Sustainable Design: Towards a New Ethic in Architecture and Town Planning 9783034608763, 3034608764

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Sustainable Design: Towards a New Ethic in Architecture and Town Planning
 9783034608763, 3034608764

Table of contents :
Frontmatter --
Table of Contents --
Foreword --
From The Avant-Garde to Sustainability / Revedin, Jana --
Stefan Behnisch, Stuttgart, Germany --
Balkrishna Doshi Ahmedabad, India --
Françoise- Hélène Jourda Paris, France --
Hermann Kaufmann Schwarzach, Austria --
Wang Shu Hangzhou, China --
Fabrizio Carola Naples, Italy --
Elemental Director: Alejandro Aravena, Santiago, Chile --
Rural Studio Director: Andrew Freear Newbern, Alabama, U.S.A. --
Philippe Samyn Brussels, Belgium --
Carin Smuts Cape Town, South Africa --

Citation preview

SuStainable DeSign

Marie-Hélène Contal Jana reveDin

Sustainable Design towarDS a new etHiC in arCHiteCture anD town Planning witH a foreworD by tHoMaS Herzog

birkHäuSer baSel ∙ boSton ∙ berlin

table of ContentS foreworD by tHoMaS Herzog


froM tHe avant-garDe to SuStainability by Jana reveDin


winnerS of tHe global awarD for SuStainable arCHiteCture 2007

Stefan beHniSCH, Stuttgart, gerMany


“We try to establish modest comfort for work and living spaces.” — terrenCe Donnelly Centre for Cellular anD bioMoleCular reSearCH (tDCCbr), toronto, CanaDa


— HarvarD’S allSton SCienCe CoMPlex, HarvarD univerSity, CaMbriDge, MaSSaCHuSettS, uSa


— ibn inStitute for foreStry anD nature reSearCH, wageningen, tHe netHerlanDS

balkriSHna DoSHi, aHMeDabaD, inDia



“My architecture is human, but devised for a specific climate.”

— SangatH, offiCeS for tHe vaStu-SHilPa founDation anD StuDio SPaCe for tHe arCHiteCt, aHMeDabaD, inDia


— aranya, PrograM for low-inCoMe HouSing, MaDHya PraDeSH, inDore, inDia


— inDian inStitute of ManageMent, bangalore, inDia


françoiSe-Hélène JourDa, PariS, franCe


— botaniCal garDen, borDeaux, franCe


“We architects must finally stop wanting to build monuments!”

— Creation of a MarketPlaCe anD SurrounDing SPaCeS, PlaCe Du 8 Mai 1945, lyon, franCe


HerMann kaufMann, SCHwarzaCH, auStria


— luDeSCH CoMMunity Center, vorarlberg, auStria


— olPerer SHelter, finkelberg in tyrol, auStria


— allMeintalweg reSiDential CoMPlex, luDeSCH, auStria


wang SHu, HangzHou, CHina


“We’re just at the beginning of a broad social and political responsibility.”

“A stone wall is like a plant. It has to grow.”

— CHina aCaDeMy of art, xiangSHan CaMPuS, HangzHou, zHeJiang, CHina — five SCattereD HouSeS, MingzHou Park, ningbo, CHina

84 90

winnerS of tHe global awarD for SuStainable arCHiteCture 2008

fabrizio Carola, naPleS, italy


“Local materials and engineering define a new old ethic in architecture.” — Hotel kaMbary, banDiagara, Mali


— regional Center for traDitional MeDiCine, banDiagara, Mali


— Cultural anD SoCial Center, banDiagara, Mali


eleMental, Santiago, CHile


— reSorPtion of a SHantytown for 100 faMilieS, iquique, CHile


“Democratic interaction produces more benefit by same investment.” — lo eSPeJo—SoCial HouSing PrograM, Santiago, CHile


— renCa neigHborHooD—reHouSing PrograM, Santiago, CHile


rural StuDio, newbern, alabaMa, uSa


— fire Station anD town Hall, newbern, alabaMa, uSa


— akron boyS anD girlS Club, akron, alabaMa, uSa


“Ours is a simple sustainability born of necessity.”

— CoMMunity Center / glaSS CHaPel, MaSon’S benD, Hale County, alabaMa, uSa


— antioCH baPtiSt CHurCH, Perry County, alabaMa, uSa


PHiliPPe SaMyn, bruSSelS, belgiuM


— roof SHeltering of a train Station, leuven, belgiuM


— fire Station, Houten buSineSS Park, Houten, tHe netHerlanDS


Carin SMutS, CaPe town, SoutH afriCa


— DawiD klaaSte Center , laingSburg, karoo, SoutH afriCa


“Structure is surprisingly poetic. At any latitude.”

“Sustainability is about people.”

— guga S’tHebe—artS, Culture, anD Heritage village, CaPe town, SoutH afriCa — weSbank PriMary SCHool, weSbank, SoutH afriCa

170 172

aPPenDix about tHe autHorS


about tHe winnerS


illuStration CreDitS


Foreword by Thomas Herzog “Sustainability” covers a wide range of issues: choosing and sourcing materials, the amount of energy needed to transport and finish them, building construction processes, their thermal performance rating, the amount of energy needed to keep them running, maintenance processes, durability, internal flexibility in terms of use, adaptability to new technologies in the supply, disposal and telecommunications sectors, suitability for dismantling and possible re-erection, the conversion and recycling possibilities; but of course in particular, suitability for the use of solar energy for the purposes of heating, cooling, for using daylight, and generating electricity. But I think that complete energy autonomy is required only in exceptional cases. The amount of radiation this earth receives from the sun is many times higher than mankind’s energy needs will ever be. The question is how to exploit this potential. It is a fact that the amount of energy consumed to meet buildings’ thermal needs is already a quarter or a fifth of what was achieved only a few years ago. Today we should make these results affective across the board, instead of flirting with so-called “zero energy buildings.” Ultimately it is not about an Olympic discipline, but about looking at the matter as a whole and saving energy dramatically, or using solar energy. So we must apply the way we look at energy for a single building to whole towns and cities, and take a similar approach to that used in the single building field: note all the relevant factors, understand how they interact, and develop new models that can be integrated into the existing system. I would particularly like to warn against believing that there are recipes for this. Cities indeed share some basic phenomena, but these vary greatly in their quality and internal relations. In any city it is about the buildings, but also about the traffic generated by town planning, supply and disposal systems, potential energy sources, options for changing the status quo, and a great deal more. I am convinced that architects have a key role to play in the extremely complex field of the world-wide ecological crisis, because this impacts directly on their professional responsibility. When all is said and done about 40% of primary energy is used for building and running buildings, at least in Central Europe. Then additional quantities of fossil energy are used as a result of town planning measures. 1


Extracts from a conversation with Francesca Sartogo


“Modernity is revealed, as with loos or le Corbusier in its intimate connection to history, to culture (…) and in its relationship to the city, a relationship that dictates that every development, every invention must measure up to the built city.” 1

froM tHe avant-garDe to SuStainability

bruno taut, glass Pavilion, werkbund exhibition, Cologne, 1914

by Jana Revedin In view of the fact that a further two billion people will need to be housed humanely in the next 20 years, architecture is a profession with a promising future. And in view of the fact that new environmentally-harmful markets continue to expand rapidly despite worldwide energy shortages, there is a need, as there was in the early 20th century, the heyday of reforms, for a holistic understanding of architecture and society that networks technical and social know-how with political commitment. The architectural hype of the past decades has shown just how far removed the profession, as well as the paying public, has become from the notion of architecture as habitat. Buildings serve the purposes of commerce, event-tourism, market identities. They are visited and treated like backdrops, occasionally perhaps experienced and only rarely, given the enormous operating costs, invested with sustainable life. Alarming environmental figures, spiralling energy prices and the worldwide economic crisis brought on by irresponsible investment mean that architects become the coordinators of new paradigms. Every individual, every family, every elderly couple, every single mother will in future have to be prepared to invest more for a stable or a better habitat, a sustainable energy supply, clean water and ecological means of transport. We planners need to fundamentally “rethink” architecture. The hidden (embodied) energy costs of infrastructure, soil disposal, transport costs of non-locally-sourced materials, disposal, recycling, and limited floor plan flexibility are criteria that belong just as much in an energy pass as a building’s annual heating and air conditioning demand. The re-densification of cities will become a central issue of the 21st century, alongside cultural integration and flexible living and working concepts that address the issues of global migration. At the same time we need to think back to our roots as craftsmen, as experts in the sparing and resourceful application of statics, proportion, structure, and integrative design. The geographic, tectonic, and climatic conditions of specific planning regions have been carefully studied in our thousand-year-old history of settlement. Traditional techniques for utilizing the energy of the sun and wind, the warming and cooling potential of geothermal energy, gravity, water power, and the energy of light must once again find a natural place in the teaching and practice of architecture and be optimized using innovative approaches to fit local conditions.



Rosaldo Bonicalzi, Introduction to Aldo Rossi, Selected Writings, “Aldo Rossi: Scritti scelti sull’architettura e la città 1956–1972”, Libreria Clup, Milano, 1975 (1983 in English).

arCHiteCt, born 1960 One could strike lucky and learn from the masters, who in the affluent society of the 1980s, in the “made in …” design capitals of the world, saw themselves modestly as urban builders. “An architect is a builder who has learned Latin,” is how Adolf Loos defined his professional ethics. One gets to know places, materials, trades, to respect, even learn to love, the people who make a building and those who make it possible. One studied the tradition of one’s specific building culture, already then almost sacrilegious, the architecture of the European city 2 and sought social, sociological, and critical relationships. One trusted only the “proven” masters of the avant-garde. 3 At that time, neither architecture nor Haute Couture needed glossy magazines. Yves Saint Laurent’s first designs were made for his Rive Gauche students to wear on the street while Aldo Rossi wrote “Architecture (…) synthesises the whole civil and political scope of an epoch, when it is highly rational, comprehensive, and transmissible—in other words, when it can be seen as a style.” 4 Architecture was an act of political will, a risk, a declaration. “Who ultimately chooses the image of the city if not the city itself—and always and only through its political institutions. (…) Athens, Rome, Paris are the form of their politics, the signs of their collective will.” 5 Those who experienced in the 1980s the transition from the manageable markets of the industrial age to the global knowledge and consumer society learned that it was difficult and often costly to transfer certain techniques and material truths from one realm to the other. In Orlando, carefully selected Italian marble panels a macchia aperta (with sliced and matching grain) were laid with 2cm wide cemented joins, destroying both their fit as well as their overall effect. On the other hand, timber roof trusses for town houses in Milan were being dimensioned with the sturdiness—and expense—of an army bridge.

a ProfeSSion at tHe Start of a new MillenniuM

ludwig Mies van der rohe, Country House in brick and Steel, 1924 Carin Smuts, Social Center, westbank Cape town, 2008

If the globe appears to have grown smaller and more comprehensible in the new millennium thanks to new communication technology, it has in actual fact grown poorer, more overcrowded, and increasingly desperate. This is no longer about prosperity. It is about finite energy resources, minimum humanitarian standards for billions of homeless people, about epidemics, terror, and natural disasters. In this day and age, who can afford not to advise their clients on appropriate use, construction, integrative approaches, and sustainability? Who is not already trying to make their buildings energy zero, carbon zero, and for a low-cost economy? Meanwhile, star architecture continues its dance with the devil, sweeping through new markets in triumphant vanity. Uneconomical temples of prestige that defy gravity and ignore the energy of the sun, wind, or ground dominate the test-tube architecture of wildly sprawling cities in the economic boomtowns of the south and east. Irreplaceable natural habitats give way to designer resorts, the illusory worlds of blindly consuming globetrotters with time to kill.



4 5

Aldo Rossi’s The Architecture of the City (1966, 1982 in English) became an international bestseller. Rossi analyzes the historic structure of the European city, introducing his notions of “Locus” and of “Urban Ecology.” In his later selected writings, “Scritti scelti” (1975, 1983 in English), he details the thinking of the fathers of the avant-garde, Behrens, Mies van der Rohe, Loos, and Le Corbusier. Jana Revedin, The modern concept of open space, Milan 1991, analyzes the efforts of the avant-garde to improve the quality of life of the socially disadvantaged through economical, flexible, and hygienic spatial planning in the democratic urban green areas. Her later work Monument and the Modern: the elements of construction of the New Town, Venice 2000 contrasts the “new city” of the age of reform with its typologies, materials, and proportions with the organic form of the natural landscape. Aldo Rossi, “The Individuality of Urban Artifacts” in The Architecture of the City, MIT 1982, p. 116. Aldo Rossi, “The Politics of Choice” in The Architecture of the City, MIT 1982 , p. 162.


As if inspiration and hope speak to us from the pages of the old familiar texts and buildings, as if the overwhelming problematic and responsibility of the profession of the architect draws from it new confidence, one thinks back to the reforms of a time of crisis in the not too distant past: only a century before and within a short space of time, a small group of avant-garde planners reformed the decadent Fin de Siècle figure of the architect as an artist with that of a restrained, economical, and socially-responsible craftsman, urban builder, and industrial designer.

retroSPeCtive: tHe urban Planner anD DeSigner of tHe reforMiSt age

walter gropius, törten estate, Dessau, 1927 alejandro aravena, renca 3, Santiago de Chile, 2008

The age of industrialization brought with it new challenges, new programs, and a new level of discourse. Materials were experimented with expectantly, Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion 6, Mies van der Rohe’s Country House in steel and brick 7, Behrens’ and Gropius’ factory buildings and first industrially prefabricated housing and settlements 8, and Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower 9 were milestones of an avantgardistic school of new construction with its own formal language. “The challenge is through artistic means to find forms, that correspond to the machine and to mass production,” 10 wrote Behrens in 1907, and saw an analogy with the world of technology in “serial repetition and a respect for the inner construction by drawing its enclosure close around it.” 11 Consequently, housing, urban set pieces, and industrial prefabrication became the epochal topics of the day. The Bauhaus and its fanatical young teachers liberated an exploited working class from its unhygienic tenements, created air and sun-filled garden cities, allotment gardens for self-sufficiency in leafy people’s parks, extendable “growing houses” in prefabricated dry construction at cost price 12, public transport systems in structured green streets, colourful children’s nurseries, cinemas, schools, concert and festival halls. Economy was the criteria, public spaces that are easy to care for and maintain, short distances, locally-manufactured materials, self-sufficiency in the use of green space. And at the same time the buildings should please, engender a sense of identity, create an emotional bond. The German housing estates Heller-

6 7 8


10 11



The “Glass Pavilion,” built for the Werkbund Exhibition in 1914 in Cologne, expressively demonstrated the surprising design and structural possibilities of new developments in the glass industry. The design employed a grid of steel columns to enable a free plan arrangement that united functional flexibility with the use of locally-available durable materials, natural light, and strategically placed openings to the outdoor areas. The AEG Turbine Hall, built in 1909, is regarded as a milestone in design history for its rational plan arrangement and use of material, and its maximisation of natural light. This economy of materials was developed further by Behrens’ students Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer in their designs for the Fagus Factory in Alfeld (1911–1925) and the factory building for the 1914 Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne, which broke down Behrens’ “classicist” composition into additive elements for specific functions. Their social aim was to achieve a low-cost industrialized means of prefabrication for housing. Erich Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower in Potsdam (1917–1924), planned as a revolutionary concrete construction but then for safety’s sake built in brick, served as a laboratory for new spatial and structural programs: Mendelsohn went on to build a series of department stores, cinemas, and hotels throughout Germany and later in Israel that profited from the flexible floor plan arrangements made possible by steel and glass. Peter Behrens, “Kunst in der Technik” (“Art and Technology” in the English translation of Buddensieg, p. 207-208), in: Berliner Tageblatt, 29/08/1907. Peter Behrens, “Über Ästhetik in der Industrie” in: AEG Zeitung, Year 11, no. 12, June 1909, p. 5-7, (“Behrens on Aesthetics in Industry” in the English translation of Buddensieg, p. 208-209) see also: Tilmann Buddensieg, Industriekultur: Peter Behrens and the AEG, 1907-1914. Cambridge, MIT Press, 1984. Under the patronage of the industrial union, a competition took place in Berlin in 1931/32 entitled the “The Growing House,” The list of submissions reads like a who’s who of the young avant-garde elite and includes Gropius, Taut, Mendelsohn, Migge, Olbrich, Scharoun, Häring, and the initiator of the competition, the municipal architect Martin Wagner. Industrially prefabricated prototypes were designed according to ecological and economic criteria using innovative materials and were conceived as a “kit of parts” with an extendable floor plan (from 25 m²).

au, Dammerstock, Onkel Toms Hütte, Hufeisensiedlung, Törten, Niddaaue, Weißenhof, and the Werkbund were perhaps not always technically up-to-date but remain as popular as ever and are still much in demand with a low tenancy fluctuation rate. They discussed the question how affordable, how small, and at what level of building quality a minimum standard of living could be provided, they tested industrial processes and developed proto-grey-energy concepts. Materials, production, employment situation, logistics, and capital were factored into a calculation of total expenditure. While Walter Gropius passionately pursued the “mechanization of building production” in semi-dry and dry assembly techniques, such as used for his model buildings on the Weißenhof Estate—even in the face of “hut camp”-criticism from his own students—and along with Martin Wagner was of the opinion that mechanization was only viable for large-scale housing schemes 13, Bruno Taut regarded the problem as a national economic issue and appealed to society and politics: “In 1926, as the smallest unit in Britz (47m²) with a rent of 45 Reichsmark per month became available, we too believed, full of hope, that things were looking up. However, what went up more than anything else was the interest rate …” 14 Suppressed temporarily by the Nazis, these humane, sustainable, and economical principles experienced a euphoric renaissance in the 1950s, only to become degraded in the rush for regeneration or in the hands of new totalitarian powers to an “international style,” an increasingly superficial global phenomenon. The cheerful and colourful housing types, the multi-functional and restrained public buildings, and the urban set-pieces of modern democracy fell by the wayside in the fast-build of the post-war period and the economic boom that followed.

arCHiteCt. toDay. Demographic fluctuations and energy awareness, the creation of living and production environments within the existing urban structure, rationalization of infrastructure and the construction process, minimisation of global energy consumption, and integrative design are issues that architects are now faced with, but they are not new. The previous primarily locally-active but nevertheless socially integrated building lodges, schools, experimental groups, and municipal planning offices today operate on a global scale: in the form of international research teams with engineers, sociologists, and energy consultants. Not always so efficient, not always quite to scale, and not always humane. As we enter the knowledge age a new definition of the profile of an architect is emerging. The work, lives, and journeys of the ten colleagues shown in this book demonstrate that it is possible to solve the fundamental and worrying problems of our time in small, modest, and yet very definite approaches. The elusive constellation of a lightweight construction with minimal primary energy expenditure, maximum durability, simplest upkeep, and widest possible flexibility is a recipe that none are able to offer. A sustainable calculation of investment and amortisation of energy-conscious and locally-sensitive building methods over decades is on the other hand very possible.

adolf loos, Haus Möller, vienna, 1930 Hermann kaufmann, House overlooking Dornbirn, 2007

The enormous north-south divide only becomes apparent when one compares the different living conditions and economic situations in contemporary Africa, China, Latin America, or Central Europe. Where Scandinavians and the Northern European countries were schooled by the likes of Adolf Loos, Alvar Aalto, or Jean Prouvé that architecture and design should be true to materials, easy to use, and durable, Mediterranean countries are only hesitantly conceding that they also have cold winters and hot summers. The former colonial countries have first got to laboriously free themselves from the built legacy of their “cultural occupiers,” which paid little re-

13 14

Martin Wagner, “Groß-Siedlungen. Der Weg zur Rationalisierung des Wohnungsbaus” in: Wohnungswirtschaft, 1926, p. 81-114. Bruno Taut, “Gegen den Strom” in: Wohnungswirtschaft, 1930, p. 315-324.


gard to climate or tradition, and find a way back to an architecture of their own that is modern, rooted, and yet unfettered by the past.

in tHe nortH … “The thing is that we all need to work together towards mastering the future,” 15 explains Vorarlberg architect Hermann Kaufmann underlining his political support for the mandatory introduction of strict regulations and eco-labelling, even in social housing. “The enforced introduction of these standards has mobilized construction firms to learn rapidly and develop their abilities so that they can apply the new technologies.” Sustainability is therefore a way of life and has to do with self-imposed restriction. Here well-placed investment in durable materials and innovative technologies can give new definition to Adolf Loos’ Raumplan.

