Truly Fab Prefab
Terraced houses. Entire streets that look exactly the same. Apartment blocks that look like a bureaucrat’s dream Lego set. And all because houses are built before they’re sold.
Let’s imagine something. Let’s say you buy the land first, then go shopping for a house to put on it. It’s a practice only just creeping into the mainstream housing market – and we couldn’t love it more (see here and here). Prefabs all look different, they’re custom built, and they’re testbeds for the cutting edge in new eco-friendly materials. I dream that one day, our children will buy their houses out of a catalogue.
Branching Out and Hanging Around
Tree hugger -“An environmentalist or one who believes trees and all living things should not be cut down or harmed.” In decades past, popularly equated with “nut”. But now, designers are waking up to the potential of living wood – whether it’s affixing human homes within the branches of trees, having trees growing (or “pleaching“) through houses or, most recently, the perfect tree hugger abode. We’re not going to see city-sized Lothloriens or streets looking like Patrick Dougherty sculptures anytime soon…but we’re thinking about it.
Scraping the Sky v2.0
It’s only recently in human history that we’ve starting building upwards on a skyscraping scale. Now these vast structures are becoming self-contained worlds, gathering energy, self-regulating and even growing their own food. So why do they have to be so boxy? They don’t. Take the Superstar (above): a model for a new kind of Chinatown.
Or the amazing pulled-spiderweb shape of the Crystal City, Moscow.
Or this Moon Shaped Skyscraper proposed for Baku, Azerbaijan.
On one level, genius at play – on another, mad as a hatstand. But the wider implication is that skyscraper designers are leaving behind the Giant’s Causeway urban template and borrowing a wider range of shapes from the natural world. More, please.
Buildings That Earn Their Keep
Everything we do around the home expends energy (unless you’re as lazy as I am). We ingest food, it turns into chemical energy, we expend it in mechanical effort. And then, that energy is wasted, usually as heat (friction). Could we divert some of it into powering our homes?
The signs are good. Take the door of the Natuurcafé La Port in Driebergen in the Netherlands – similar to a project undertaken by Fluxxlab. Take the power-generating floors of the Tokyo railway station. It’s not otherworldly technology, although it’ll be years before we see domestic housing using such features as standard. We can’t wait.
Something Sustainable Afoot
Forget polyvinyl flooring – the kind you see poking out of landfills with depressing regularity. Forget synthetic carpets that only really tell you what they’re made of when you singe them, filling the air with a smell you’ll take to your grave. No – we’d rather see acres of cork and bamboo flooring lining the next generation of homes. Green, gorgeous, great potential.
Turfing your Turf
Covering the outside and inside of your house with grass might sound like the work of a deranged golfing fanatic – but it makes sense. Now we’re seeing the concept at work in the street, such as the above fashion store in Seoul, Korea.
Electricity as a Last Resort
As wonderful as the rise of alternate energy is, there’s something we like even more – a home that doesn’t need it. Take the role of sunpipes in casting natural light deep into our homes without the slightest sizzle of power – and how about us rethinking our need to set our homes ablaze in the evenings? Take passive housing. Will the dream house of tomorrow have a dream electricity bill?
Buildings That Make You Sweat
Here in the U.K., obesity has just been labeled “one of the greatest public health threats“. Part of the root cause is lack of exercise – and part of that is surely the rise in modern labor-saving devices. So we applaud designers like Bruce Fowle who want to turn buildings and cities into gentle gyms.
These are our favorites. What are yours? If you’ve found something relevant (or blogged about it), share the link in the comments.
Image credits: Vincent Callebaut Architectures, miniHome, Apartment Therapy, Inhabitat, MAD Ltd, Foster and Partners, Civil Engineering Portal, Globus, Ann Demeulemeester, seeks2dream and Dustin Diaz.