Friday, February 1, 2008

Veg.itecture: Super Sized

The next in a continual series of Vegetated Architecture, including some large scale examples from Pittsburgh, Singapore, Moscow, and Paris.

From Inhabitat: "Architect Vincent Callebaut’s latest project balances public galleries, meeting rooms and gathering spaces over canals and abandoned railroad tracks in the 19th Parisian district. The prototype uses green technologies and techniques but is more than just an example of sustainable design. Callebaut’s ‘Anti Smog: An Innovation Centre in Sustainable Development’ is a catalyst for cleaner air."

:: images via Inhabitat

This touches of one of the main themes of Vegetated Architecture, that the plantings are not merely for decoration, but allow for specific functions, in this case smog reduction. Is that the focus? Nope. The plants are merely rooftop greening. The main hero in this story is technology: "The exterior is fitted with 250 square meters of solar photovoltaic panels and coated in titanium dioxide (TiO2). The PV system produces on-site electrical energy while the TiO2 coating works with ultraviolet radiation to interact with particulates in the air, break down organics and reduce air born pollutants and contaminants."

Second, from Architecture.MNP, the low-down on the new Pittsburgh RiverPark by Behnisch Architekten. This high-density waterfront development is aimed at infusing housing into the downtown core. A mixed-use development with a bevy of green strategies, there is actually some use of green spaces to regulate microclimates (and some very well done graphics): "The micro-climate within the RiverPark was also reimagined with the use of green roofs and landscaping and water features"

:: images via architecture.MNP

OMA has released images for a 1,000 unit apartment complex in Singapore, which consists of a massive interlocking complex of hexagonal spaces with what I imagine look like a thin icing of vegetated roof gardens on the tops. The plan is pretty interesting and seems to generate some interesting interstitial zones (under, over, and in between the buildings) but something about this rendering looks lifeless and brutal, much more than could be mitigated with any vegetation or facade articulation. Then again, it's also a concept, so not much detail to go by.

:: image via Dezeen

From late 2007, a variety of sources ran the announcement (most often paired with a 'wow' or an 'ugh') for the Crystal Island in Moscow by Foster + Partners. Dubbed the world's biggest building, it rises 450m tall, and has a floor area of over 2.5million square meters (that's 8.2 million square feet, for the metrically challenged - or around 190 acres for the LAs). Not just a big building, and it is BIG, but a big park as well:

"The building’s spiraling form emerges majestically from a newly landscaped park, rising in converse directions to form a diagonal grid. This distinctive geometry extends throughout the project into the park. The result is that the scheme is seamlessly integrated into a new park landscape, which provides a range of activities throughout the year, including cross country skiing and ice skating in the winter."

:: image via dezeen

What to conclude from the grandiose schemes? Well, most of them are just schemes, but they show ways that landscape provides a range benefits paired with buildings and larger scale plans. Whether it is providing a context, as in the parkland surrounding Crystal Island, what is assured to be a grandiose to the extreme version of excess - this mitigates the size and scope as well as immersing the project in nature. Same concept, but not as strong, is the OMA designed residential complex, but the building forms overshadow the minimal rooftop landscaping (and the surrounding landscape as well).

The functional use in building application seems to resonate in Pittsburgh, where the microclimatic use of plants on ecoroofs and site landscape is a viable strategy that also aids in form-making. In Paris, the form is extremely compelling, and plantings + smog-reduction seem a natural pairing. But why go to the trouble to intricately weave green around the structure, if it is mere decoration?

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