Heinrich tessenow, competition for a bathing resort, rügen, 1936

“We architects must finally stop wanting to build monuments,” 16 continues the French architect Françoise-Hélène Jourda, advocating a return to more modesty in professional ethics in France. Where populations are declining and cities are shrinking, less is perfectly adequate. Simple architectural archetypes made of primary, local materials are affordable for the municipalities and also age well.

f.-H. Jourda, Market hall, lyon 2005

… anD in tHe SoutH The situation is very different in the world of exploding populations, chaotic infrastructure, natural disasters, epidemics, drug wars, and mass unemployment. “Sustainability is about people. Architecture gives people the possibility of empowerment to define who they are, to develop consciously and independently,” 17 says Carin Smuts after 25 years of working for and in South Africa’s black townships, after the completion of dozens of wash houses, market halls, schools, social centers, and art galleries, all developed in workshops and built by local residents which she schools in the use of local ecological building materials and the simplest building techniques. For Alejandro Aravena in Chile, the settlement problems of the developing countries (the provision of adequate housing for two billion people in the next 20 years) is a simple mathematical equation, to which a solution is needed: build a one million people city per week for the next 20 years with 10,000 dollars per family. 18 His rational low-cost settlements invite people to leave their tin shacks and through a personal contribution to the building’s construction encourages them to take part in the overall creative and economic process as well as to assume personal and social responsibility. wang Shu, recycled tiles posed as in the Ming period. xiangshan Campus, Hangzhou, 2008

And Wang Shu escapes the commercial building sector in China by relying on hand drawing to determine the proportions and by learning as much as possible from the building site, where he gives aging craftsmen a purpose in life: square kilometres of recycled second-hand bricks and stones are built as they were in the time of the Ming Dynasty. “A stone wall is like a plant. It has to grow.” 19

15 16 17 18 19


In: “Energiesparen und bauen: wer, wann, wo und wie?”, Discussion with Eva Guttmann, Zuschnitt, no. 30, 2008. Françoise-Hélène Jourda, Interview with Jana Revedin for France 5, Lyon, June 2007. Carin Smuts, Interview with Jana Revedin for France 5, Cape Town, April 2008. Alejandro Aravena in: Fulvio Irace, Casa per tutti. Abitare la città globale. Milan Triennial 2008, p. 18-21. Wang Shu, Interview with Jana Revedin for France 5, Hangzhou, May 2007.


Stefan behnisch Stuttgart, germany


Main façade of the terence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and biomolecular research (tDCCbr). toronto, Canada


→ Stefan Behnisch

Stefan Behnisch is one of the pioneers who laid the foundations for the constituent debate on sustainable architecture. Or rather, as he would say, a “climatic and environmental architecture;” in Europe he has created buildings that are already landmarks in this new history, for instance, the Institute for Forestry and Nature Research, at Wageningen, in the Netherlands. Stefan Behnisch was born in Stuttgart in 1957, the son of Günter Behnisch, an important figure in German architecture. After initially taking courses in philosophy and economics, he studied architecture in Karlsruhe, Germany. He received his diploma in 1987 after having been in California for two years. In 1988 he joined Behnisch & Partners in Stuttgart, then in 1989 founded an architecture office on climatic architecture. In 1999 he established a firm in California, and today a large part of his business is American. Following the completion of the corporate headquarters for Genzyme in Cambridge, Massachusetts (U.S.), Stefan Behnisch was recognized in the United States as an expert in the still-experimental field of sustainable design. For the past 150 years, when a European architect establishes himself abroad, it is a significant event. The great innovations in Western architecture all took the boat, and later the airplane, back and forth across the ocean. Such a trajectory means that Behnisch in turn has connected “an inventive scene” with a “society” ready to welcome it. At the turn of the 21st century, the invention is European—Germany is a center of excellence for sustainable architecture—and the interested, purchasing society is American—the knowledge society, of which California has been the crucible for the past 20 years. The exchange is never one-way, however. In exporting his ideas, the European Behnisch got a foothold in a world that has certainly taught him as much as it has received, and allowed him to develop his vision. Too often one forgets the role of great clients, when they are the historical avant-garde and give architects the programs that enable them to affirm their visions of the future. Would Peter Behrens have been so prolific if he didn’t work for the pioneers of industry? Similarly, Stefan Behnisch certainly wanted to meet the most innovative people in the knowledge society, first in Europe and then in the United States, in order to be part of the milieux where the society of the 21st century is being invented.

tHe MaJor iSSue of energy In fact, for Behnisch, the distinctive feature of sustainable architecture is not purely ecological: “Part of our problem today in dealing with the imbalanced ecosystem lies in its limited definition.” The debate over the word sustainable has not ended, and one finds green industrialists as well as apostles of negative growth. Following the example of the former, Behnisch thinks that, for our future, the energy question is even more strategic and encompassing than the ecological challenge. The economy of energy must be transformed, and the former student of economics knows full well that to change energy is to change the world, to give an inevitable impetus to a new development, which should be a breakthrough. In other words, Stefan Behnisch has “the willed optimism” of those for whom the ecological crisis is not the Götterdämmerung but rather the beginning of a historical cycle that will transform man’s pursuits and social activities. 16

Architecture must give form to the society that will be built on the new energy deal. Who will define the ethical, social, and economic foundations for the sustainable city? Behnisch posits that in 2008, as in 1908, it is through contact with the avantgarde industrialists of this century that these issues should be settled. Quite simply because this sustainable city will, like the defunct industrial city, be the driving force behind development: “The protection of our environment is seen as an absolute necessity, and as an opportunity for potential growth.” Stefan Behnisch has two decades of work under his belt. In the first decade, he honed his knowledge as well as a method—different from the green building rationalism—for designing buildings with low energy consumption and strong human synergy. Today, he dedicates the second decade to investing his skills in programs, often quite sophisticated, for manufacturers, laboratories, and universities. The wide world cannot be reduced to that community, of course. But those are the inventors of the future society and of its practices.

tHe ergonoMiCS of tHe iMMaterial worlD In 1992 Stefan Behnisch began to collaborate closely with Transsolar Climate Engineering, a pioneering research unit in new energy technologies. In working with this hotbed of research and researchers, Behnisch was able to transform his father’s firm, an outstanding resource for work, into a laboratory for climatic architecture. This pursuit followed an unusual trajectory. In the early 1990s, most of the people involved approached sustainable architecture through construction; they worked on materials, walls, and alternative energies, developing rules for construction that are, in a way, the hardware of sustainable architecture. Stefan Behnisch approaches the subject much further along in the process, at the usage stage, when the architecture receives the people: “Where can we effectively save energy and materials? Without a doubt, it is the users of a building who can influence ecological value through their behavior and energy demands.” Seen in this way, the challenge is less about building and more about culture: sustainable architecture is architecture that will train people, teach them the rules of conduct for the post-petroleum era, and subtly reshape their behavior. Behnisch speaks of “comfort” and “well-being” to define this behavioral software, or rather, this “soft power,” for he wants architecture to be a friendly guide toward the sustainable society. In this regard, we will continue our analysis by speaking of Behnisch’s concept of “hospitality,” a term that, in the classical age, gauged architecture’s ability to accommodate and guide people. In seeking a contemporary hospitality, Behnisch had to redirect his approach from the material envelope to the interior space. The quest does not involve the building system but rather the elements of ambience: climate, light, air, sound, colors, and textures. All architects in the ecological movement perform such analyses, but Behnisch pushes them further and in a different way. With Transsolar he builds instruments to measure and then to channel these flows, such as the spectacular solar chimney for the offices of the LVA State Insurance Agency in Lübeck, Germany, and the light-collecting “chandeliers” that appear in the atrium of Genzyme headquarters in Cambridge, Massa-

chusetts. Behnisch and his engineers of the immaterial want to succeed in managing these exchanges (thermal, solar, radiant, and so on) with as much assurance as that possessed by his eco-building counterparts when they design a timber frame and its panels. Behnisch works with the void, the site of exchanges. He builds a microclimate before the envelope. The projects, developed from the interior outward, conform to a centrifugal dynamic rather than the “authority of the plan” from the functionalist era. This is not the least of Behnisch’s contributions, in a debate where others recommend, by contrast, a green functionalism that is even more strict than it was in the past. If we pick up the pertinent parallel established by Jana Revedin between the avant-garde of the 20th century and that of the 21st century, we can recall that the Modern Movement was behavorial, seeking to shape man through spaces of human dimensions. From Le Corbusier’s Modulor to the tables by Neufert, this Modern ergonomics was based on the sizing of the space, for an optimal functioning of the human body, which was linked with the century’s industrial vision. One hundred years later, research by the likes of Behnisch creates another type of ergonomics: it is the immaterial flows that are sized. These proportions of air or of light make up a climate conducive (that is, hospitable and hard-working) to the optimization of the human intellect, a goal that is linked to the knowledge industry. The scientific or service industries have less need for disciplined bodies than for well-formed heads. The “new man” from the knowledge society is a responsible hedonist, an ecosystem in and of himself, living in larger ecosystems that are protective and stimulating—“buildings that allow the individual to customize his own workplace, to individually control his environment.”

pitality at all the scales: the threshold of each office, the small interior gardens, and of course the key factor, namely, the generous lobbies. This “interior urbanity,” which according to Behnisch is one of the elements of environmental architecture, seems to be taken even further in the American projects now under development: Harvard’s Allston Science Complex in Boston and the River Park in Pittsburgh. These sophisticated “eco-urbanistic systems” are not easily perceived from the exterior. The envelope has become so much of a system of exchanges that it is no longer a display. The façades are glass, a material that has all the qualities required by Behnisch: ecological, easily worked, and programmable, it is in itself a system of exchanges (heat, light, colors). On the façade and the roof, Behnisch’s glass envelopes never break contact with the exterior; they are checkered with devices (opening lights, screens, collectors, and sun shields) that constantly interact with the elements, and nothing can disturb this active role played by the façade. It is customary to say that a work of architecture must be viewed in person in order to be understood. With Behnisch’s architecture one must, in addition, live in these spaces through the changing seasons in order to grasp how they go along with the varying climate, as well as with man in his diverse pursuits. This does not necessarily mean Behnisch’s envelopes are mute. Quite the contrary. The large glazed structural grids do not clog the work. The small interior world, often teeming, crosses the envelope, bringing with it a veritable swarm of details: a room that projects outward, window openings adapted to each location, movable blinds. This is the result of the architect’s centrifugal method of design. In looking at his works, one might also think of the anti-authoritarian architecture found in Germany in the 1970s: that would be an excellent reference point for the environmental architecture of the high-tech society.

an arCHiteCture of HoSPitality Like the activities that it hosts, the climatic architecture of Stefan Behnisch consumes less energy than information, and it tends toward a certain dematerialization. If there is a structuring of spaces in his work, it may come more from Behnisch Architekten architectural know-how than from Behnisch’s own desire, for his research on space is almost un-tectonic. A project by Behnisch is read in section rather than in plan, and no doubt it was designed in this way because it is the section that makes it possible to shape the void and manage the exchanges. And these sections are very enlightening, for they reveal architectural systems on a large scale: the atrium for Genzyme is a nave, the hall of LVA is the active and light-filled plaza of a small (vertical) town, the suite of atriums for the Wageningen institute is a street with carefully handled transitions. In his large projects, Behnisch uses the heat and light shafts in order to deploy his “soft power.” These large voids are handled so as to offer hos17

→ Stefan Behnisch

terrenCe Donnelly Centre for Cellular anD bioMoleCular reSearCH (tDCCbr) toronto, CanaDa, 2001–2005 Client: university of toronto architects: behnisch architekten with architectsalliance Structural engineer: yolles Partnership ltd., toronto landscape Design: Diana gerrard landscape architecture total Surface area: 20,750 m2

The University of Toronto and its laboratories are at the forefront of research on the connections between genes and illness. The agenda for the new center is to provide a link between the state-of-the-art research and the medicinal applications. The researchers come here to develop projects in multidisciplinary teams, in a setting that needs to be functional, flexible, and conducive to synergies. The project was built on College Street, on the southern part of the Toronto campus, at the far end of a narrow dead end that served as parking between two respected institutions. To deal with the narrowness of the parcel, a tall, thin building was designed, rising above the neighborhood in two successive blocks that go over twelve stories and search out the light via their entirely glazed envelope. A large lobby was created on the ground floor backing onto the Rosebrugh building. The old brick façade forms the back wall of an interior courtyard, which is treated as a garden and dotted with concrete columns from the primary frame. In addition to the reception areas and the elevators, this lobby also had the researchers’ conference rooms and administrative offices. The overall composition is very pleasingly illuminated by an angled glass roof, which highlights the outline of the cornice on the old wall. The laboratories are arranged on twelve floors. The configurations vary, from individual offices to collective open-space modules. The open spaces running east-west receive natural light throughout. On the south, most open onto large interior gardens, arranged on three floors and serving as spaces for conversation and relaxation. While they are certainly not the greenhouses of the 19th century, these “service-oriented winter gardens” are nevertheless very visible on the exterior, helping to animate the envelope, each side of which is designed in accordance with its lighting and the program that it accommodates. The south wall, on the street side, consists of a double skin of opaque glass with devices for thermal and acoustic control. The other façades, which serve the laboratories, are more protective, thanks to inner skins consisting of opaque glass or ceramic grids. On the west façade, the activities inside are nevertheless very visible and comfortable: oversize bay windows contain interior staircases and their large landings. Thus these glass frames surround collective microcosms that are active and colorful, within the large structure—collective microcosms whose inhabitants can each be tracked to his or her individual unit, marked by its window and safety rails in colored glass.


These variations in volume, texture, and color succeed in rematerializing the envelope of glass—a material that the 20th century often preferred to smooth out to the point of abstraction— and also succeed in making a legible, lively workplace for all: form follows human action.

the west façade of the tDCCbr. on the upper block, one can clearly see the projection of the large bow windows that house the interior staircases for each unit.


top: the west façade of the tDCCbr, with a groundfloor section through the lobby and the connection with the intermediate building Middle: the interior courtyard is treated as a garden and lit by a skylight. this arrangement makes it possible to bring light to the lower block along entire height (six stories) of the building. bottom: an interior circulation area on the upper lobby


on the south, the south gable of the building, with its interior gardens, arranged over three stories. these winter gardens, which are very well lit, are also an ornament for the façade.


→ Stefan Behnisch

HarvarD’S allSton SCienCe CoMPlex HarvarD univerSity, CaMbriDge, MaSSaCHuSettS, uSa, 2006–2010 Client: Harvard university architect: behnisch architekten environmental Consultant: transsolar Climateengineering lighting Consultant: lichtlabor bartenbach architecture and engineering: Philippe Samyn

A typical, complex, centrifugal campus program, one that must function in accordance with an already urban economy, that is, one that is both regulated and unpredictable. Stefan Behnisch worked on this program with certain concerns that were already clear at the scale-model stage. Advanced research on natural lighting runs through the project, and dispersed throughout are solar chimneys and glazed façades that are handled so that the interior spaces are visible. A certain pursuit of the deterministic aspects of sites is also visible in the way in which the plan blends offices and laboratories, sites for working and those for living, using verticality to increase the number of footbridges and gathering places where people “can work, meet, communicate, or just relax in an environment that is not prescriptive in terms of use.”

above: a section through the main building, which is typical of Stefan behnisch’s work on thermal exchanges and the optimization of natural lighting right: Plan of the ground floor—at the research stage


Models of the project, at the preliminary design stage


→ Stefan Behnisch

ibn inStitute for foreStry anD nature reSearCH wageningen, tHe netHerlanDS Client: Ministries of Housing and of agriculture in the netherlands architect: behnisch architekten energy Consultants: fraunhofer institute for building Physics, Stuttgart total Surface area: 11,250 m2

Although it is only ten years old, IBN has become a classic of bioclimatic design, and perhaps it can already be “reread” from various perspectives. That of anti-monument, for example: IBN combines a new world of values and skills with anti-heroic construction, based on market components—establishing, as of 1998, an eco-architecture that is neither a utopia nor a privilege. Behnisch put into it his key features: the articulation of a dynamic envelope that filters the energies with the inertia of an interior void (here an atrium) that regulates the flows; a delicate adjustment of the atmospheres through the presence of interior gardens, divided up into microclimates that contribute to and symbolize ambient comfort; the idea of anti-façades, distorted from the inside, which manage the exchanges more than they circumscribe the space, enveloping more than signifying—the walls are made here with standard metal frames and commercially available windows, the winter gardens are made with horticultural greenhouses. The plasticity of the plan: double-thickness modular service decks, distributed through the atria and connected by walkways. And then life appears, when these open systems soak up the minute possibilities and transform them into spaces and uses. An office is extended as a terrace over the pool, the oiled wood of the hand rails, pleasantly fragrant. The remnants of the construction used to shape the outdoor areas.


