Thursday, January 24, 2008

Vegetated Architecture

New terms, or juxtaposition of terms, continually occur in the design dialogue. Sometimes these provide language for describing something new - a technology, process or approach. Other times, this language provides a new use of terms that gives resonance for a fresh approach to something old. Terms like living buildings, civic ecology, living architecture, natural building, cradle-to-cradle and eco-architecture are all natural variations on the concept of sustainability. The fact that we have adopted and perhaps transcended the basic conceptual framework of sustainability as somewhat status quo, leads us to continue to reinvent new terms or co-opt old ones as ways to explain our specific approachs. With this comes new ways of outward expression in tow.

It's an interesting phenomenon, mentioned in Landscape Urbanism previously, that architecture has adopted landscape as a new medium. The distinct line between building and landscape has thinning the point of transparency. This new term is vegetated architecture, which is specifically the focus of much of this blog, is simply a blurring of the line between landscape and architecture. This offers a number of benefits, added value for the overall aesthetic and function. While used for design purposes, often as an ambiguous green face, applied as skin or roof. While the values of green roofs and living walls are summarized elsewhere, there is the need to ground this approach not just in terms of ecological systems or high-design strategies, but as the two mutually beneficial idealogies at work in tandem to create sustainable and visually stunning projects.

A few recent examples to further elaborate on the idea of vegetated architecture:

This project, recently featured on Inhabitat, is the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The green roofs provide environmental benefits, as well as accessible open space for informal gatherings. The monoculture of grass is a uniform 'green mantle' as well, although perhaps not the most sustainable material.

:: image via Inhabitat

Suspended greens, by Architect Taketo Shimohigoshi, a winner of a 2007 AR emerging architecture award, complete with moss-covered overhead structures in Tokyo:

::image via G-Living Network

A full interior/exterior landscape fusion by Shigeru Ban Architects for a vertically oriented Swatch store in Japan. The Nicholas G. Hayek Center is described as an urban oasis with living walls, trees, and planters spanning multiple floors.

:: image via Jetson Green

While none of these ideas are specifically new, there seems to be significant amounts of traction related to the concept in architecture the past few years - giving rise to more edgy design and experimentation with technology and form. Expanding on simple themes of green roof, living wall, these designs imply a more holistic approach to the inclusion and melding of buildings landscape, as well as not being marginalized as eco-driven or 'natural' design strategies. Significant projects seem to be localized around Europe and Asia, particularly France and Japan, although there are many more daily examples of vegetated architecture worldwide. Perhaps this is the 21st Landscape.

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