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Architects Who Add Sex Appeal To Sustainable Designs

Architects Who Add Sex Appeal To Sustainable Designs

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Published by: Solomon on Jul 12, 2008
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1 of 52/19/2008 2:41 PM
A model of Norman Foster's car-free Masdardevelopment in Abu Dhabi; its shaded walkwayswill lower temperatures.
January 25, 2008
J.S. Marcus profiles five international designers who integrate greenprinciples into innovative projects
 January 25, 2008
Norman Foster
From Berlin's Reichstag dome to London's Swiss Re building, nocontemporary architect has left a greater impact on the modern city skylinethan Norman Foster, whose high-tech modernism reinvented the skyscraper. What is less known is that heis also a pioneer of sustainable design. The Reichstag dome is powered by vegetable oil, while the SwissRe building, nicknamed the "gherkin," uses a system of gardens to promote natural ventilation. Anotherlandmark project, the 47-story HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong, a modular glass-and-steel structurefinished in 1986, channels natural light throughout the building and has adaptable office spaces. Mr.Foster's Beijing Airport terminal building, to open next month, will use natural light and ventilation, anddespite its size -- it will be the world's largest terminal at a million square meters -- is designed on whatthe architect calls a human scale."If you look at the history of our company, we have, in verytangible terms, demonstrated the potential for buildings to beclean," Mr. Foster said of his London firm, Foster & Partners.Mr. Foster brought sustainability issues out from "theeco-corner," said Matthias Schuler, a Stuttgart, Germany, climateengineer who teaches at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.Until then, he said, "sustainability was connected to woolen socksand wooden boxes."Mr. Foster's most impressive current project is the Masdardevelopment in Abu Dhabi, a seven-square-kilometer "zerocarbon" research city built in the desert.The car-free city will be powered by solar energy and equippedwith an electric transportation system, and it will house Masdar University, for scientists studyingsustainability. The showpiece is a complex natural cooling plan that will bring the temperature downdramatically, for example from about 45 degrees Celsius outdoors to about 25 degrees indoors, accordingto Mr. Schuler, who is working on the project. The technology ranges from simple -- creating shade alongthe streets -- to more elaborate -- using lithium salt compounds to dehumidify indoor spaces duringsummer months.People "will be cooled down by steps" as they move into buildings, rather than in the uniform cold rushof air in traditional air conditioning, Mr. Schuler said.
Architects Who Add Sex Appeal To Sustainable Designs
 
Architects Who Add Sex Appeal To Sustainable Designs - WSJ.comhttp://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB120121362248414719.htmlof 52/19/2008 2:41 PM
The exterior, of Jürgen Mayer H.'s studentcafeteria at Karlsruhe University.
Mr. Foster calls Masdar a transition to "a much bigger picture" that goes beyond the architecture of buildings and instead focuses on the relationship of buildings to a city.The firm is working on an even larger sustainable development project in Libya's Green Mountain region.The project is 5,000 square kilometers and will take in 240 kilometers of undeveloped coastline; it hopesto provide sustainable housing and workplaces for hundreds of thousands of people and rely on renewableenergy such as solar farms.www.fosterandpartners.com
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Jürgen Mayer H.
Jürgen Mayer H., one of Europe's most innovative younger architects, belongs to a generation of Europeans for whom sustainable building has become second nature. "I think sustainability is reallyimportant," he says, "but it's not architecture's only goal." There's also a need for designs to create a senseof community, and to change cultural conditions.Now 42 -- he put his middle initial H at the end of his name todistinguish himself from all the other Jürgen Mayers, a commonname -- Mr. Mayer H. is known for his use of new buildingmaterials and for the abstract forms his buildings take. "I like hiswork because he is so unpredictable," says Andres Lepik, curatorof architecture and design at New York's Museum of ModernArt.Mr. Mayer H., who also designs interiors, furniture and artinstallations, earned praise last year for his new student cafeteriaat Karlsruhe University, built out of compressed, high-densitywood -- a favorite material in sustainable design because of its recyclability and the minimal energyrequired to harvest it. In Mr. Mayer H.'s design it's transformed by a coating of polyurethane, giving it aquality closer to plastic while at the same time adding a protective layer. "Wood has become a high-techmaterial," he says.In his largest project to date, Mr. Mayer H. is redeveloping a major square in Seville with a network of enormous, mushroomlike structures. Meant to transform what had been an outdoor parking lot, theproject, called Metropol Parasol, is also built with compressed wood coated with polyurethane. Thestructures will create a number of indoor and outdoor spaces, including a subterranean archaeologicalmuseum, a ground-floor market hall and a rooftop restaurant and walkway. In 2005, the project wasawarded a prize for sustainable construction by the Holcim Foundation.www.jmayerh.de
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Stefan Behnisch
The word "green" is shorthand in the sustainable-design world, invoking the entire range of environmental concerns and technological innovations. But the word takes on a literal meaning whendescribing the work of German architect Stefan Behnisch. "The color green is very important in ourwork," says Mr. Behnisch, talking by telephone from his home in Stuttgart. "In fact our buildings oftenhave a lot of plants in them."
 
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
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Ian Ritchie
"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."

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