Seen from the north, the ibn with its “standard” façades. in the foreground is a holding pond. left: longitudinal section with detail showing the interior atria


Mapping and site plan of ibn

an interior view of an atrium with its garden that regulates the atmosphere. in the background, a glass façade offers a view, from the interior pool, to the surrounding countryside.


the coverings are made with these components from agricultural greenhouses; one can see the toothed wheels of the opening system. right: a diagram of the system for collecting rainwater, on the vegetal roofs and in an outdoor reservoir


balkrishna Doshi ahmedabad, india


Present-day appearance of the houses in the aranya neighborhood, built in 1986 in indore


→ Balkrishna Doshi

The global architectural debate did not have to wait for the ecological watershed to encounter Balkrishna Doshi, born in India in 1927. One might even say that, starting in the 1960s, Doshi was recognized as one of the major figures in Modern architecture. Today, more than 30 years later, he is recognized as one of the pioneers of sustainable architecture. A new generation of critics is going back to study his work in order to find lessons that are rather different from those sought by the “Corbusians.” This double stroke of critical fortune is rare. There are at least two explanations for it. First, Doshi would not be the only architect to find himself thus reexamined. For example, Alvar Aalto, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Jean Prouvé are all reread today. The ecological scene is sufficiently mature to have both the need and the authority to reconstruct the history of the last century according to its own set of questions. Second, Doshi himself has radically changed; he did not let himself become petrified in his role as a great Modernist. Doshi was younger than his Corbusian friends, and he experienced a personal turning point in the 1970s, after the first energy crisis had begun to erode the historic optimism in Modernism. In 1978 Doshi created the Vāstu Shilpā Foundation and had begun new research on housing, urban planning, and the search for affordable building solutions. In his fifties and awash in awards, the architect set new goals for himself: he was less concerned about building a new architecture for India than for his fellow Indians, their housing, environment, and culture. This research reexamined the connections between Western and Eastern culture. Today’s new ecologist critics pay tribute to this process of going through, and then beyond, the challenges of the 20th century.

tHe MoDerniSt Saga The architectural work of Balkrishna Doshi, which belongs mainly to the 20th century, was first written about by the best Corbusian historians. Perhaps they envied his life, for it is in itself an epic and sprawling tale of the saga of the Modernists. The young Indian, educated in Bombay and then in London, discovered the Modern Movement at the International Congress of Modern Architecture (known by its French acronym, CIAM), held in Hoddesdon in 1951, and while there, he met with Le Corbusier himself, whose firm was then a breeding ground for young architects who came from the world over. Pandit Nehru commissioned the Swiss Master to design a capital for the new Indian democracy. Balkrishna Doshi was not 25 years old when he found himself in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad to construct the buildings that would become symbols of his country’s independence and icons of Modern architecture. He was barely 30 years old when he collaborated with Louis I. Kahn, the other progenitor of Indian architecture, on the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. But starting in 1955, he liberated himself from these masters and founded his own firm, Vāstu Shilpā. The firm built a great many public buildings, the most famous being the Center for Environ30

mental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad, completed in 1972. Having become, with Charles Correa, the guide to Indian Modernist architecture, Doshi also began teaching. In 1962 he cofounded the School of Architecture of Ahmedabad, then in 1972 he cofounded the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology and the Kanoria Center for Arts. These decades of work earned him early recognition from a historiography that underscored the progress of Modern internationalism by finding “national heroes” on each continent. Doshi was one of two such heroes. He “gives his own interpretation of a new Indian architecture, based on delicate combinations of concrete, brick, and quarry tiles.”1

tHe SearCH for SynCretiSM In 1981 Balkrishna Doshi completed construction on the Sangath complex in Ahmedabad, which was to house his office and the Vāstu Shilpā Foundation for Studies and Research in Environmental Design. This building inaugurated a new approach. Admittedly, it picks up a unit module covered by a concrete barrel vault, of Corbusian inspiration, but Doshi’s module then becomes the instrument for transforming the site, on the outskirts of a hot and overpopulated city, into an urban oasis. The site is organized as a terraced garden in which the buildings are partly buried, with an entrance court in front. Water circulates along these downward slopes: the fountains spill onto the vaults, which are covered with shards, to cool the interiors, and then the water is collected in basins and ornamental pools that are decorated with these same shards. The vaults are positioned to optimize the natural lighting, and natural ventilation completes the cooling system. The Corbusian module is no longer used as a solution but as a means serving a new end, namely, the search for a way to organize the space for the city. The foundation is an institution that is open to the public for debates, and Doshi designed it as an example of development for Ahmedabad. And to do this, he explicitly connected with Indian culture, in terms of spatiality, materials, and the relationship to water. Ten years later, on the Ahmedabad campus, Doshi designed a small building that broke even more obviously with the works built on the same site 40 years earlier. The small museum devoted to the work of the artist M. F. Hussain is a sculpturespace, built with humble materials and vernacular techniques. The vaults are formed by wire netting covered by a thin layer of concrete. They are covered by an insulating layer of earth, set on clay courses using a local technique, then covered with an envelope of ceramic shards. This waterproof covering allows for easy maintenance, compared with untreated concrete, which, as Doshi learned over the years, ages badly in the Indian climate. It is also elegant and sculptural, and the unfurling domes of Hussain Gufa resemble the Naga snake of Buddhist myth. We must try to understand the reasons for such a marked change. Doshi’s best biographer, James Steele, mentions the growing role of Buddhism in the architect’s development; he also stresses that Sangath can be read as an extension that goes beyond Corbusian teaching rather than a break with it. But Steele also advances a perspicacious theory, postulating that this change is the result of an inner struggle, experienced by the architects from the south, “in their attempt to assimilate ‘developed’ technologies with their own cultural values.” 2

In other words, Hussain Gufa shows us that it might be time to stop believing that Doshi’s generation was the protagonist in a clearly positive struggle for progress, using the peaceful weapons of Modernist architecture from the West, and to understand that that generation experienced instead a difficult inner struggle between its culture of origin and its acculturation with the West. And that the outcome of this struggle was less predictable than had been thought in the post-World War II period, as the Western development model split and revealed the harm it had caused, harm to the environment but also and especially to people and to their culture. “Balkrishna Doshi’s personal struggle reconciles the obvious discrepancies that he has discovered between the principles … of the Modern Movement and the basic realities of building in a developing country.” 3 The Hussain Gufa was built with these basic realities: materials available on site, earth, and pieces of broken plates, according to a technique that required men rather than equipment, a technique that has been used for centuries in the streets of Ahmedabad to construct small reliquary temples in the form of sculpted grottos.

HouSing aS a ProCeSS It is for this long, slow work of rebalancing the exchanges between the north and the south that Balkrishna Doshi deserves to be recognized as one of the founders of contemporary ecological architecture. “If the debate on contemporary sustainable architecture is so rich throughout the world today,” explains Italian architect Benno Albrecht, “it is because pioneers such as Doshi started to deflect the powerful international currents of industrial development, refocusing them on behalf of societies and channeling the effects so that they nourish their culture and their economy instead of destroying them.” Hussain Gufa’s unique manifesto is a milestone, but it is a pause along the way. Before and after, the firm produced many works, clearly focused on the development of Ahmedabad and its region, with the word development taking on a more complex meaning than the one it had in India during Doshi’s youth. The architect dedicated himself to housing in particular, acting through his Vāstu Shilpā Foundation to promote more appropriate methods of design and construction. The work carried out by the foundation in 1983 in the city of Indore, located in the state of Madhya Pradesh, illustrates Doshi’s more syncretistic approach. The city’s department of development asked the foundation to lay out an 86-hectare area where the city wanted to build housing, mostly low-rent units for relocating inhabitants living in unsanitary areas. In this region south of Delhi, the dearth of housing and the generally unsanitary conditions were tackled only by the mass construction of residential areas. But these neighborhoods deteriorate quickly.

grid and organized the Aranya project in six neighborhoods, fed by a central avenue that follows the terrain. Each neighborhood consists of hamlets made up of ten or so houses separated by patios made of paving stones. Streets run throughout, and businesses are easily added, for residents can create a business in their house or sublet a room to an artisan. Public plazas are laid out at the intersections. The city pays for the roads and infrastructure of the neighborhood and of the houses. Doshi designed a basic unit, positioned, lit, ventilated, and built with a concrete frame. The foundation welcomes each family and adapts this plan, possibly adding separate rooms, which the inhabitants would build themselves. They could even later transform their house, within the boundaries of their parcel. For Balkrishna Doshi, housing should be seen “as a process and not a product.” The Aryana experiment was not pursued in India, but it did spread throughout the world. In this volume, it brings together such diverse personalities as Balkrishna Doshi, Alejandro Aravena, and Carin Smuts. They all see in it a key to sustainable development, and all are critical of 20th-century public housing, which is inflexible, both for people and for their culture; with its own environment, it prevents people from taking control of their habitat, which is the first lever pushing them toward their own advancement.

1 2 3

Dictionnaire de l’architecture du XXe siècle, article on Balkrishna Doshi by WilliamJ. Curtis (Paris: Hazan/IFA, 1996). James Steele, Ecological Architecture: A Critical History (London: Thames and Hudson, 2005). Ibid.

For Doshi, the dysfunction of modern neighborhoods comes from the fact that they deprive their inhabitants of flexibility of use, as well as of the possibility of expanding, and that they impose lifestyles that are cut off from common practices. Observing the neighboring shantytowns, Doshi found some positive aspects there: these bric-a-brac lodgings are in fact laid out in small neighborhoods, with their stores, their public areas, and busy streets that are conducive to exchanges, and they form complete units where families find services, solidarity, and freedom to build. Following their example, Doshi abandoned the modern 31

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SangatH offiCeS for tHe vaStu-SHilPa founDation anD StuDio SPaCe for tHe arCHiteCt aHMeDabaD, inDia, 1979–1981 Client: vastu Shilpa foundation architect: balkrishna Doshi

Today Sangath, a key project, can be described differently than it was when first completed, at the start of the Postmodern era: that nostalgic account fades before the prospects of sustainable development. Today Sangath can be described as a feat of architectural syncretism that Doshi attained by fusing the Modern vitalism and the contemporary vitality of Indian culture. The complex of offices and gardens is set in the north corner of a site of 2,500 m2 on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The buildings are accessed via a slanting allée that postpones their discovery, and Doshi recalls that he learned this lesson from Le Corbusier. The main building is set on the north butte, backing onto the edge of the parcel; it contains the studio space, offices, and meeting rooms; it is flanked on the south by reception rooms, oriented toward the allée and forming the main façade. The site’s slope makes it possible to stagger the whole composition through a succession of interior levels. It also makes it possible for the barrel vaults covering each module with a double enfilade to take in natural light through a cutout in the tympanum. The system of vaults is part of a Corbusian lineage: it revives the prototype invented in the Indian series known as the Monol, in which Le Corbusier sought building models that were more suitable for Indian culture. Doshi revives not so much the system as that reorientation in the thinking, and he takes it in a new direction: a complete adherence to the landscape and its morphology, an interweaving of the architecture and the garden, with the whole forming not so much an “architectural promenade” as a symbiosis between three elements—mineral, vegetable, and water. The discovery of Sangath is in fact an immersion in a whole, via a gradual ascension from one level to the next, through the terraces and patios. They lead to the living areas, some of them semi-sunken in the slope, covered with their dome and illuminated mainly by the tympanum. These semi-barrels define the tall, wide interior spaces, well ventilated because their enfilade is oriented in the direction of the prevailing winds. In the Monol series, Le Corbusier envisioned covering the roofs with soil and grass. In the Indian climate, Doshi abandoned that dream, which was European in nature. The roofs that need to protect occupants from the sun and the rain become, through a striking semantic reversal, walls for the drainage of water, which circulates throughout the complex, transforming the whole into a garden. The concrete is entirely covered with ceramic shards. The architecture is part of the earth, where the concrete is still visible; with its white domes, it is also part of the sky. Between the parallel vaults, channels collect the water, then discharge 32

it in the pools, and from there it descends through a succession of cascades. In modern architecture, water is emotion. It is also life itself: it refreshes people and irrigates the garden, and the sharing of water is a condition of life for society. This haven could have been classified as “later Modern” in the 1980s. Seen through today’s lens, it reveals instead that Doshi, who was born with the Modern Movement, did not get stuck in Postmodern nostalgia but succeeded in stepping over that time of uncertainties in order to lay the foundations of an architecture for the new century.

the discovery of the complex from the low garden. one can make out the system of channels that carry the rainwater from the roof vaults to the pools.


left: Sangath, interior view right: the general plan of the office complex and of the garden with its terraces and pools. below: the site seen from the top of the hill, with its hydrographic system: the hollowed-out channels for the collection of rainwater at the foot of the vaults feed the pools.



a roof vault, with the tympanum that gives natural lighting and ventilation below: a detail of a small exterior terrace, created in the extension of a unit. these small systems deepen the symbiosis between the living/working areas and the garden.


the complex seen from the low point in the garden, where a large pool collects water


→ Balkrishna Doshi

aranya PrograM for low-inCoMe HouSing MaDHya PraDeSH, inDore, inDia, 1983–1986 Client: Development Managers for the City of indore architect: vastu Shilpa foundation, balkrishna Doshi Planning and Design: vastu Shilpa foundation

Indore is a working-class commercial city, 600 km south of Delhi. The methods used to reduce the slums were called into question: the social housing projects built in the Western style in the 1960s quickly deteriorated and do not work. The city administration asked the Vāstu Shilpā Foundation to develop models of alternative housing, for an initial program on an 86-hectare site. For Doshi, the modern neighborhoods are inhospitable because they are inflexible. Designed without an understanding of the residents’ lifestyle, they deprive the inhabitants of certain freedoms (to expand or modify one’s lodging, for example) and cut the connections with work and with the environment. Doshi turns the models upside down and analyzes the so-called unsanitary residential areas. There, the inhabitants live in destitution, but they organized the neighborhoods themselves. Doshi points out the benefits: the slums are organized in neighborhoods and bustling streets, with stores and workshops. The families find solidarity there and they have freedom to build. Doshi abandons the grid and organizes Aranya in six neighborhoods, fed by an avenue that follows the terrain. The houses are arranged in groups of ten, each behind its offa, or open patio. The city designs the public squares and “street corners,” builds the basic units, oriented so as to be well lit and ventilated. The inhabitants can expand their unit by adding “separate rooms” and can open a business or workshop.


left: Sketch by balkrishna Doshi: studies of the density and system of services, with the small interior plazas and the capillary networks of the interior circulation routes and services for each house right: interior view of a street block. balkrishna Doshi and the vastu Shilpa foundation still build these superb designs, at the crossroads of western axonometry and indian codes of representation, either scholarly or with broad appeal.


the inner life of a street block. each house had an offa, or small paved terrace overhanging the street, accessible via a staircase, as indicated in the diagram. below: one of the hamlets of aranya, at the outskirts of the project. the small neighborhood smoothly connects the gardens and the orchards.




neighborhood life and busy streets. the itinerant vendors and artisans set up on the ground floor and use the small plazas for their work. right: a study, with the various sitting options


→ Balkrishna Doshi

inDian inStitute of ManageMent bangalore, inDia, 1977–1985 Client: indian institute of Management architect: balkrishna Doshi, Stein Doshi & bhalla in association with kanvinde rai & Chowdhury engineering: Mahendra raj total Surface area: 54,000 m2

Balkrishna Doshi remembers that it was near Fatehpur Sikri that Emperor Akbar had established his capital in the 16th century. The Fatehpur Sikri site remains a model of clarity, thanks to the organizational system of parts and of the whole: a network of galleries organizes the buildings, which are separated by interior courtyards where people lived. This arrangement, at once collective and intimate, directly inspired the plan for the Indian Institute of Management. The program (classrooms, laboratories, and service areas) is spread out in open pavilions among gardens with lush vegetation. The institute is irrigated by a network of covered, almost monumental culverts, surpassing three stories to surround the interior gardens. Pavilions and arcades are built in superb masonry of dressed stone. The checkered pattern of solids and voids filters the light. The classrooms and offices receive direct light. The arcades can be semicovered by claustras that lattice the rays of light. Sometimes these arcades are widened so that people can sit down or pass one another easily when classes let out. The spatial richness of the project increases these plays with shadow and light. The institute is the first in India to reuse the environment and the elements to deal with functionalities such as light or ventilation. But above all, the vegetation, stone, and light bring a real inner serenity to this learning establishment. below left: the general plan of the site. the grid of the interior covered galleries defines little islands, occupied by the campus buildings and their interior gardens.


below: views of the campus from the galleries: alternation of solids and voids, of shadows and light, side entrance to the center of the little islands, a scenography that orders the palatial scale with the almost intimate scale of the gardens


françoiseHélène Jourda Paris, france



→ Françoise-Hélène Jourda

Françoise-Hélène Jourda, who was born in 1955 and received an architecture degree in 1979, made a name for herself starting in 1980, when she won the competition Pour un habitat économe en énérgie, awarded by the French government to encourage research on what is now called bioclimatic architecture. With Gilles Perraudin, she founded a leading agency in Lyon, which quickly joined the top ranks of the best French architects. This young team is acclaimed more for the quality of its architecture, distinguished by a certain expressive power and concern for updating conventional typology, than for its ecological commitment. But the latter is no less real, and Jourda draws her references from Nordic and Germanic countries, attuned to the likes of Ralph Erskine and later Thomas Herzog. On the French scene, ecological awareness has experienced and still continues to experience a difficult course. Yet the debate started there at the same time as in the United States and France’s large neighbor, Germany—first as an extension of the 1968 movement, then of the first energy crisis of 1973. At that time, France started researching renewable energy, a “timber industry” for housing, and sustainable materials. An “earth village” was built near Lyon, consisting of apartment houses made of earth and designed by a squadron of excellent architects, including the Jourda-Perraudin firm. But in the early 1980s, other priorities emerged in France, and this research was marginalized. The French government made a strategic choice—nuclear power—and for a decade would do no more than keep watch over the development of renewable energies. On French territory, the priorities were the renovation of largescale industrial areas and city centers, which had been traumatized by the brutal renovations of the 1970s. The French scene at the time found inspiration in Aldo Rossi’s Italian model of reconstruction “of the city on the city” and “urban architecture.” The architecture is more elaborately worked in its typology and its connections with public space than in the area of building innovation. In 1981 the Grands Projets policy, launched in Paris and then disseminated to other major cities, initiated a program modernizing large public amenities; outside Paris, it was often linked to transportation systems (modernization of the railways, the return of the streetcar system, etc.). In this way, the scene in France is similar to that of its neighbor, Britain; that nation’s technological know-how was imported to France via the firm Ove Arup, and its creative engineering via RFR and Peter Rice. These large amenities were built in support of trends such as a return to the city center and the development of mass transit—trends that also opened one of the paths to sustainable development, although the debate was not presented in those terms. Few architects at the time were interested in the ecological movement, which was asserting itself on the other side of the Rhine. This unusual situation reinforced the militant aspect of Jourda’s work as she actively participated in the long decade of large projects. She completed several major projects in this 48

