Several thousand years ago, men decided to take shelter in caves, and these caves protected them from rain, beasts and cold. Today, man has learnt of the integral role the natural world plays in his life. And as if to embrace that, several ingenious designs have come up that bring Mother Nature back into our homes.
Architects are but artists, and they never fail to refrain from putting on canvas what seems to them the next life-changing idea. Much of their art is being sculpted into structures big and small, for the future of our race to find homes in. But much more still resides entirely on paper, with imagination so vivid and extreme that it will be millennia before they actually see the light of day.
Whichever the case may be, these architectural wonders are constant reminders of the continuing human endeavor to make our lives better, while also steadily bringing us back into the folds of the planet we originally belonged to.
Architects dream big. Land – a mere trifle for their pens to conquer. Water? They rule the waves! For them, there is no limit and shooting towards the stars is not a distant dream. In a later post we will be taking a look at their castles in the air. Literally. Buildings that fly and space colonies; nothing is too far out for these architects and their drawing boards.
This week: Terra firma and the big ocean blue
This week, we take a look at some of the buildings designed for use both on land and water. With space at a premium, architects go vertical to return some much needed greenery to the landscape. Live in a place where floods are a constant threat? Floating houses that harness the power of the waves are just around the corner. Read on.
Making the barren green: Green buildings on Land
Bosco Verticale, Milan
Milan. One of the most polluted cities in Europe. The birthplace of the world’s first Vertical Forest. This 27-storey tower designed by the Boeri Studio is nearing its completion.
In a city brimming with smoke, dust and carbon dioxide, the Bosco Verticale comes as a welcome relief. This abode of greenery is set to rid its neighborhood of the excessive carbon dioxide, meanwhile producing loads of oxygen and shielding the inhabitants from radiation and noise pollution.
Each apartment has a balcony housing a number of trees. In summer, these green sentinels will ensure shade and filter the city’s dust. In winter, sunlight will shine through their branches and provide the residents with much-needed warmth.
Through simple arithmetic, the architect says that all these units would require 50,000 sq. metres of land if laid out on a flat surface. All this while adding a mere 5% to the construction costs – quite less a cost for so perfect a design.
Ever our planet’s treasured companions, the green friends have finally found a way to our homes.
The Dragonfly, New York
Man has long tried to mimic nature in order to achieve extraordinary efficiency. After all, the natural world today is a brainchild of millions of years of evolution, and it ought to have some merit. In league with this idea, architects have sought the aid of a dragonfly – enlarged a gazillion times – for a self-sustaining superstructure for New York City. And the project has been christened The Dragonfly – not much of a surprise there, eh?
With an ever-increasing population and ever-dwindling land area, going vertical presents itself as a clever choice. The Dragonfly will shoot upwards for 132 floors, spanning a total of 600 metres.
The conventional system in our civilization makes transportation a crucial entity in the survival chain. You produce stuff at one place, and you need an elaborate network to get it shipped to places miles apart from the fields that produce them. But this beauty here is capable of nurturing the city through 28 different agricultural fields producing fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy. Almost everything you need.
Housing people would require proper air conditioning within the structure. The space between the dragonfly wings is designed to tap solar energy for accumulating warm air during winters. Conversely, evapo-perspiration from plants is expected to enable cooling during summers.
And of course, located amidst the warren of farms are a number of offices, research labs and housing areas for the inhabitants The Dragonfly caters to.
The year is 2150. A group of cyclists ride down a circular avenue laid down somewhere between modern-day Paris and Roissy. Beside the avenue are countless pods gliding along on a rail system that hugs the boundary of the large, green, undulating structure that resembles an overgrown UFO. The structure is EuropaCity, envisioned in the early 21st century by the Bjarke Ingels Group, aka BIG.
According to the World Architecture News, the focus would primarily lie on the usage of geothermal, bio-fuel and solar energy across the site. Self-sufficient as it would be, an onsite heat management system would ensure that recovered heat be put to use, and waste water be reused for irrigation of the green areas.
Plans include a pedestrian-and-cyclist friendly circular avenue, along with pods for faster electrified transport.
Even the vegetation in EuropaCity is supposed to be diverse, each for its own zone.
