Architects Who Add Sex Appeal To Sustainable Designs - WSJ.comhttp://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB120121362248414719.htmlof 52/19/2008 2:41 PM
Reflectors on the glass roof ofStefan Behnisch's GenzymeCenter, in Cambridge,Massachusetts, direct sunlightinto the central atrium andother parts of the building.
With offices in Stuttgart and Venice, California, and with projects in the worksfrom Hamburg to Abu Dhabi, Mr. Behnisch has translated environmentalawareness into light-filled, plant-filled spaces that break down the barrierbetween indoors and out.Plants play a structural role in Mr. Behnisch's buildings. They are used to purify,to add moisture and even to improve "the sound of the air," he says. "Plantsprovide a sensual experience," he says. "They smell, move, whisper and createshadows on the wall," and can transform "a sober and stiff workingenvironment."His breakthrough work, the Institute for Forestry and Nature Research inWageningen, Netherlands, completed in 1998, has multipurpose indoor gardens.The Genzyme Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, completed in 2003, isknown for its naturally lit atrium, whose twelve stories are filled with groups of hanging gardens suggesting different habitats.The Genzyme Center, which won the highest award from the U.S. Green Building Council, has become aprototype for the development of sustainable architecture in a corporate setting. "We wanted a signaturebuilding," says Henri Termeer, the Chairman and CEO of Genzyme, one of the world's largestbiotechnology firms. He says that during the competition for the project, he admired Mr. Behnisch'sability to think about the building "from the worker's point of view."Although the energy-saving devices, including a system of moving roof-top light reflectors, or "suntrackers" used to flood the structure with natural light, were expensive, the savings in energy costs and thedrop in absenteeism, according to Mr. Termeer, have made the investment worthwhile.Mr. Behnisch, born in 1957, is the son of the architect Günter Behnisch, best-known for designingMunich's groundbreaking tent-like Olympic Stadium in 1972. Mr. Behnisch is contributing a residentialtower and the Unilever headquarters, which makes use of a large central atrium, to Hamburg's HafenCitydevelopment. The buildings are subject to strict energy conservation requirements by the developers. Mr.Behnisch says the setting on Hamburg's harbor poses special problems -- the area's strong winds can be"both a danger and a means of producing energy."www.behnisch.com
"Everybody wants the badge of sustainability," says Ian Ritchie, based in London. His tone is one of amused outrage. Instead of small gestures and half-hearted measures, he says, "Europe should take thedesert areas in Greece, Spain and Portugal and put in a few hundred hectares of solar panels, and getpower all year round."