period: the school of architecture in Lyon (1985), the university at Marne-la-Vallée, and the courthouse in Melun. To promote her own approach, Jourda had to work continuously on two fronts: on the one hand, defending the “environmental cause” within the French architecture scene, where it was not seen as a major issue, and on the other, defending the cause of contemporary architecture among French ecologists, who were much more conservative than their counterparts in Scandinavia and Germany. This go-between status was not an easy choice at a time when it was more effective in France to flaunt an “author architecture.” This is why Jourda’s unique work very quickly became better known abroad than in France. In the Germanic countries, ecoarchitecture freed itself from its infancy in the 1968 movement and continued to develop, technologically and conceptually; the connection between new energy and materials parameters and the research on contemporary architectural vocabulary was obvious. Jourda was hailed by her peers there and received the commission for several major buildings, including the very beautiful Mont-Cenis Academy; located in Herne, in the Ruhr area, the academy consists of a group of buildings completely sheltered by a large glass envelope with a timber frame, borne by large stripped pinewood trunks and supporting photovoltaic panels. But the winds are changing in France, and for the past few years Jourda has no longer needed to hide her unique militant-ecologist position behind the quality of her composition. The debate on sustainable architecture is under way, and the architect who has been able to “import” into France the best Nordic and Germanic research is now recognized for what she is: the defender of refined architecture, open to new technologies, aware of the urban issues, attuned to social movements and to the political dimension of the debate that is finally beginning in France. For Jourda, being an architect is not only about creating but, just as important, about developing as well; an architect bears more responsibility than other citizens. Jourda is a typical architect of the sustainable architecture movement, in constant touch with her international colleagues and with the current developments of the debate in which they are engaged. In 1996 she cosigned the European Charter for Solar Energy in Architecture and Urban Planning. But the experience of being a go-between in the 1980s has not been forgotten. Her projects reveal the search for a French channel for sustainable architecture, in a country where the words rational and progress have deep historical meaning, but a country that is struggling to give them a 21st-century meaning, and that will have to resolve its own energy equation. For Jourda, this French equation will be urban, and this will set it apart from the French ecological movement, which is oriented more toward ruralist nostalgia. Appointed commissioner for the French pavilion at the 2004 Venice Biennale, Jourda did not show her own work there but seized upon the opportunity to draw attention to “sustainable metamorphoses” and to make her French colleagues think about how to transform the urban economy in the 21st century. Françoise-Hélène Jourda’s recent projects in France bear the stamp of this desire to find in her own country a suitable way to pose—and solve—the ecological question. Now under construction, the éNergie zérO project in Saint-Denis, which will be

the first passive-energy building constructed in the shape of a hexagon, seeks to combine the new compactness of ecological buildings and the building vocabulary inherited from the Haussmannian city. In Bordeaux, the new greenhouses in the botanical garden also blend the vocabulary of bioclimatic architecture with the 19th-century French tradition of public buildings. Aware of her unique position, Jourda has just created EO.CITE, an advisory agency for sustainable development. She wants to help educate contractors, elected officials, and citizens, using a global vision of sustainable development to go beyond the issue of energy economies in order to connect with new ways of living and working, new social goals, and reflections on the future of cities. The architect knows that there is a need in France to convince people—starting earlier the process, during the development phase—in order to successfully change the cycle of the urban economy and of construction. In addition to her work as an adviser, Jourda has also pursued a teaching career, since 1999 serving as chairwoman of sustainable architecture at the Technical University of Vienna. Françoise-Hélène Jourda knows well that this triple role— architect, professor, and now adviser—gives coherence to her research and, above all, defines a new and larger area of expertise. The global awareness of sustainable development in the project is new, a strategic position that she believes the architect can and should seize upon if he or she is to play a real part in the city of the new century.


→ Françoise-Hélène Jourda

botaniCal garDen borDeaux, franCe, 1999–2003 Client: City of bordeaux architect: françoise-Hélène Jourda landscape architect: Catherine Mosbach Cost of work: 3,050,000 euros, exclusive of taxes (2001 value)

The young botanical garden in Bordeaux is not set in a beautiful, ancient park lined with monuments, but rather in one of the city’s new neighborhoods. The garden runs along the right bank of the Garonne and forms a 600-by-100-meter band. For this limited space, the program was dense: greenhouses, but also a herbarium, a library, exhibition halls, classrooms, a restaurant offering organic food, and a bookstore/shop. In this distended landscape on the city’s periphery, the architect updated the typical French cultural building. Replacing the solitary object inherited from the Moderns is a more complex system, which blends series of greenhouses, “boxes,” and “pebbles.” At the beginning are the greenhouses, a building program with which the architect is well acquainted (she completed a 13,000 m2 greenhouse in Herne Sodingen). Françoise-Hélène Jourda transposed to Bordeaux the timber frame invented in Herne: a cluster of Douglas pine columns on slabs support the glazed envelope, divided into seven different parallelepipeds, depending on the climates needed for the plants they house. Their roof carries 650 m2 of photovoltaic cells. The captured energy gives the buildings electrical autonomy. The watering of plants on the exterior and in the greenhouses is handled manually, with 275 m3 of rainwater stored in buried cisterns. The group of greenhouses is most clearly visible on the southwest. The alignment of their side walls creates a main façade aligned on the allée, facing some apartment buildings. On the other side of the garden, the exhibition halls, storerooms, and offices are housed in a second arrangement of boxes, using wood for the building frames and weatherboards. A series of small boxes accommodates the exhibition halls, and the system stops with the two large boxes—the herbarium, set on a slant, and the administrative offices, set above it all—that enclose the composition on the northeast. Four huge “pebbles” house the studios, shops, and restaurant. They are formed by a steel grid coated with gunite and covered with smooth granite aggregates. They are identical to the pebbles that Jourda disseminated in Lyon during the same period, under the roof structure of the market hall at Place du 8 mai and in the hall of the Jean Mermoz Private Hospital. “I expressed this form, which sprung up in my work, in a very visceral way. These giant pebbles are the mineral part of the project. They are disconcerting and ask questions of conventional architecture,” explains Françoise-Hélène Jourda, who perhaps dreams that nature will come more often to disturb their sequencing. In Bordeaux, they came to fit into the arrangement of boxes—unless they were already in place there? On the east and west, the two largest are bookends on the north façade, which is freer than the greenhouse façade, “organic” in the sense that it makes the interior life of the spaces very legible. 50

on page 47: the main façade of the Jean Mermoz Private Hospital in lyon above: façade of the reception building at the botanical garden, with the recessing of the “boxes” and the projection of one of the “pebbles”


a b C


g e f




e C f

above: aerial view of the botanical garden and the surrounding neighborhood above right: Site plan. an interior garden runs between the greenhouses that sit side by side and the boxes for the offices. the pebbles accommodate studios, boutiques, and a restaurant.



right: Section drawings bb and CC (see site plan on previous page), with a detail of the wooden framework for the greenhouses, supported by the tree trunks, which are fit on steel plates below: a view of the garden, which winds between the projections behind the greenhouses and the boxes


above: Section drawings ff and gg (see site plan on p. 52), with a detail of the wooden framework for the greenhouses, supported by the tree trunks, which are fit on steel plates left: interior ambiance in the offices and large rooms, with views of the interior garden and the effect of the sudden appearance of the pebble


interior view of a greenhouse, with a detail of the framework with its tree-trunk posts and beams. Photovoltaic cell panels are visible on the roof.


→ Françoise-Hélène Jourda

Creation of a MarketPlaCe anD SurrounDing SPaCeS PlaCe Du 8 Mai 1945 lyon, franCe, 1999–2001 Client: le grand lyon/lyon Metropolitan District architect: françoise-Hélène Jourda with in Situ landscape architects Surface area: 23,100 m2 Cost of work: 5,336,000 euros

This small municipal facility is contemporaneous with the monumental greenhouse for Mont-Cenis Academy, in Herne Sodingen, in the Ruhr. The structure at Herne—where the glazed roof is carried by a “forest” of hardwood trunks, assembled down to the millimeter by adjustable steel plates—is transposed here without any mistakes in terms of scale: it sufficed to change the size of the trees that were cut down in order to obtain smaller boles. These wooden spindles are attached to the ground by a plate. On the upper portion, they support the transverse purlins of the roof structure, to which they are attached by a second plate. The corrugated metal roof rests on a second row of rafters. The roof is broken up by glazed panels that illuminate the stands. The architect had planned for a rainwater recovery cistern so that the facility would produce its water reserve for maintenance and safety. On the street side, the market is protected by a double row of young trees that are planted on the median strip and that respond to the “forest” of columns. Large concrete “pebbles” are set in the ground. They house the public bathrooms as well as water and electrical cabinets for the road network. As urban facilities, markets were rarely successful in the 20th century. Here, the wooden structure picks up the rationality and flexibility of 19th-century steel canopies. Following their example, this project proposes a standard that is easy to reproduce and to adapt.

Detail of the silkscreened glass for the openings in the market roof



above: interior view of the market, with a detail of the upper and lower steel mounting plates of the load-bearing tree trunks left: Section diagram of the mixed structure, with the timber frame and the steel cable tie-rods


in the foreground, a load-bearing trunk, with its barked removed and its base made more narrow in order to fit into the steel caging of the lower plate


Hermann kaufmann Schwarzach, austria


façade of allmeintalweg residential complex in ludesch (see p. 76): when constructive rationalism defines a new architectural order, or organizational system


→ Hermann Kaufmann

The career of Hermann Kaufmann is inseparable from the recent history of Vorarlberg, the tiny Central European region that, over the past 30 years, has become a laboratory of sustainable architecture, thanks to a handful of participants. This mission took shape in the 1970s, at the start of Austria’s economic boom, when the plains of “the young Rhine” 1 were beginning to be urbanized. In this small, traditionally autonomous land, accustomed to relying on its own strengths and its culture, the local elite understand that the industrial world will take over this outstanding real-estate resource and transform the economy, which is still rural, and the fruits of this growth will be snapped up by people from elsewhere unless the inhabitants mobilize. The urbanization of the Rhine Valley, for example, might be carried out by a concrete industry from elsewhere, an industry better equipped to build quickly than are the carpenters of Vorarlberg. The latter possess exceptional skill, however, but this does not fit with the new circumstances. Following a very familiar logic, the growth runs the risk of destroying the major industry that structures the economy and the society. The story of the Baukünstler 2 began when a first generation of architects worked with these carpenters to develop simpler, more economical building solutions for chalets, so that a householder could build a wooden home for the same price as a cinderblock one. The story took a new, decisive turn in the early 1980s, when the next generation came back from Vienna or Zurich, with diplomas in hand and minds focused on the nascent Green movement. Those young architects brought to a debate already in progress a broader historical inspiration: the Grünen (members of the Green Party) were already thinking post-petroleum and toward sustainable development and a more liberating cultural vision. They wanted to change the growth into development, using designer architecture, and in this way, to bring together local culture and a modern aesthetic, technology and ecology, architecture and the building industry. The originality of this progressivism is that it aimed to bring about development without a tabula rasa. Vorarlberg could modernize while keeping its housing styles, its wood, and its trades. The intellectual Baukünstler positioned the work of the Grünen to put together what economists call “self-reliant development” (a model used more in Africa to get out of the colonial age than in the center of Europe). The architects and carpenters of Vorarlberg possess an excellent setting and technical knowhow, which they would put in motion. In project after project, with detail plans in hand, the architects and contracting firms of Vorarlberg took up the challenge and transformed a craft industry, timber construction, into a 21st-century industry, sustainable building.

fraCture anD Continuity In 30 years, this handful of young architects succeeded in changing the course of history in their country. This is always the architect’s dream, but it does not happen often. Hermann Kaufmann was among these young militant architects. He was born in 1955 in Reuthe, an Austrian village in the Bregenzerwald region, which is the mountainous part of Vorarlberg Province. Born into a family of carpenters, he spent his childhood in the workshops of a region whose only resources were wood and its trades. He studied architecture at the Technical University in Innsbruck, and then in Vienna, before returning 62

to Vorarlberg and opening a firm in Schwarzach with Christian Lenz. Kaufmann’s career merges with the forward march of the Baukünstler. This movement, with its many strong personalities, fuels a lively internal debate, with various currents in ecological thought running through it: low- or high-tech; ruralist or urban-centered; in favor of concrete (which is reprogrammed) or in favor of wood (which is transformed). In this hotbed of culture, Hermann Kaufmann chose his subject: the search for an architecture that promotes a sustainable management of resources. In this land of wood, he chose wood, with the goal of pushing the limits of its constructive possibilities. He and his friends share this vision, linked to a real social commitment, of creating an ecological environment accessible to all, an element of social and cultural development. In 1987, with Sture Larsen and Walter Unterrainer, he built the first solar school, in Dafins, and started work on the invention of the Passivhaus (passive house), marked by a series of buildings in Dornbirn, the economic capital that is undergoing very rapid growth, and in the villages. Next he worked on the “urbanization” of wood, that is, its ability to meet the building needs of multifamily housing and industrial or commercial buildings. Thus in 1997 he put his name to the Ölzbund, the first program for three-story multifamily housing with passive energy, built with a timber structure. As a builder, Hermann Kaufmann works to make wood competitive in the building economy: through the search for industrializable solutions, to counter concrete, and through the invention of complex systems in the new area of climate-responsive architecture. The many works with a timber structure and walls containing structural insulated panels, ever more refined, are evidence that this resource has great development potential. As an architect, Kaufmann seeks an aesthetic that breaks with the ruralism that had excluded wood in Modernist works. A regionalist in spirit, he rejects neo-regionalist architecture. His thinking is not only sensitive but also rational: the need for housing that is affordable and suited to new lifestyles, which are more collective and urban, calls for new spatial solutions and an aesthetic that gives meaning and shape to this progress. Kaufmann’s architecture draws on the classical Modern culture to give continuity and to conflict with its context. This aesthetic provokes, but it also conveys the profound transformation that Vorarlberg is now experiencing. The elected officials who welcome the industries and the rural people who modernize their enterprises, aren’t they now making the same gamble—breaking with their traditions and modernizing their professions in order to maintain control over their destiny? This rebellion in identity uses architecture as its vector, with its houses and its landmark projects—and it can do this because the architects are remarkably involved in the movements and the debates of their society.

arCHiteCture anD teCHnique: a reneweD Debate Completed in 2005, the Ludesch Community Center commemorates the very unusual history of Vorarlberg. Ludesch, an ancient hamlet that has been pushed too quickly, “submitted” to the growth and spread into residential neighbor-

hoods, the typical European “weakening” of small towns. In accordance with the mayor’s wishes, the program for a community center was launched to give the city back an identity and even a center. Hermann Kaufmann, whose work had matured, seized upon the topic to write a humanist architecture manifesto (“Wood is the ‘material of hope’ for a better world” 3) and an anthology of sustainable building, with all its issues: energy, materials, economy, and even health, carried out with the goal of an optimal ecological performance. Today history continues to be made in Vorarlberg. The number of architectural firms has increased. The time is distant when their older colleagues came with plans to convince the carpenters to modernize their output. The companies that build in wood have become a center of excellence throughout the world, and their soaring industry can today pursue its own goals on the European market. Some of these companies focus on wood’s performance, to compete with concrete in longterm structures or tall buildings. Others perfect prefabrication and invent “eco-construction.” Still others use wood as a base material in the production of components for sustainable construction. Thus we find that wood is worked in various ways, as sheets in the sandwiches of complex components, as reconstituted load-bearing walls, or cut into large sheets made in a factory. They all combine to create an industry for the new sustainable economy.

How can such an outcome be avoided? By continuing to innovate and to set new research goals, replies Hermann Kaufmann. He is pursuing his own, which continue to connect the exploration of technologies and types of energy. Co-inventor of the passive house, he works on “energy-positive” buildings. Comprehensive ecological calculations are his passion, because he sees there a “new frontier” that the people in the building industry can cross only if they work together, as at Ludesch. For example, he closely follows the debate on high-rise building, which would allow wood to truly enter the city: “We find ourselves in a critical and decisive phase. Is it possible to bring these experiments into general use? Is society’s demand large enough to influence the market? Is the timber industry able to enter this market in a professional way?.” 4 Such questions, in their variety of approaches and their relevance, describe a man better than the answers do. They describe an architect whose experience has conferred authority on him, an architect who does not use it to reign but rather to work. As long as architects such as Hermann Kaufmann continue the quest and subordinate technical know-how to civilization, there is little risk that the architecture of Vorarlberg will become merely formalism or a trademark.

1 2 3 4

The phrase comes from Liechtenstein’s national anthem. Baukünstler is literally a “building artist”; the term is synonymous with architect. Otto Kapfinger, Hermann Kaufmann: Wood Works (New York and Vienna: Springer, 2008). Ibid.

It is quite tempting to draw a parallel with the history of the 20th century. At the dawn of the industrial age, concrete construction was born from the dialogue that took shape between architects and new industries: think of the adventures of Auguste Perret and of the Hennebique company in Paris, which invented the reinforced-concrete construction system, or the innovations by Pier Luigi Nervi and the Società per Costruzioni Cementizie di Bologna: they made it possible for concrete, which was more affordable, to replace steel. One could compare the work by Hermann Kaufmann, the Baukünstler, and their carpenters with these dialogues, which were so productive for modern architecture. The comparison will certainly hold up, for these new works bring the transformation of a building method to the same level; they succeed in applying both the sweeping vision of the architect and the meticulous requirements of the experimenter. One might also wonder about the future in light of this comparison, remembering that, as with Perret and Le Corbusier, the adventure can turn out badly. The productive dialogue was broken and the world of concrete construction “freed” itself of architects and pursued only its goals of growth, to the detriment of the environment. Could the state-of-the-art industrialists of Vorarlberg move away from the architects and their humanism? After all, a quick sketch would now suffice for them to start a building in their workshops. This would mean the end of an architecture that launched sustainable development, and a boost for industrial marketing that uses architecture as image or for architectural marketing that uses wood’s good image without asking any further questions.


→ Hermann Kaufmann

luDeSCH CoMMunity Center vorarlberg, auStria, 2005 Client: Municipality of ludesch architect: Hermann kaufmann zt gmbH with roland wehinger, Martin längle, norbert kaufmann, and Christoph kalb experts: Merz klei Partner, Mader & flatz, Synergy, wilhem brugger, bernhard weithas, and karl tofghele

This building, completed in 2005, is an example of the most successful overall ecological performance in Europe. The strong backing of the mayor of Ludesch, who is very involved in energy conservation policies, was at the origin of this building, which is part of an experimental program called “Houses of the Future,” run in Austria by the federal Ministry of Transportation, Innovation, and Technology. This program supports ecologically innovative works and aims to use them to perfect an overall method of evaluating their ecological footprint. The participants in this program must, in particular, conduct a study comparing traditional building methods and ecological ones, in order to better adapt the trades and the practices to ecological construction. In Ludesch, the experimentation began in a multidisciplinary way. In 1998 the mayor created a local task group. Hermann Kaufmann joined it in 2000 with his experts in order to refine the program and oversee the project. This group then added contractors, and their proposals were evaluated later in terms of “life cycle,” that new economic model that evaluates the overall cost of the material: its production, transportation, installation, upkeep, demolition, and recycling. But in this case, ecology also means “living better together.” The mayor is fighting sprawl in his town. The decompartmentalization of families and the arrival of new residents have transformed this village into a residential suburb, without a soul and without a center, a suburb where cars are used for every errands and for daily shopping trips. The problem is eco-social: a city of 3,000 inhabitants needs accessible—and eco-civic—services, but how can the new community be created without any public square or town center? The definitive program is multipurpose, typical of Vorarlberg’s shared, pragmatic community involvement. The program encompasses public services (administrative departments, library, post office), meeting rooms for organizations, and commercial premises, including a small bank and a café. Given this complex deal, Hermann Kaufmann, who is more often recognized as a builder, should be praised for his empathic understanding of the political meaning of the program. The architect first offered a center, that is, a central square. He who loves the compactness of a square plan here uses a half square, in which he sinks a covered courtyard surrounded by a U-shaped building. The strip of land runs along a banal intersection. Kaufmann positioned this demi-atrium at the confluence of three routes, which now seem to have been made to converge toward it. The atrium opens onto a public plaza. A large glazed area with photovoltaic panels covers the courtyard, which becomes a gathering place for the whole town.