Fed up of having green terraces, we have here a roof that smoothly merges with the green spaces on either side of the structure. Five distinct zones, each themed to reflect different regions of Europe, give this haven an apt name – EuropaCity. Well, thanks BIG, you indeed made it BIG!
Green on blue: green buildings on water
In all the architectural projects we have seen so far , terra firma seems to have been the preferred choice. But land accounts for merely 30% of our planet’s surface area. If our race is to be any good at surviving rising seas and shrinking lands, we have to move out – out into the open waters. Not surprisingly, several plans are afoot that shall make this possible. Here we take a look at some of the clever developments that enable man to finally call the seas their home.
The Citadel, Westland
They were tired of pumping out water from the lowlands every time it rained or the seas swelled, so they decided to settle in the water instead. Designed by Waterstudio and developed by ONW OPP/BNG in the Netherlands, this water residence will use 25% less energy than its conventional counterparts.
Koen Olthuis, the designer, believes in making peace with water, and learning to live with it. The Citadel will thrive on a floating foundation of concrete caisson, encompassing a total of 60 luxury apartments, a car park, and a floating road leading from the complex to the docks. Each unit will be adorned with its own garden terrace and a view of the water.
Efforts will be made to make the Citadel energy efficient. Greenhouses will accompany the floating structures, as will submerged pipes pumping water for cooling.
Scheduled to be completed in 2014, the Citadel will be Europe’s first floating apartment building.
For years plastic waste has found its way to a region in the Central North Pacific Ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP); a garbage patch in the ocean that covers an area up to twice the size of the continental United States. Charybdis Waterscraper is a plan to build a massive underwater structure out of the disposed plastic, that will serve as a research base for studying the last major mystery of our planet: the depths of the ocean.
Deep sea research vessels will come and go from Charybdis, which shall provide the necessary scaffolding in a place where water is all there is. The ocean carries with it a complex, dynamic system of forces and gradients, which will be efficiently harnessed by this project to coalesce the plastic into a chemically-inert super-tall structure plunging into the very depths of the seas.
The site is planned to resemble a vortex within a vortex. The gradients of temperature, salinity, pressure, ocean currents and magnetic anomalies will be used to drive the plastic material down, shaping an out-of-the-world research facility over the years.
The variation in salinity, pressure, density of water and a host of other properties will naturally gift the structure with diverse research ‘labs’ without much external effort at maintaining these parameters. This project shall traverse depths of 350 metres, making it the first research laboratory based in an ‘inverted skyscraper’.
Above all else, if this project ever reaches the dark abyss of the oceans, mankind will have finally conquered a chunk of all the waste plastic that so seriously affects the ecosystem surrounding the GPGP. And made a cool lab out of it, too!
Lilypad Floating Ecopolis
So far, architectural beauty has been the primary driving force behind better and bigger housing designs. But when it comes to accommodating the inevitable tide of refugees resulting from rising sea levels, there are none perhaps better than the Lilypad, designed by the French firm Vincent Callebaut Architectures.
Half-aquatic and half-terrestrial, with varied flora and fauna, and exploiting every renewable form of energy mankind ever devised – solar, thermal and photovoltaic, wind, hydraulic, tidal, osmotic energies (available from the difference in salinity of various layers), phytopurification (by recycling and regenerating wastewater) and biomass – The Lilypad is set to produce more energy than it itself consumes.
50,000 people will occupy the Lilypad, enjoying its marinas, mountain, a central lagoon of freshwater and areas dedicated to work, shopping and entertainment. It will be entirely self-sufficient, tackling all major challenges set by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in March 2008: climate, biodiversity, water and health.
The 21st century shall take away with it several once-island nations, giving way to seafarers that shall forever roam the oceans on this pinnacle of architectural evolution – The Lilypad.
Coming up next week on this blog
A floating jellyfish – or is that a building? Whatever it is, it’s coming to clean your city’s air. Skyscrapers suspended in air, but how? Establishments on the Moon and how to turn Mars into a living planet. We have all that coming, and much more. So stick around and in a week we’ll take to the skies and see what kind of green treasures the heavens have in store for us.
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