With such clarity in terms of the siting, the rest—accommodating the services, regulating the changes in level, arranging the passageways in this large volume—was nothing but child’s play and seemed so obvious for an architect who has reached his maturity as a designer. An initial grid of steel beams regulates the general structure and crosses the double height of the covered courtyard and the interior hall. Thus the services fit into the grid of a timber structure, with post and beams and loadbearing caisson walls. With white pine for the façade and the walls in a variety of treatments, the place is an anthology of sustainable building and its technologies: energies, materials, waterproofing, as well as health for an ecologically optimal performance.

in front of the main entrance to the shopping center is a large courtyard forming a public plaza. left: Site plan of the shopping center—the sitting makes it possible to structure the urban fabric of the village.


Seen from the courtyard, the side wing on the west accommodates the public service areas, which for the most part open onto the plaza. on the glazing, photovoltaic panels


Plan of the ground floor, which houses mainly public and private service areas: a small post office, a café, a municipal library, a gymnasium, and a daycare center

under the glazed roof of the courtyard: the effects of the weft


the u-shaped community center is integrated into the fabric of the village, for there are passageways running through it.


Section drawing. the meeting room and music room are set in the basement. this arrangement uses thermal inertia and makes it possible to avoid having a building that is too tall for the scale of the village.

interior ambiance in the hall and on the upper floor of offices. the textures and timber frames vary depending on the spaces.


→ Hermann Kaufmann

olPerer SHelter finkelberg in tyrol, auStria, 2007–2008 Client: Deutscher alpenverein architects: Hermann kaufmann with C. greussing, J. nägele-küng, g. Hämmerle engineering: walter engineering

An initial shelter was built a century ago on this mountainous headland in the Tyrol, at an altitude of 2,400 m. Reason dictates that it would be in masonry, built with stones gathered on-site, rather than in wood, which is expensive to transport. Today, development makes it possible to reverse the reasoning even if—or rather, because—building in the mountains still remains a question of transportation costs and times. The wood frame and cross-laminated panels of the new refuge were prefabricated in the factory, with 350 components that were delivered by helicopter and dry-assembled in three days. The remnants of the old refuge were confined on-site in the new concrete plinth, protected by a stone facing. The shell of the shelter was then placed on the plinth. The refuge is impressively cantilevered over the valley. This overhang of the floor structure is partially eased by the fact that the groundfloor walls are attached to the plinth through the flooring. The cross-laminated panels of the interior and exterior walls are both load bearing and insulating. This grid of vertical loadbearing panels is wind-braced by the upper-level floor and by the rafter roof, positioned as integral plates. The façade panels are protected by the roof shingles. The device for cleaning up gray water uses rapeseed oil and photovoltaics. A faience stove ensures comfort in this summer shelter.

Historical photograph and drawings: the first olperer shelter, built a century ago from stones gathered on-site



right: Section and diagram of the shelter. the dining room is visible in the prow, cantilevered on the retaining wall. below: interior and exterior views of the dining room, with its panoramic view of the mountains





the frame and panels of the new refuge were prefabricated in the factory, in 350 components that were delivered by helicopter and dry-assembled in three days (see photos on p. 63). right: Plans and sections of the shelter and its appendix of local techniques








one can see the base, wider on the terrace, protected by a stone wall.


longitudinal section, with a detail of the general foundation. the load-bearing panels of the interior and exterior walls are set on and attached to this base.


→ Hermann Kaufmann

allMeintalweg reSiDential CoMPlex luDeSCH, auStria, 2002–2007 Client: vogewoSi architects: Hermann kaufmann with n. kaufmann, w. bilgeri, M. längle, t. Hölzl, and b. baumgartl Consultants: Merz kely Partners, Madder & flatz, M. gutbrunner, P. Hämmerle, l. küntz Passive Habitat: 48kwh/m2/year

Hermann Kaufmann is very involved in perfecting collective passive habitats made of wood. Today wood remains at the city outskirts because dependable and economical high-rise building systems in wood have yet to be strengthened. Several housing programs, three to four stories high, have already been built and pave the way for this research. In Ludesch, the project explores the way to prefabricate vertical service ducts, a technique that was contemplated in the world of concrete during the great age of prefabricated housing. It appears more workable in the realm of wood: large ducts 2.8 m wide and three stories high are assembled in the factory and equipped with all the primary networks and their panels. They are delivered assembled and lifted directly onto the primary floor. These ducts are mounted in the wood-meccano of floors and load-bearing walls that this project patiently helps to perfect.


the completed development, in a valley landscape that is still rural left: the site plan of the development


view of the “interior courtyard” of the development. the terraces and walkways are borne by a thin steel framework. below: Section drawings, with the exterior vertical circulation routes


façades, with a detail of the protective cornices of the roof and the protective devises of the outer skin on the horizontal joint of the panels


wang Shu Hangzhou, China



→ Wang Shu

The position of Wang Shu and his Amateur Architecture Studio is unique in the small contemporary architecture scene in China. In this country that is essentially one big construction site, there are few architects in the Western sense of the term. Most projects are still designed in architecture institutes inherited from the Maoist period, according to the industrial methods in which the architect is responsible only for the plans. In these agencies that employ hundreds of people, an architect can handle a million square meters per year. In China, millions of people migrate to the cities, where the pace of construction is without equivalent in history.

“a wilD anD unCertain era” China has begun an ecological about-face, spurred on by the Olympic Games construction, which was observed by the whole world. Cleaning up pollution, “greening,” using renewable energy, etc., figure into the programs, sometimes in a more pressing way than in the West. “Eco-cities” are under development. These efforts should be applauded when one considers to what point the needs of China for energy and materials will weigh on our shared destiny. But these policies reproduce 20thcentury flaws: the development methods are brutal, drawing a line through the historic city, which was destroyed more by the 1990s than the Maoist era; the policies are more concerned with a politically tactical “CO2 report” than with a better human condition. There is a generation of architects, many of whom studied abroad, that wants to break away from these methods. They are creating firms of designers in the Western style, ensuring an inventive and critical practice, and forming a scene “from which we can expect everything,” to borrow the beautiful expression of Frédéric Edelmann. 1 But what should we expect from a cultural domain that is in ruins? The skillfully handled urban fabric is destroyed, the building culture has disappeared, 2 and the enlightened modernity of the 1920s has been swept away. What identity should be forged for China? The debate has been going on for a long time. The perspectives opened by ecological necessity are still quite narrow here, in a country that is, urbanistically, in a state of emergency. Let’s pause for a moment on that issue. Since this country that is a world in itself holds the key to the century (depending on whether it succeeds in managing resources and producing new energies), and so as not to get lost in the present uncertainties in China, we can choose to see it solely through this new prism: which architects propose a new “historical narrative” for China in the era of sustainable development? Some initiatives have already taken shape. Among them, the work of Wang Shu can be quickly spotted.


Portrait of a SMiling, inflexible Man Wang Shu works in his hometown of Hangzhou, a scholarly city whose riparian old center was spared. Since 2003 he has been head of the architecture department of the China Academy of Art. With Lu Wenyu he founded the Amateur Architecture Studio in 1997. This name is not neutral. The agency is small, focused on few projects. Wang Shu is hesitant to build far away, for fear of losing the connection with the building sites. In Hangzhou, Wang Shu creates an architecture based on a reappropriation of time and of Chinese culture. So that architects have time to be more attentive to the people. So that a millennial art of living can “infuse” the project, according to the cyclical idea of architecture as an art of managing resources: “Buildings that are today 400 or 1,000 years old were built of wood and brick, fragile materials, and yet they held on, because they were designed so that they could be perpetually renovated.” 3 Wang Shu wants to show that China should civilize modernity through its culture. Born in 1963, Wang Shu comes from a line of scholars, and his parents were musicians. During the Cultural Revolution, the family was sent to clear the land in Xinjiang, hundreds of kilometers from the elegant world of Hangzhou. The family secretly resisted, through culture. Wang Shu learned calligraphy and poetry. He was 13 when Mao died. He spent his youth reading the masters of world literature. When it came time to choose a major, he opted for architecture “because it was a worthless profession. As an engineer or technical expert, I would have been kept in Urumqi, whereas as an architect, I knew that I would be allowed to leave,” he explains with a smile. 4 When the young man of letters was admitted to the very selective Tongji University in Shanghai, his relationship to the contemporary world was filtered through the study of 20th-century classics: Wright, Mies, and Scarpa, among others—a modern culture that had become almost anachronistic, which explains its uniqueness. He dedicated his doctoral dissertation to Aldo Rossi, that forgotten supporter of genius loci and of a rational, sensitive rereading of the major archetypes. As for building culture, Wang Shu relearned it on the construction sites where he was very present, another determining feature of his approach. He noticed that “workers today are former peasants. They knew how to build, maintain their walls and their roofs, and they still possess technical skills. When ground is broken, I question them to find the ones who are knowledgeable. I set up teams so that we can think together about the best way to go about the work.” 5 Wang Shu likes to renovate old buildings, which is even more unusual. For secular buildings, refurbished 100 times, he turns to bracing techniques and reuses the materials, like an archaeologist. Wang Shu uses simple, durable, sculptural materials: stone, brick, tile, wood, and concrete, which he employs extensively. Everywhere else in the world, it is commonplace for an architect’s work to be anchored in the past. In China, such an approach is highly critical. In his desire to preserve the architectural heritage of his country, the smiling scholar of Hangzhou objects to costly, obsolescent, and garrulous Postmodernism, which filled the cultural void of the word Modernity. “I was a writer before becoming an architect, and architecture is only part of my work.

For me, humanity is more important than architecture, and arts and crafts are more important than technology.” 6

HiStory anD invention Amateur Architecture Studio forged its approach methodically. Small projects are used as laboratories. Wang Shu reworks techniques, looks for affordable solutions, and also tests the synthesis of forms that comprise his grand design. He does not deny himself the refinements of composition. For the Ceramic House in Jinhua, Wang Shu salvaged discarded tiles and glazed shards with hues varying from blue-green to brown. This material is rich only in cultural terms. He designed a Miesian project and worked with masons for an immaculate implementation. The ceramic tiles are set in flawless lines, which give them their evocative power. In Ningbo, the Five Scattered Houses are variations on housing: one is protected by thick adobe walls and glass strips, another by the system of gray and black bricks that is so specific to China. These experiments are recycled in larger projects, in which Wang Shu uses his full expressive range. The expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ningbo, built on the river, abandons the rhetorical pomp of the Maoist period in order to put forward a gesture that is clear in a different way. The building raises the embankments via a massive brick surrounding wall, with niches for large sculptures. Placed on this base, the museum takes over the fluvial landscape through the form of a portico having a tall, long façade, with steel columns standing out against a wooden screen backdrop. Patios are carved out between the rooms—they are high and ventilated by large bays—and the wooden screen façade can be folded back so that the river forms the background of the scene. The aesthetic proposal is powerful, for Wang Shu is a scenographer who knows how to provide the foundations and orchestrate the connections with the landscape. But it is with the campus for the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou that Wang Shu carried off a project worthy of his designs. This 143,000 m2 campus occupies 48 hectares and was built over four years. “Behind this project, there are ten years of our work in Hangzhou, our knowledge of the city and of its landscapes. I thought about the fusion between modern architecture and traditional techniques, between architecture and nature, so that man would be happy in his environment.” 7 The Xiangshan campus, completed in 2008, will join the new classics of world architecture, so much does this work allow us to glimpse the happiness that would be found and that China would give if it stopped denying its culture and took only the best elements from the West.

library, amphitheaters, offices, a gymnasium, and classrooms. The architect first took charge of the scales as well as a spatial generosity that is rare in contemporary China and that Wang Shu acquired while pondering the Moderns (Louis I. Kahn comes to mind in this place). The promenade orders a site that is treated like an acropolis. The volumes have envelopes of varying texture: stone, concrete and wood, bricks, and tiles salvaged from areas that the city was demolishing at the time. An immense building of gray brick, a stone tower made using the ancient Roman opus incertum technique, which protrudes into an interior esplanade, which itself leads to an amphitheater, under a concrete dais that picks up, in three waves, the curves of old roofs. This approach to the form and the material could easily turn into a fussy affair—this was considered. Yet these old materials, which have emotional weight, are executed on such a large scale that any prettiness is set aside and restraint is imposed. The architecture avoids facility in its own rhetoric. We surveyed the campus under construction with Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu. The masons were testing wapan. 8 These full-scale experiments preceded the construction of 30-meter-high walls, in order to verify how this facing would hold with such dimensions. In the presence of the sections of wall, these questions enabled us to understand that reality in China shields Wang Shu from nostalgia, from Chinese culture, and from Modern movement, which would immobilize him. This reality is an expansion of space to the point that it is nothing like 20th-century space. The modern references that come to mind did not clog the project, which quite obviously fell within the framework of a Chinese space that pushed Wang Shu to go beyond these references, just as a musician seizes on a motif in order to free up the full scope of composition. Likewise, the size of the programs transforms the building culture that he wants to save. These projects are so large that he must in fact reinvent the skills that he saves, in order to make them competent once again. The architect who wants to use culture to civilize China’s giantism puts culture back into the movement of history.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

“Dont on peut tout attendre.” From an assessment by Frédéric Edelmann in Positions—Portrait d’une nouvelle génération d’architectes chinois (Barcelona: Actar, 2008). The Cultural Revolution unequivocally condemned architectural culture and building traditions as the “four stale things.” Remarks compiled by Jana Revedin and Françoise Ged, Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, 2007. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Wapan is a dry masonry technique that makes it possible to build walls while incorporating fragments—broken tiles, bricks, and stones. These fragments came from walls or roofs that were destroyed by typhoons. Carefully salvaged, they are quickly reused for repairs or saved for future construction.

The site, a “former” industrial area, runs along the Qiantang River and faces Elephant Hill, which is still intact and wooded. On this plateau, Wang Shu built approximately 21 buildings: a 83

→ Wang Shu

CHina aCaDeMy of art xiangSHan CaMPuS HangzHou, zHeJiang, CHina, 2002–2008 Client: China academy of art architects: wang Shu and lu wenyu—amateur architecture Studio/City tectonic institute of China total Surface area: phase 1: 65,000 m2; phase 2: 78,000 m2 Surface area of the Campus: 48 ha Cost of Construction: phase 1: 13 million euros; phase 2: 16 million euros

The campus is built at the foot of Elephant Mountain (or Hill); with landmark protection, this almost sacred hill sits in the middle of the frenetic urbanization of Hangzhou. A river runs along the edge of the mountain. The site has the contours of an acropolis, but the upper plateau remains wooded. Inaccessible, this fragment of nature “magnetizes” a two-tiered architectural composition: the 21 buildings on the campus and their gardens are arranged in a fan shape around the hill, and most are organized as atria, around an open courtyard oriented toward the hill. From student dormitories to classrooms, from restaurants to gardens, the routes are all oriented toward the hill, which is, however, merely a landscape remnant in this industrial area, but one that Wang Shu succeeded in “framing,” always keeping it in the field of vision. This campus that is a world in itself, where students can forget the metropolis, is of course reminiscent of the Western architectural promenade, with its visual crossings, its ascending dynamics, and the aesthetic emotions elicited by architecture’s encounter with landscape, material, and sky. A certain insistence on the process is more contemporary and perhaps has its origin in films: the composition “unfolds” according to a long plan that turns around the hill without taking its eyes off it. It is also, finally, deeply Chinese, for Wang Shu takes up the spatial principles of the Shu Yen schools, with their cloister architecture and their sites for contemplation and retreat. On campus, the typical plan of the often monumental buildings is a rectangle, carved out of a square courtyard and leaving a U-shapelayout. This plan, tested by every civilization, works as well for studios and classrooms as for dormitories and the library. North of the hill are the studios and the sports facilities. The exterior facing on the studio buildings is concrete. These shells are protected from the elements by several rows of sun baffles: metal overhangs covered with gray tiles—materials salvaged from demolition sites in Hangzhou. The three sides of the interior courtyards are in solid wood, organized in large panels. On the ground floor, these panels are doors that can be folded back like shutters. The studios are all oriented toward the interior courtyard, which is planted with trees and bamboo, and the studios can be completely open when the shutters are folded back. Thus in summer, air circulates from one building to the next through the atria and gardens. From this tall ground floor, the students go down toward the river or the gymnasiums 84

through a succession of terraced gardens, supported by stone walls. Footbridges also run from the upper terraces and come to a point facing the hill, above the walkways. On the south, the composition is more dense and mineral, and deliberately uses a jerky movement of shapes—a rhythm that is perhaps closer to the contemporary city. Gigantic buildings for the amphitheaters and offices, built using opus incertum technique, sit closer to one another. The techniques and materials vary, and the overall composition creates a stunning architectural catalogue. The volumes are very spacious, and the façades are framed by the large overhangs that give them real depth and recall Le Corbusier’s large-scale designs at Chandigarh. These large, deep screens enclose teeming life inside: we grasp the movements of this life through all kinds of indentations. Against these stage walls, porticoes, openings, and high terraces are silhouetted, and footbridges are attached. In this southern city, the walkways are very often outdoors, and the interior courtyards are mostly low so that the breezes can circulate and cool the site. The walls are made using the dry masonry technique called wapan, using red or yellow quarry stone and gray and black bricks. The architectural promenade plays on the strong downward slopes in order to overpass itself, and thus one discovers the roofs that Wang Shu started as large concrete curtains: they repeat, at a very different scale, the already strong movements of Chinese palatial architecture. Moreover, the roofs are flat, but one finds pavilions positioned on top of them and aerial walkways, creating a second upper city.

the gymnasium, with an access walkway running along elephant Hill. the gymnasium is below the site, and its roof is treated as a “fifth façade.” the roof and the sun shields are covered with old tiles that have been recycled. right: the start of the walkway, at garden level. one can clearly see the stone base upon which the campus buildings sit.


general plan of the campus, designed around elephant Hill. to the northwest, the first section of campus, with the buildings arranged in an atrium configuration, the gymnasium and the walkways (see the preceding pages). to the east, the second section, which is denser and deliberately stands in marked contrast below: an interior view of the east campus. the volumes become entangled and the circulation routes are arranged over several levels.


interior view and axonometric drawing of the buildings under development, in the second section. in the foreground, note the junction of the circulation routes. the building is raised to allow the flows to continue.


isometric views of the school buildings of the northwest wing; they are arranged in a u-shape around an interior courtyard. the roofs are of recycled tiles, the interior walls of wooden panels, with movable leaves.


above: a detail from the arrival point in one of the school buildings. the northwest wing of the campus is set on a stone base created with the opus incertum technique. below: a view of the campus from one of the walkways accessing the hill


→ Wang Shu

five SCattereD HouSeS MingzHou Park ningbo, CHina, 2002–2005 Client: City of ningbo, China architect: wang Shu—amateur architecture Studio Materials: clay, wooden battens, steel, glass; stones and recycled bricks, plaster coating, formed concrete left untreated

The shores of the lake at Mingzhou are dotted with houses. These small projects are laboratories and tests for vocabulary. Wang Shu brings together traditional and modern techniques and plays with the scales according to the art of the garden. This clever play on cultures is both contemporary and very well established. An art gallery was built on the moat, like a little fort. Wang Shu unites stone and earth with steel and glass. A solid immersed plinth is built of stones, in opus incertum, a technique used in the riparian towns on China’s deltas. The envelope is made of earth, a technique that has also remained in use. These thick walls were protected by dished roofs. It has become prohibitive to build these codified and complex roof structures except in the neo-Chinese resorts that are built at great cost in Beijing or in the spa towns. More simply, Wang Shu positions a glass envelope, carried by a slender steel roof structure, between the roof and the house; an empty strip allows air and light to pass through. A small stone tower supports the ensemble, shifted away to allow for a terrace on each story. A teahouse links the concrete with the Chinese brick, which is gray and black. The walls are raised in wapan, the roofs in concrete. Their ample shells play with the cultures: allusions to China or Le Corbusier? The construction prefigures the large roofs on the Hangzhou campus.

Site plan of the kiosks on the banks of the small Mingzhou lake


façades of the teahouse. the roof is made of curved concrete curtains. in the photo below and those that follow, one can clearly see the wapan work, masonry that allows for the assembly, in successive beds, of original fragments of various sizes—old bricks, pieces of curved tiles, small stones, pieces of pottery, and so on.


top and right: Side view of the teahouse showing the masonry details: the primary base of stone, concrete floor slab, wapan walls bottom: Corner detail of the wapan masonry, with the use of brick to reinforce the wall Page 94: interior view of the teahouse, with the concrete vault system and superb traditional ornamental tiling of dressed stone




the art gallery, as a peninsula in the lake. the base is made of dry-mounted stones, a technique that is still used in China’s delta regions. the earthen walls are protected by a glass envelope, carried by a thin steel framework; between the roof and the house, an empty strip allows air and light enter. a small stone tower supports the composition, making way along three level for the entrances and terraces of the housing.


fabrizio Carola naples, italy


Cultural and Social Center, bandiagara, Mali. in the foreground, the storage area for stones, cut on-site


→ Fabrizio Carola

When the world comes to understand that the ecological equation of emerging countries cannot be solved by exporting yet another Western model, Fabrizio Carola will look like a pioneer for the work he has done in Africa. This architect has devoted his life to inventing techniques and an art of building that are in keeping with African resources. He could do this only by changing the terms of the exchange between Western culture and African culture. Fabrizio Carola was born in Naples, where his father was a building contractor. Even as a child, he was well acquainted with construction sites. He preferred to leave Italy and study architecture at the École de la Cambre, in Brussels, receiving his diploma in 1956. His first works were built in Belgium. He designed several pavilions for Expo ’58 and participated in a project involving prefabricated wooden houses. At the age of 30, he severed ties and went to Africa for the first time—to Morocco, which had regained its sovereignty. He was recruited by the Ministry of Public Works to create and organize a “Central Office of Rural Studies,” which was to guide the development of the land. From 1961 to 1963 this mission introduced the young architect to another aspect of his profession: “The new king Hassan II had begun a process of developing rural areas; thus it was necessary to lay the legal and urbanistic groundwork for such development. In particular, it was necessary to determine the site for the town hall, the school, and the souk in each of the main rural centers.” 1 Upon his return to Naples, he rejoined his father’s business as project manager and began to exert his own taste for inventive construction. The launch of a large program of residential apartment blocks in Naples enabled him to study a system of prefabrication, which he followed through to groundbreaking. He created his own architectural firm within the company. He was interested in new materials, patented inventions in step with the Italian reconstruction, and the spirit of the 1960s, such as his prefabricated bathroomblock in reinforced polyester, to be inserted into large residential building sites. He also researched reinforced concrete, taking out a patent that won him the Regolo d’oro Prize in 1967. From then on, Fabrizio Carola was an inventor-builder, but the prospect of a “career” in building weighed on him. After turning 40, he decided not to return to the family business. In 1971 he accepted a job as project manager in Mali. The encounter with black Africa would change his destiny. There, the architect in him discovered and fell in love with a world and a culture; the man of progress discovered the scope of the needs, and the builder would not cease to look for the right solutions in order to develop without destroying. “My official job was to supervise the construction for the restructuring of the dike at the Mopti river port, the creation of new hangars in the port area, and the construction of several mixed-use residential/office buildings running along the river. When I took over these projects, I was taken aback: the hangars were horrible … with pillars and beams made of reinforced concrete and roofs of corrugated sheets. … Given the height of the roof, even a small tilt of the angle of the sun’s rays would put the shadow elsewhere and leave the fish in full sun! What is more, the hangars were arranged haphazardly, without any logical order, without the least respect for the port, the 98

river, or the people. … So, although no one had asked me to, I went back to my role as an architect and modified the projects, trying to minimize the disaster. For the agents’ housing, I proposed building with traditional techniques using clay bricks, which are much more economical and more in keeping with the small villages where the housing was located. … Later, management asked me to develop the project for a riverside restaurant in the port. I thought that this was a good opportunity to experiment and to implement traditional building techniques, which I had researched extensively. I designed the restaurant in clay brick, with the roofing made of the trunks of palm trees. When I presented my project, the reaction from the mayor of Mopti was clearly negative: he told me that it was unacceptable for a respectable city to build in this “primitive” style, and that the restaurant should be made of reinforced concrete! I replied that if I was going to build it, it would be in the traditional style, or else I would not do it.” 2

in favor of a Cultural exCHange “between equalS” Later, in 1976, Fabrizio Carola left for Nigeria, assigned by a Roman company to research “economical building systems”: “That is when I first proposed the brick masonry dome as a replacement for a roof made of wood, whose use leads to desertification.” 3 Other missions would follow in Africa, for Carola had become an expert on development projects launched in Europe and NGOs in Africa. He noted that the people involved in those programs were hardly distinguishable from the preceding colonial directors. In 1976 he wrote: “Western civilization was introduced and imposed on Africa through the power of weapons and of dollars, but it was not Galileo or Leonardo, Mozart, or Einstein—the creators of civilization—who brought over civilization, but rather, simple users of civilization, who brought with them what they knew, what they were used to using, and who often belonged to the lower levels of our culture. Most people sent to Africa to fill the technological gap have rather limited cultural and humanist baggage and, what is more, they are convinced of the supremacy of their own civilization. Their lack of sensitivity on the humane and cultural levels prevents them from recognizing the real values of the so-called poor civilizations, which they simply deem inferior. Their insufficient preparation leads them to introduce into Africa, without any discernment, the most absurd products of our civilization. The quality of these products, brought into countries that are ill prepared to receive them, makes matters even worse: this is how Africa is invaded by second-rate products from Western civilization.” 4 Carola’s approach crystallized over these years. A trip to Egypt allowed him to reflect on the example of Hassan Fathi, the architect who invented an Egyptian architecture for the 20th century, modernizing ancient Nubian techniques and adapting them for use with the most widely used material in his country: brick. Steeped in classical culture, Fabrizio Carola believed that Mediterranean building science could establish an equally productive dialogue, both culturally and economically, with African culture and its craftsmen. The classical systems of the vault, the dome, and the arch grew with the European architecture of stone, but they can work with brick or clay, provided that sensible building solutions are found. The dialogue that is established between the Italian classical tradition and the architecture of Africa is not an “unequal exchange.”

a MoDel ProJeCt for SelfDeveloPMent Kaedi Hospital in Mauritania, completed in 1984, gave Carola a prime opportunity for bringing his vision to fulfillment. The architect first changed the standard program: “I had observed that in Africa, families always stay near the patient and that their presence plays a therapeutic role. So I worked on a hospital design that would suit this ‘family therapy.’ In Kaedi, we were able to enlarge the hospital so that all the families were able to remain within its walls.” Next it was necessary to build, using local resources, and for that, to reconsider everything: “Throughout Sahel, clay is what is most abundant and most economical. Wood is rare, and using it contributes to the desertification that is already in progress. Reinforced concrete is expensive because the cement must be imported at the cost of hard currency. Therefore, I chose clay as the base material, using it to make bricks in the traditional way. Traditionally, brick is used after simply being dried in the sun; it is therefore very vulnerable to rain and requires constant upkeep. Because there was no possibility of ensuring the upkeep of a public building such as a hospital, the correct solution was to bake the bricks to make them water-resistant. There remained the problem of fuel, because to bake the clay, I would have had to use an enormous amount of wood, which brought me back to the problem of desertification. The solution came from a by-product of rice: the hulls. A 600-hectare rice paddy, plus a Chinese factory in Kaedi for hulling the rice, produced a large quantity of rice, bran, and hull. That last item, which is not edible, was piling up, unused, free to anyone because not even animals eat it. After several tests, I succeeded in building a simple, economical kind of oven, which was made of clay and could be built by local workers; this oven made it possible to burn the rice hulls efficiently in order to attain a temperature sufficient to bake the bricks (under certain conditions, I was able to attain 1200 degrees). For the building technique, after rejecting wood and reinforced concrete and instead adopting brick as the sole material, all that was left was the use of curved structures, namely, the arch, the vault, and the dome. The brick dome had never crossed over to the Sahara, so it was a new structure and no doubt it was going to be difficult to get people to accept it. The Association for the Development of African Urban Planning and Architecture (ADAUA) had already built domes in Rosso using the compass method: an instrument that makes it possible to build the dome without needing any structural timber beforehand. Therefore, it was a very economical roofing system, one that Hassan Fathy had rediscovered from the ancient techniques. The ADAUA had adopted it, and I took it up in turn. But with this system, only spherical domes are obtained, and I had noticed, when living in the housing at Rosso, that they were a little bit oppressive. I

modified the compass so as to obtain ogival shapes that were taller, and as a result, had greater air volume. After I defined the character of the hospital on the basis of this first sketch (discussed above), the material, and the building system, we set to work and built the new project.” 5 Carola’s narrative brings to mind the beautiful tale by Fernand Pouillon about the construction of Cistercian abbeys, 6 but the hospital’s architecture tells us that we are not in Europe. The composition as a whole resembles a village, with public squares, hamlets, an outer life, and as reference markers, the tall silhouette of the hospital’s domes. Describing this building, which was a first in Africa, the Italian critic Luigi Alini speaks of organic—even zoomorphic—architecture. We prefer to borrow Fernand Braudel’s concept of “world-work:” a project that encompasses all the complexity of development in Africa—and in return proposes a set of appropriate responses. Today Fabrizio Carola works mainly in Mali. He brought along his compass and has trained men on each construction site. Recently, while on our way to visit his latest buildings in Mopti, we noticed a beautiful building, in clay and stone, and thought Carola had designed it. In fact, it was the work of a young Malian contractor, trained by Carola.

1 2 3 4 5 6

Fabrizio Carola, “Autobiography of an Architect,” unpublished manuscript, 2004. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Fernand Pouillon, “Les Pierres sauvages,” in Les Pierres sauvages (Paris: Le Seuil, 1964).


→ Fabrizio Carola

Hotel kaMbary banDiagara, Mali, 1997–1999 Client: SoHeMa (Helvetic-Malian Company for the Hotel business) architect: fabrizio Carola

Fabrizio Carola has done a lot of work in Mali, both in Mopti and in Bandiagara, at the edge of the land of the Dogon people. Since its “discovery” in 1935 by the ethnologist Marcel Griaule, Dogon culture has fascinated the West, and this region has become the top tourist area of Mali and indeed of West Africa. The Malian state supports this business but tries to avoid its pernicious effects. On the east, the large Cliff of Bandiagara— at the foot of the high plateaus, where Dogon civilization was established seven centuries ago—received landmark protection in 1989. Along its entire length (the break line between the plains and the low sandstone mountains runs for 200 km), tourism is organized around stopover points that are set back from the cliff. Thus the Hotel Kambary was built approximately 20 km from the cliff. This base for hikes is part of a series of projects that Fabrizio Carola built in Bandiagara, enabling him to create a “line” of sustainable construction. Clearly, Fabrizio Carola did not imitate Dogon architecture but came up with an architecture that uses similar materials and is built by local contractors. In this landscape of sandstone and limestone, stone was the obvious choice, but it is not very much in use these days. Fabrizio Carola reopened the quarries with the stoneworkers. On the rocky surfaces the stone is stratified. A simple tool—a heel bar and hammer to lift the stone—makes it possible to extract blocks that can be broken off and cut rather easily. The stoneworkers then become masons, raising the domes. The hotel consists of freestanding domed cabins built using the compass technique. The restaurant, which is open to the sky, is formed by a ring of semi-vaults sitting side by side. The balance of forces is not the same here, of course, and the stone beds were raised to the building limit. In the rooms, windows are created with pieces of clay pots set in the masonry. The domes are open at the top, and hot air passes out through the oculus. The doors, of solid wood, were also made by Malian craftsmen. A garden was planted during construction, and today the restaurant resembles a small oasis. In plan, the hotel could be thought of as a village, with its cabins and its refuges. But the dome shapes mimic neither the traditional Dogon architecture nor that of the plains villages, with their cubical adobe houses. The Hotel Kambary is indeed a facility for the new century, built for other needs; perhaps it is closer to the utopian ideals of the first generation of bioclimatic design in Europe.


the hotel forms a “hamlet” consisting of stone domes with a garden laid out between them. Here, the main entrance, with a detail of the ribbed vaults and claustra



Left and above: Each dome accommodates a bedroom and its ser­ vice area, arranged in the garden. The relaxation and restorative areas are housed in larger ribbed domes. The windows are made of inlaid pieces of pottery, with the outer neck of the vessel visible here, in the masonry.


→ Fabrizio Carola

regional Center for traDitional MeDiCine banDiagara, Mali, 1998–2000 Client: italian Ministry of international Cooperation and Malian Ministry of Health architect: fabrizio Carola Construction: fabrizio Carola with fabrizio Della rocca

The program is a center for research on and production of African medicinal plants. It includes a building for laboratories and medical consultations, a small factory for processing and packaging the plants, and administrative spaces. The research and medical center is organized around a circular central patio made of side-by-side brick vaults. This shady, well-constructed peristyle leads to the laboratories and consultation rooms, built with double domes ventilated by a vertical shaft. The inner dome is made of bricks, the exterior of stones. Thus the buildings have an exterior appearance that is more rough and mineral. The legibility of the geometrical form is blurred, all the more so given that the vaults are edged by retaining walls that are themselves also handled as irregular volumes. This expressionist device glorifies the stone, which is red and ocher here. The exterior bays of the patio open onto small gardens, edged by the sunny walls of the domes. The contrast between the even system of bricks and the bristling of the stones for the domes is quite beautiful.


at the center, the domes’ exterior wall with dry joints can be compared with the domes of the hotel (see left page), built in cut stone.


left: the medicinal herbs are dried outside before being processed and packaged. below: the exterior walls of the center appear almost defensive, or at least voluntarily rough, like buttresses.


the interior patio. a circular covered gallery makes it possible to shade the paths and circulation routes. right: the interior of one of the medicinal-herb processing rooms


→ Fabrizio Carola

Cultural anD SoCial Center banDiagara, Mali, 2008– Client: n:ea architect: fabrizio Carola

The most recent project by Fabrizio Carola is an anthology of techniques, some of them reinstated and others imported and adapted. In addition, the cultural center will be a place for Euro-African exchanges, where retired European professionals come to train young Malians. The center will extend into several hamlets, with housing units, classrooms and studios, and common rooms for meals and activities. The long-term efficiency of this project is organized around the extraction of stones. The construction site is already a training center. The raw clay bricks that will serve as the surrounding walls are produced and dried on-site. Several kilometers away, the quarry workers extract the stones, delivered untreated to the site. The sizing of the stones is performed next to the construction site, under a shelter made of branches, such as one sees everywhere in the markets and the villages. The domes are raised using the compass technique by masons whom Fabrizio Carola trained to do this work. The construction site consumes almost no energy or scaffolding wood. On this hill that is still sparsely planted, the first domes, which are regular, are more like a 1960s futurist resort than a vernacular habitat. This is not a coincidence. The work of Fabrizio Carola, like that of Paolo Soleri, retains the imprint of the formal freedom and historical optimism of the 1960s.


the center under construction; in the foreground, the supply of stone, transported from the quarry several kilometers away and cut on-site left: Plan for the future center


top: the open-air studio for cutting stone bottom: installing a dome using the compass technique. at the end of the rod, one can see a steel l that makes it possible to adjust each stone.


the building site. the raw-earth bricks that will serve as the exterior walls are made and dried on-site.


elemental Director: alejandro aravena, Santiago, Chile


façades of the renca housing project, in Santiago, Chile (see p. 126)


→ Elemental

Born in 1967, Alejandro Aravena is an architect and a teacher. Since founding his own firm in 1994, he has won many prizes for his architectural work: public buildings and universities, which provide a workshop for a designer who takes pleasure in substance and geometry. In 2000 he, together with engineer Andrès Iacobelli and architect Pablo Allard, created Elemental Team, which is both a research center on urban impoverishment and an architecture firm. Elemental Team is a “Do Tank,” that is, half public building office, half taller (workshop), allied with the University of Santiago, with the purpose of designing innovative models for public housing in Chile. Elemental Team focuses on the improvement in urban conditions for the poorest residents, with a view toward a “sustainable urban economy.” In other words, Elemental believes that the new goal of the sustainable city should absolutely not be separated from the struggle for an equitable city, a struggle that has been carried on since the 20th century through the question of social housing.

tHe City iS tHe nuMber one renewable reSourCe This enormous program shows that this continent posits the question of sustainable development quite differently from the way it is handled in the United States or in Africa. The urban debate involves megacities, not shrinking cities, and awareness of housing as a pressing social issue remains more intense here than in Europe. Elemental is proof of that intensity, and it stands out above all for the quality of its thinking. In Chile, the return to democracy coincided with the first awakening of ecological awareness. This is why the analysts at Elemental have shown that the two goals have a single solution: the return to the dense city. A sustainable city is a city that has stopped expanding, owing to the growing costs of sprawl (in terms of transportation, energy, and pollution). A democratic city is a city whose inhabitants have easy access to culture, education, and diversity, through density and through fluid connections with the center. Both politically and ecologically, the city is the means and the resource for a more harmonious development. The “Do” that guides Elemental’s “Tank” is based on the conclusion that “designing and building better neighborhoods is crucial if we want development to break the vicious circle of inequality.” The method is dense. It is worth picking out the elements of a diagnosis that is also a program. First, it contains an ethical reminder: architecture serves progress. Western disenchantment has not invaded emerging countries, and the idea of housing as a factor of progress remains valid. But the same formula clearly shows that, for architects, it is not enough to be part of the general development. There is a disconnect between development and the reduction of inequalities, and this phenomenon is specific to the 21st century. It is strongly felt in the cities, where development “gentrifies” the center and chases the poorest residents further away, into shantytowns. Chile is experiencing a vicious cycle in the form of an urban explosion that has worsened the creation of favelas. Focusing on the problem of shantytowns, Elemental went from a diagnosis to projects that put forward a clear proposal: With its experience, Elemental wants to contribute, via engineering and avant-garde architecture, to raising the quality of life in Chile, using the city as an unlimited resource for building equality.


MaS Con lo MiSMo—Doing More witH tHe SaMe The young Chilean democracy wanted to reduce the housing crisis. In ten years, a million units were built. This program, based on home loans, reached the middle classes but did not succeed in curbing the band of slums surrounding each city. Elemental’s work aims to redress this flaw. By making a close connection between ecological and social issues, the “Tank” leaves aside a debate on sustainable architecture that some in the West might call “miniaturist,” instead focusing on the “social pillar” of sustainable development, whose area of application is the South American city. A megacity that is more sustainable and developed will bring the inhabitants of the favelas (shantytowns) back toward the center. In Chile, research on housing as a “factor of progress” should take place within ordinary market conditions and public spending budgets. Unlike the situation in Europe, the new regime does not have—and will not create—instruments such as the regulation of the real-estate market or public housing offices. If Europe succeeds, on the one hand, in “protecting” the economy of social housing by setting aside well-situated sites and, on the other, by financing the cost overruns of ecological architecture with its technologies that are still expensive, Elemental, for its part, must hacer mas con lo mismo: do more with the same— the same budget as for ordinary public housing, the same high price for land. This can be done only with inventions—economic, typological, and building inventions.

tHe ProJeCt aS an oPen ProCeSS of tranSforMation Elemental’s first innovation, the open construction system, is a direct result of mas con lo mismo. It was conceived and tested for the first time in Iquique, in a neighborhood created in 2004 to reabsorb a slum that had been right in the center of the city for the past 30 years. Development logic called for the destruction of this slum; the neighborhood would then be rebuilt and occupied by new inhabitants with the means to buy housing there, with the former residents sent to rebuild a shantytown on the city outskirts. Elemental fought for 100 families living in the slum to stay on at the same central site, using a public program called Vivienda Social Dinamica sin Deuda (Dynamic Social Housing Without Debt), which gives subsidies to destitute families so that they have access to housing. But once the parcels were bought, the remainder of the budget allowed for only partial construction of the housing. After trying all possible options (group housing, small towers) without solving the problem, Elemental reversed the question and used this problem as the solution. The “Tank” worked on a new system: the delivery of semi-built houses, to be finished by the inhabitants themselves. This economically strategic solution has a real ecological content, in a South American perspective of rapid urban renewal: if the architecture of housing can no longer be a social commission but must become sustainable, it must do so through its own reversibility, its ability to go back to a former minimum state, and from that state one can change and rebuild.

The team developed an open housing typology, created with the essentials for a minimal unit—roof, shell, and rooms with running water—and the void of a vacant space that could be filled. In Iquique, the layout took the form of collective row housing, with a strange crenellated silhouette. On the ground floor, the strip of kitchens and entryways is continuous and forms a base. On the upper floor, only half the houses are built, forming a strip of alternating solids and voids in an L-shape. The building project was developed, using a doing-the-same (mismo) mentality that, in Chile, implies the use of concrete and brick. A rigorous concrete framework structures the built strips. It is the product of a cross between economic pragmatism and a rationalist culture coming straight from the 20th century and its settlements. The idea is that the residents would then build in the void of the L, as their means allow. One year after delivery, the empty spaces were filled in. The overall project is a convincing demonstration of the effect of social lever and of the potential of reversibility of the type envisioned by Elemental. The framework, which is strong and beautiful, gave structure to a process that produced a neighborhood and stimulated development, and the framework will continue to evolve. This revitalized concept of minimal housing took other forms, depending on the sites and the programs. Elemental designs social housing for the most diverse urban sites, always according to appropriate, affordable building principles. For Tocopilla, a city devastated by an earthquake in 2007, Elemental designed antiseismic dwellings that cost 10,000 dollars each. An already long list of viviendas sociales is proof that this concept allows for a densification of cities in the service of the least privileged, instead of a gentrification that would have sent them to the outskirts of the city and worsened urban sprawl and its negative side effects. Alejandro Aravena also designs facilities for the slums. For Elemental, “sustainable” means a flexible, affordable facility that is likely to meet multiple needs. For the 400 Ferias Libres en la Región Metropolitana project, Elemental researched a light structure for a covered hall. To be situated on a small plaza or on an unoccupied space, it accommodates a market, a sports field, or a performance hall, depending on the time of day. Ten pillars support a steel canopy and its integrated “public” lighting. Under the shelter, two concrete benches can serve as seating, tabletops for the market, or stages. The idea is akin to the multipurpose centers that Carin Smuts designed for the far-away townships. This resemblance is interesting. It does not come from an aesthetic that is shared by “sustainable architects” but from a similar pragmatism, that of architects who pay attention to the site. It also indicates the power of metropolization, which is the same from one continent to the next. It calls for pragmatic, radical solutions and an aesthetic that draws on contemporary culture.


→ Elemental

reSorPtion of a SHantytown for 100 faMilieS iquique, CHile, 2004 Client: Chile barrio architects: elemental neighborhood Committee: Comite de vivienda quinta Monroy engineering: José gajardo and Juan Carlos de la llera builder: loga S.a.


In the classic European fable, Columbus dines with a group of Spanish nobles, and one of them remarks that, had Columbus not discovered the Indies, someone else would have come along later and had similar results. In response, Columbus asks for a whole egg to be brought to the table. “My lords,” he says, “I will lay a wager with any of you that you are unable to make this egg stand on its end like I do without any kind of help or aid.” They all try without success, and when the egg returns to Columbus, he taps it gently on the table so as to flatten its tip. With that, the egg stands on its end, the moral being that once a feat is accomplished, anyone can see how to do it. See Story of the New World (1565) by Girolamo Benzoni.

The housing development in Iquique is the matrix of all the work by Elemental; the firm’s projects seek to resorb shantytowns without sacrificing the size of the lodgings or sending their inhabitants far from the cities. In Iquique, Elemental abandoned Western-style public housing. None of its versions—in blocks, towers, or bands—fell within the budget. And so Elemental broke the model—as Christopher Columbus did with his egg—thus got public housing to stand on its end. 1 “We prefer to build half a good house rather than a bad dwelling.” One hundred families had been living for 30 years in an indurate favela in the center of Iquique when the city decided to destroy it in order to clean up the neighborhood. The company Chile Barrio, a public housing developer, purchased the real estate, and Elemental designed the site plan for a development where only half-residences would be built. The site is shaped like two trapezoids placed side by side. The 100 dwellings that were to be built took the shape of small strips of attached three-story units. These strips run along the perimeter of the parcels so as to form four small groupings with interior courtyards. On concrete-slab foundations, a first story of side-by-side units was built with a concrete frame and load-bearing separating walls. On the concrete floor stands the ground floor, extensible by DIY in the courtyard as storage room, studio, or else. This is very well suited to the lifestyle of the inhabitants, who are craftsmen or journeymen who do not distinguish between their workplace and their place of business or their side business. On that slab, the houses are raised, with a concrete frame and brick walls, but only on half (30 m2) of the surface area. In these small towers, Elemental used the budget remaining after the purchase of the site to build “what a family could not do correctly itself: the kitchen, the bathroom, the party walls, and the insulation.” The technique used for the concrete frame with filling in the walls is today perhaps the most widespread and most economical in the world. It is within reach of all contractors and, above all, allows for a very quick construction process: the favela was demolished in one month, and construction was carried out over eleven months. The model of social housing may be broken, but Alejandro Aravena has not abandoned the principles and the aesthetic of European structural rationalism. The framework and the void/solid scansion of the units are a powerful expression that managed to “resist” the assault of the vernacular structures added in the voids. This framework also succeeds in “carrying” the later changes allowed for—indeed, called for—by this vision of social development. Here, structural rigor guarantees flexibility. 116

the housing project several weeks before residents moved in. the ground floor is devoted to small apartments, which can be expanded into the courtyard. above, the “houses” are two stories, accessible via a wooden staircase. the built volumes house a kitchen/living room and a bedroom with a bathroom. the inhabitants can then add surfaces by building in the empty volume.


left and below left: the interior spaces, as they were when delivered to the residents, who did the surface treatments themselves, according to their tastes and for minimal expense below right: Diagram of the process: the three construction phases, followed by the self-building phase


the interior courtyard, defined and designed by the void-solid scansion


left: an interior, as it was when residents moved in. below: exterior façade after the self-building phase

below: longitudinal section. the wall that runs along the future expansion is formed from a concrete framework and from a filling, of hollow bricks, that can be easily taken apart. below right: transverse section through the permanently built portion. the kitchen and bathroom are served by the same technical networks.


a residential unit with inhabitants


→ Elemental

lo eSPeJo–SoCial HouSing PrograM Santiago, CHile, 2006–2007 Client: un techno para Chile Site Plan and architects: elemental Housing Committee: “un Sueno por Cumplir” engineering: gonzalo Santolaya Principal Contractor: Constructora Simonetti initial Surface area of residences: 36.2 m2; duplex: 37.1 m2 Surface area of residences after expansion through Selfbuild: 60.2 m2; duplex: 68 m2

This social housing program is set in an area that is already quite urban, near a new public square. The principle of selfbuilding is implemented in two ways. The houses are built in attached bands that are strictly parallel in order to form the boundaries of the regular interior gardens. Each unit occupies a 6 × 6 m parcel, extended on the ground floor by a 3 m interior patio. The houses are three stories tall. The ground floor accommodates small attached apartments, which have a little garden in front and are extended by the interior patio. The patio can then be divided up and converted by the residents, on one story. Indeed, this courtyard is today filled by a double row of annexes, with a light framework and roofs made of metal or polycarbonate. Next, on the ground-floor slab, duplex apartments are built, accessible by a wooden staircase. The client built the framework of the duplex: party walls and roof slab. This large, almost cubical “frame” was then half filled vertically by the kitchen/living room on the lower floor and by the bathroom and a bedroom on the upper floor. The families who moved in completed the surface treatments and could add other bedrooms by filling in the void in the duplex.


the lo espejo program takes up and improves the principle of self-building invented in iquique by putting the roof over the ensemble. the available volume for self-building is already covered. left: Plans for the first and second floors of the duplex residences for the upper portion. one can make out the parts built as masonry, with side access doors leading to the self-build areas in the void of the loggia.


above: lo espejo after moving in and self-building above right: façades and main sections, with the void of the loggia set aside for self-building

an apartment ready for occupants to move in


general view of the housing development ready for occupation. the area surrounds an interior courtyard, divided into family gardens (see the plan on p. 123).


→ Elemental

renCa neigHborHooD– reHouSing PrograM, Santiago, CHile, 2006–2007 Client: ConiCyt Site Plan and architects: elemental Housing Committee: “Coordinadora de Campamentos y Comité de allegados Construyendo nuestro futuro” engineering: gonzalo Santolaya Principal Contractor: loga S.a.

This low-income housing program involves the inhabitants of the Renca slums, which are one hour from the center of town. The site runs along the south side of Brazil Avenue. The natural setting is beautiful, at the foot of Mount Colorado, but there was illegal dumping here, and it was necessary to remove a 2.5 m layer of earth. Elemental made the project denser along the avenue and used the earth-moving to fill in the site on the north, where a new road would be laid. The efficiency of moving the earth was key to the feasibility of the project. The attached houses are organized in groups of 25 in a U-shaped series along the avenue. Self-managed gardens occupy the hollow part of the U-shapes. Each house (two stories with mansard roof) is 4.5 m wide and 6 m deep, edged by a vertical strip for the rooms requiring running water. The first phase of construction saw the construction, in concrete bricks, of “that which a family would not be able to build correctly alone: the kitchen, bathroom, party walls, and insulation.” The load-bearing party walls are raised over two stories. The first story forms a continuous strip of kitchens/living rooms. On the second story, the bathroom is the only finished construction. In the next construction phase, two stories of wood flooring and rendered brick façades were attached to these shells. The houses and the bathroom niches were given corrugated steel roofs. The families themselves were responsible for the final phase of construction, the surface treatments. The whole process took 18 months, including the cleanup of the soil.

exterior view of one of the u-shaped groupings. at the edge of each house is a technical wing, which accommodates the technical elements.



rural Studio Director: andrew freear newbern, alabama, u.S.a.


on the campus of the rural Studio in auburn, a students’ studio built of wood and corrugated cardboard


→ Rural Studio

In the United States, ecology came on the scene even before the first oil crisis, borne along on the spirit of 1968, as in Europe. Since that time universities have homed in on their subjects: shrinking cities, new technologies, types of energy—the Solar Decathlon comes to mind, organized in Washington with the best architecture departments. “Stop the growth” 1 and “The Third Industrial Revolution?” 2 —these terms neither clash with nor encapsulate the debate. The American debate is much more extended and free-flowing. The Rural Studio was created in 1992 at Auburn University, in Alabama, by Samuel Mockbee. A practitioner turned professor, Mockbee wanted to create a pedagogy that would immerse students in social and economic reality. The idea took the form of a workshop: send the students to design and build houses for the most impoverished residents of Hale County, the poorest area in the state. Sixteen years later, the Rural Studio is still going. More than 400 students have worked in the program; the county is repopulated, so to speak, with houses that have restored the living conditions of their inhabitants. Since 2002 Andrew Freear has led the Rural Studio, which has expanded its range and built amenities and meeting places. The Rural Studio has gone from a pedagogical experiment to a laboratory for social and sustainable architecture. To understand this evolution, we must look back to the Auburn campus as it was in 1990.

a Mobile-HoMe SoCiety It is not by chance that the Rural Studio was founded during the industrial crisis of the 1990s. In the states of the American South, the crisis aggravated the poverty that was endemic since the 1960s. This situation fueled a lively political debate. For the essayist Wendell Berry, the crisis corroborated the idea that the industrialization that replaced the rural economy was just another form of colonialism—in lieu of development, industrialization brought about an exploitation of resources by people from elsewhere. So it was in the Black Belt, 3 colonized by the cotton industry, which would collapse, then by the soybean industry, which would deplete the soil and collapse in its turn; then, because of those relocations, the most skilled inhabitants abandoned the area. Thinking about the future, Wendell Berry saw no other salvation for the Deep South, after these industrial ravages, than to disengage and return to its agrarian roots, which were still present in the form of community involvement, an ethic of personal responsibility, and the Emersonian ideal of a society of entrepreneurs. The Rural Studio teaches an architectural ethic based on this critique of industrialism: the architect’s job is to assume responsibility in the service of development, using construction as an economic lever and architecture as a cultural lever. Wendell Berry’s criticism rings true when one travels through the Black Belt today. Everywhere there is evidence of towns in recession, land lying fallow, areas that were destroyed by people who built nothing in their stead. No one repairs the balloon-frame houses, while the poor, both black and white, live in mobile homes that do not last as long as the “easy credit” incurred for their purchase. Some are set up beside highways, others gather on noman’s-land, along the borders of former farmland.


renovate tHe Habitat in orDer to renovate tHe SoCiety The idea behind workshops is that contact with reality will trigger in the student a dynamic that the professor can channel toward the project. With the Rural Studio, Mockbee followed the rule of the “three unities” 4 to make the experience richer. The unity of place: in the heart of the Black Belt, Hale County, still famous from Walker Evans and James Agee’s Depressionera reporting. 5 The unity of time: six months on site so that the students live as citizens on the project site. The unity of action: the experience of being entirely responsible for a project, from program through construction. The Rural Studio searches out the worst-housed residents, and with this the students set to work. They have to design and build with the means available. The Rural Studio is involved in fundraising but the money is always lacking. Mockbee used this brutal contact with poverty so that the students would find appropriate solutions instead of applying their scholastic knowledge. The Rural Studio requires its students to work with, not for. With the clients, who have needs and skills. With the “assets” that remain: a network of small towns, tight-knit communities, plenty of space. The economics are at the lowest level, but the students learn to find the positive aspects in order to rebuild. Their projects are discussed by everyone, for the Rural Studio holds a public debate with many voices, both local regional and national. In 1999 Andrew Freear joined the team. A graduate of London’s Architectural Association and a professor at the University of Illinois, he came to strengthen the pedagogical aspects of the program and oversee the degree program. Together, the students and the local families planned, built, recycled materials, and invented compositions that were sometimes baroque. The idealism can make one smile, but in fact, beautiful, large houses are built—a number of them and for a minimal cost. In opposition to the “compassionate conservatism” that became George Bush’s doctrine in 2001, the Rural Studio offers “self-reliant development,” with architecture as the means and the result. The architectural verve of the Rural Studio should also be noted. The founder, a southerner, knew that he would find a great freedom to act in this forgotten county of villages without town planning, of regulations without inspectors. Working with the inhabitants, whose means were always limited, the students built walls out of old tires, and windows out of windshields; they rediscovered adobe, of a deep red in this region. The inventiveness defies the poverty. As a critic of industry, Mockbee sent the students to pillage the scrap heaps of factories. As an artist, Mockbee encouraged an aesthetic of recycling that combats the cultural misery of the mobile home. The Rural Studio builds houses where the execution of the project is linked to folk art. This corpus also exudes the historical optimism found on campuses in 1968. The English architect Sarah Wigglesworth sees in it a counter-definition of critical regionalism: “instead of viewing the regions as the area of application for modern architecture, the Rural Studio approaches culture as a space of radical openness, reversing the hierarchy of knowledge in order to put the project in the service of a real folk architecture.” 6

“ourS iS a SiMPle SuStainability born of neCeSSity” The Rural Studio had changed significantly when Mockbee died of leukemia in 2001. Appointed director, Andrew Freear had to handle the mourning and a period of instability. A travelling exhibition was organized in homage to Mockbee. It gave form to the message of the Rural Studio, for the experience is now covered in the media and often distorted. The architectural journals publish beautiful photographs (the student rooms have the deconstructivist chic of Venice bungalows) and neglect the political and cultural density of the experience. The ecological debate is under way, and the Rural Studio has been pronounced a forerunner, although this was not exactly “its cause.” What lesson can be drawn from the experiment? Andrew Freear proposes transforming the utopian impetus into sustainable economy (the houses, which are superb, are sometimes unkempt, for the materials and the assembled compositions are fragile). Informally, and through the volunteer commitment of the students, the workshops have been extended by two semesters in order to increase the quality of the design (professors of statics and landscape design come in to modify the projects) and of the construction. The new director also brings a European vision of urban space and public action. Beyond the re-housing, it was also necessary to restore the social connection, to build amenities, and to revitalize the towns. With a growing local reputation, trusted as a local neighbor the Rural Studio has taken on the mantle of local or County architect designing and building many civic facilities and taking on the responsibility has embraced more durable materials and with this an evolved style. The Rural Studio no longer does ecology out in the wild. Andrew Freear clearly links the word sustainable to the word development. In this state, which is too poor to support sophisticated or costly energy systems, the new ecological sobriety is almost self-evident. “Ours is a simple sustainability born of necessity.” 7 The method is changing. Each project (from a boys and girls club, to a 40 acre park, or hospital facility and animal shelter) is entrusted to a team of four students for two years. The budgets are tight. Corporate help is sometimes necessary (this fact, which might appear to be an infringement of self-reliant building, instead indicates, in this writer’s opinion, that the dynamics of the Rural Studio are beginning to stimulate the local economy). The Newbern fire station set off this new cycle of revitalization, beginning with the choice of the site. The Studio convinced the elected officials that the fire station, should return to the center of town in order to contribute to public life. The fire station was set on the main road (a street whose continuity is broken up by grassy areas each time a derelict house is demolished). Completed in 2008, this large hall, with a wood and metal truss structure, would not look out of place even in Vorarlberg, given the high quality of building and aesthetics at work here. It is technically quite different, however. The con-

struction is based on the use of small components, 2 m rafters or planks; was a readily available and least expensive material. The strong, severe frame is a wood Meccano made of small components, assembled by the student team. The structural frame was its own scaffolding. The steel plates and tensioners were welded in the workshop. The precision of the compositions and of the surface treatments, as well as the quality of the volumes is proof that “the quality of research is the key to optimizing the material,” as Philippe Samyn explains in the same book. To the visitors who miss the picturesque quality of the Rural Studio’s early years, Andrew Freear explains: “We could paint the wood instead of leaving it natural. But who would then ensure the upkeep? The facilities that we build should be durable, because if they deteriorate, no one will have the means to repair them and the story will go in another direction.” 8 The construction of houses occurs on a new scale. The Federally sponsored USDA Rural Development program subsidizes housing for the poorest residents, through loans of 20,000 dollars and upwards. At present the cheapest approved model is for 80,000 dollars. Andrew Freear has sought to achieve an affordable model of 20,00 dollars for the poorest of the poor surviving on welfare benefit. Andrew Freear committed the Rural Studio to this idea with a small group of the Outreach students, using the formula of 10,000 dollars for labor and 10,000 dollars for materials per house. The first examples of these houses with porches are clearly archetypal: the aesthetic moves away from the tires-and-carpet-squares style and comes back to the don’t-touch-earth simplicity. Everything begins with a platform that can be assembled on-site, then situated depending on the slopes, with the height controlled by using four or six small vertical posts. Next, a central pipework unit for kitchen and bathroom is installed before the frame goes up and then the envelope, in wood-based prefabricated trusses and corrugated steel sheet; the latter components are assembled in the studio. Cross ventilation and large roof overhangs on two sides fight the heat. In the land where the most recent venture was the subprime mortgage industry, one must hope that the new carpentry businesses will take over the plans for the “20,000 dollar House” and continue the story.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

A report on growth, commissioned at MIT in 1968 by the Club of Rome and published in 1972 under the title The Limits to Growth, launched an international debate on the concept of growth. The concept was developed by William McDonough, an architect and designer, in Cradle to Cradle—Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002), coauthored with Michael Braungart. Named for the color of the soil, the Black Belt is the very fertile region, formerly farmland, which stretches from Newbern to western Alabama. The rule of the “three unities” governed drama in the Classical period. James Agee (text) and Walker Evans (photographs), Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1936–40. Andrew Freear, interview by Jana Revedin, Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, 2008. Ibid. Ibid.


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fire Station anD town Hall newbern, alabaMa, uSa, 2004 Client: town of newbern architect: rural Studio Student team: will brothers, ellizabeth ellington, Matt finley, leia Price

In rural America, fire stations are as much—perhaps even more—a hub for the community than a practical amenity. In the villages, teams of firefighters are composed of volunteers. The firefighters offer classes on public safety to all local citizens, thus instilling the idea of solidarity. The program established by the Rural Studio focused on this civic aspect, for the fire station is not only a place to park the fire trucks and store equipment but also has classrooms and a meeting place for community, and functions as a town hall. Well situated on the main thoroughfare, the fire station has thus become a place for community gatherings. In plan, it is a large rectangular shed made of wood, with a frame consisting of a double row of columns. The choice of a single slope for the roof simplified the load-bearing roof structure, which is clad in metal. On the street façade, a large overhang runs all along the top. The first portal frame with double columns frames the large door, creating a playful reference to the beautiful colonnades on old southern houses, with their Doric capitals made of wood. The ground floor houses the garage for the trucks and the annexes where material is stored. The classrooms and a small meeting room are suspended as a mezzanine in the middle of the shed. A simple floor is attached to the structure. The space is defined simply by a wooden balustrade and, below, by the thickness of the floor, which is painted white. This terrace, seems to float in the space, like a tree house in a tree, and the luminous shed retains its legibility. The mezzanine is accessed by an exterior wooden staircase on the southwest side façade. The indoor light comes from this side façade, whose wall is made of translucent polycarbonate panels attached to the columns and, on the exterior, protected from the sun by wooden slats. This façade is pierced by a large sheltered door. At night, the façade lights the meadow next door, and the protective siding is lifted: the fire station becomes a community center, and tables are set out on the lawn. The other façade, on the north, is protected by cladding that comes down from the roof. This genuinely roomy building is built entirely with off-the-shelf lumber— rafters, floors, and small boards, such as the local people have always bought to build and repair their barns.


the fire station opens onto Main Street. the tall porch picks up the proportions of the old plantation houses, with their verandas and wooden columns.


the architectural details are very well done: note the framework, a mixture of wood and steel, and the skillfully handled geometry of the “miller staircase” in folded sheet steel.


interior view of the fire station. on the right, the translucent wall is punctuated by a large opening. the whole building can be transformed into a village hall for the town.


evening gathering in newbern. the translucent wall, which is illuminated, lights the plaza like a large Japanese lamp.


all the gates are open to facilitate the flow.


→ Rural Studio

akron boyS anD girlS Club akron, alabaMa, uSa, 2006–2007 Client: town of akron architect rural Studio—student team: whitney Hall, John Marusich, adam Pearce, and Daniel wicke

The club has rooms and a covered basketball half-court. A wooden building contains the rooms for classes and games. It is set lengthwise on the parcel and, as is typical, has its gable wall aligned with the street. On one side, a superb wooden grid roof structure covers the basketball court. The students participated in a Structures seminar in which they were supposed to devise building systems made of small wooden components. Andrew Freear’s idea was to successfully cover large-scale structures without a steel beam system or expensive steel roof structures. The Akron team worked on a system of lamella vaults. It is created by a grid of small wooden boards that are bolted together, braced, and assembled in groups. Their edges are cut on a 30-degree angle so that they can come together and be bolted. They are recut in a tapered form following the outline of the vault in order to be assembled according to its curve. The vault grows out of a long shed with entrances on an angle. The vault, which takes on a horseshoe shape on its exterior, is anchored on the club side by inclined columns in order to pick up the forces. Once again, a rough material—small wooden boards—makes it possible to build sophisticated and elegant works. This, thanks to the quality of the concept, the design of the details, and the execution.

the superb roof structure of the basketball court, which is attached to the clubhouse by studs


a detail of the netting and its bolting. a single system of studs makes it possible to join three small boards, sawed on the edges to allow for assembly, then tapered to pick up the curve of the vault.


→ Rural Studio

CoMMunity Center/glaSS CHaPel MaSon’S benD, Hale County, alabaMa, uSa, 1999–2000 Client: Community of Mason’s bend architect. rural Studio—student team: forrest fulton, adam gerndt, Dale rush, and Jon Shumann

The Rural Studio has worked extensively in Mason’s Bend, a hamlet of mobile homes. The descendants of a handful of farmworkers had inhabited this forsaken area at the edge of agricultural land. The Rural Studio built houses here as well as a canopied hall for parties and chapel for prayer, where the children in free school lunch programs also come to eat in the shade. The chapel is circumscribed by rammed earth walls, made of a mixture of red clay and a little cement. The interior space, which is mostly open and ventilated, is protected by a roof made of sheet metal. On the northeast side, a taller rammed-earth wall creates a protective screen. On the southwest, a spectacular roof runs all the way down to the wall, with a glazed area made of car windshields. They come from General Motors factory stock and were found at a scrap car dealer’s shop. These convex pieces of glass are screwed together on thin metal crossbeams using rivets and small spacers. They cover one another like open scales; between them, air circulates and cools the spaces. These scales were carefully adjusted one by one; they can be taken down and replaced, even with different windshields, thanks to a clever system of spacers. The high quality of technical detail and of execution makes it possible to build, using an approximate material, a self-ventilating glazed area that is as sophisticated as a green-tech component.

an interior view of the room for worship and classes, with its segmented frame


an exterior view of the church, with the superb composition of handrails consisting of low wall of red clay and glazed prisms Drawings left and right: Site plan for the chapel, with the long horizontals of the low walls that anchor the building on its site, and section drawing through the large glazed structure.


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ANTIOCH BAPTIST CHURCH PERRY COUNTY ALABAMA, USA, 2001-2002 Client: Antioch Baptist Church Architect: Rural Studio—student team: Gabe Michaud, Jared Fulton, Marion Mcelroy, and Bill Nauck

The Antioch Baptist Church in northwest Perry County has a small congregation based on four families. In this clearing, they have built a chapel. The chapel, which had a poor foundation, was demolished with the help of the students, who charged themselves with using all of the salvageable materials from the original church. The vocabulary goes beyond “recycled style,” for here there is first architecture, then construction. On a rectangular plan, the church is oriented east-west and fits into the slope of the site, along a new retaining wall on the north. On the east, a first volume contains the church office, which runs along the entrance. A second volume houses the prayer room. The two rooms fit together with a slightly shifted position, underscored on the interior by a line of vertical light. They are prismatic and are structured on a downward slope, under the butterfly-wing roof. In the prayer room, the ceiling rises from the east to the west, where the altar and baptistery are located. Behind them, the west wall is opened by a vertical bay that floods the space with light. The foundation wall is topped by a horizontal bay that opens, on the same level, onto the meadow of the old cemetery. The two volumes are made of wood. On the interior, the movements of the roofs are carried by a framework made of old steel beams and wooden supporting piers. The walls are clad in salvaged laths. The chapel is covered with a skin made with the old chapel’s siding. Their clear lines underscore the sculptural form. The edges of the gray sheets play with the boss of the volumes in light wood.

Longitudinal section and site plan for the chapel. On the plan one can make out the original site of the chapel, of which only a staircase remains. The roofing and framing materials were stored in this area, before being reassembled on the new site, which is several meters further away.


views of the church—the side where the faithful enter and the interior of the church. at right, the horizontal course offers a view of the community’s old cemetery.


Philippe Samyn brussels, belgium


the new laboratories of the seed bank in the wallonia region of belgium, at the heart of the ardennes forest. the double-curved timber frame and tempered-glass covering


→ Philippe Samyn

Philippe Samyn was born in 1948 in Belgium. An architect and engineer, he founded his own firm in Brussels in 1978. Today his firm has a large oeuvre, with some works clearly dating back to the ecological awakening. This part of his work already bears the mark of a rational designer set on affirming “the balance of form, function, and technique,” 1 an architect of large structures, and an engineer keen on materials science. That last aspect of his work also earned him a solid university career as a professor of building sciences. For the past ten or so years, this renowned firm, founded in the golden age of large-scale international architecture and of a certain view of performance, decided to explore the new area of sustainable economy, at its founder’s behest. We know from Samyn’s theoretical research and recent works that he decided to commit his credibility as an expert in the debate on sustainable architecture. No doubt this decision stems from personal, ethical convictions; it also comes from the fact that he has classical building knowledge, closer to the likes of Perret or Eiffel, who, in order to be great designers were first rationalists, concerned about the correct use of the materials, and from the fact that this vision of the art resonates with our contemporary concerns. Admittedly, the engineer Samyn built his career during Les Trente Glorieuses, 2 with that era’s great certainties and great means, but he has not forgotten what the 19th-century structural inventions accomplished, in terms of the restraint of means and expression. When the successive oil crises cut short the Postmodern “swinging eighties,” he was well positioned to understand that the crisis of resources would make skill sets and practices outdated and would call into question the sometimes-extravagant technologies of the 20th century; conversely, he was quite wary of the energy scientism and the new green functionalism that might hastily replace them. As an architect, Philippe Samyn also wants to remind us today that an architectural problem is not solved in the same way as an equation, and he wishes that a new definition of rationality would be considered. On the sustainable architecture scene in Europe, Philippe Samyn thus makes a stimulating and solidly argued contribution, that of an architect-engineer who is convinced of the importance of the ecological challenge and who applies his knowledge in service of the cause. Philippe Samyn establishes this authority in the debate in a wide range of areas. With his scientific training, he entered the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et des Arts Visuels in 1971, the same year he completed his studies in civil engineering. Then in 1973 he obtained a masters of science in civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Upon his return to Brussels, he also trained in the field of urban planning and then worked in design offices while pursuing his architecture studies—he would not receive his degree until 1985, after he had opened his own firm. A short while later, once his firm was established, he found the time to resume his studies and received a Ph.D. in applied science in 1999.


froM effiCaCy to effiCienCy With 20 years of experience in handling large international projects, Philippe Samyn is very familiar with the 20th-century cult of functional efficacy. Today, as materials become precious, he criticizes a fin de siècle in which “structures became heavier, initially because of industry and subsequently through information technology.” 3 The 1980s saw the quest for solidity take precedence over the economical use of materials, with a great many spectacular or soaring structures consuming lots of steel and concrete. The wastefulness did not bother anyone at the time and even had the advantage of driving the market. Moreover, a tendency toward conformity in the design professions gave engineering no incentive to optimize through calculations the use of material, as happened in the time of Nervi or Prouvé, for instance. Engineering dozed off in the comfort of these computation programs and then on “the assumption that reducing materials would increase costs since more technical research would be required.” 4 But today, as materials are becoming scarce and the pace of building slows down, Philippe Samyn believes that it is necessary to rethink project design and especially to redefine what his biographer, Pierre Puttemans, calls “the ‘vocation’ of the materials, in other words, the most rational use of their mechanical, physical, and chemical properties.” Replacing the expensive cult of efficacy is what Samyn calls efficiency. To invent lighter structures, the engineer rejects “turnkey” software, returning to analytical geometry and inventing, for instance, “indicators of volume” to manage material in another way. Thus the new canopies at the Leuven train station, delivered in 2007, consumed four times less steel than other entries in the competition, yet they are every bit as expressive and luminous. Philippe Samyn won the competition for the roof that covers the platforms—this was part of an urban renovation of the neighborhood, in connection with the arrival of the TGV (the high-speed train). The creation of a canopy behind the existing train station and a footbridge connecting to the neighborhood beyond the tracks were to be treated as background and to energize the old center-city neighborhood. The plans of this work show a skillful, highly composite structure: the four tracks are covered by 16 “umbrellas,” which are paraboloids with double curves, with the load carried by large steel arches that spread the stresses on connecting nodes, which are themselves carried by steel columns grouped in fours. From one track to the next, the slits between the arches are filled with glazed openings that illuminate the platforms. The work clearly involves a lightening of the structures: the beams of the arches are made of perforated steel, the columns in groups of four are made of steel rather than heavy concrete, and this structure does not sit on a base but rather on steel decking.

When one visits the station, it is amazing to discover that this nimble structure, as large as Anglo-Saxon stained-glass windows, with their high-performance steel superstructure and their well-shaped pieces, is itself made entirely of simple, basic industrial products: steel strips, steel columns, Tor U-shaped beams. All the tensions that circulate in the structures converge in nodes built with a combination of these simple materials, which are bolted and welded. This is perhaps a salute to the Belgian steel industry, as well as a use of local products, for these strips were made just a short distance from Leuven. But simplicity of execution and pragmatic use of reliable and inexpensive projects were already in use in Gustave Eiffel’s viaducts and Jean Prouvé’s porticoes of folded sheet steel. The structure has the stretched appearance of a textile, and this architectural effect helps lighten the overall composition, for these domes seem, not heavy, but “lifted up” by the air. Efficiency is also the search for “a better link between the use of a building and its durability,” in a century in which the functions change even before the building can wear out. Philippe Samyn believes that architecture, rather than seeking to be efficient, should first offer “general convenience” (an interesting definition of sustainability). In Belgium, the seed bank, built in 1997, was to accommodate laboratories and storage spaces. These low-cost premises are sheltered under a superb glass shell, supported by a timber structure. This durable and generous volume will be able to accommodate other uses and will always offer comfort and economy, of both resources and management. Philippe Samyn is already a critic of 21st-century neo-efficiency. He has declared war on wind turbines, a product whose success is based on an ecological calculation that is too narrow to be correct. “Just measure the energy used in transporting these mastodons, the concrete swallowed up in their foundations, the concrete platforms they stand on.” 5 He has invented a guyed wind turbine, consisting of a very light and easily transportable mast, which is erected using its own cables, like a circus big top. The example illustrates Samyn’s historical optimism, close in this respect to that of Stefan Behnisch: the century of diminishing resources is also the century of the knowledge society, of unprecedented growth in intellectual resources, of scientific means. It is on this that architecture must draw in order to reinvent itself.

1 2 3 4 5

Pierre Puttemans, Philippe Samyn—Architect and Engineer. Constructions (Brussels: Fonds Mercator, 2008). “The Glorious Thirty” refers to the prosperous years between 1945, when World War II ended, and 1975, when the economic effects of the oil crisis of 1973 were felt. Philippe Samyn, lecture at the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris, 3 March 2008. Ibid. Ibid.


→ Philippe Samyn

roof SHeltering of a train Station leuven, belgiuM, 1999–2006 Client: national belgian railway Company architect: Philippe Samyn Structural engineering: Samyn and Partners with Setesco total Surface area: 14,622 m2

Philippe Samyn carried out this project within the context of the renovation of the neighborhood surrounding the Leuven train station, a renovation sparked by the arrival of the TGV (highspeed train). As is often the case in Europe, the train station had been built in the previous century, on what was then the outskirts of the city, in the form of a classical building oriented toward the city center, with the platforms and rails hidden behind it. These tracks later created a difficult-to-cross trench between Leuven and the working-class neighborhoods of Kessel-Lo, which stretched out later. The renovation of the train station neighborhood, with its new buildings and its esplanade, had to suture this cut by creating a link above the tracks to join the city and its nearby suburb. The competition program for the roof sheltering the platforms included this urban component. Behind the renovated train station, the plan for the roof covering was supposed to allow for the reorientation of the whole neighborhood toward Kessel-Lo, with a connecting footbridge and a structure that would no longer be the rear of the train station but rather a modern and open façade oriented toward the neighborhoods. One of the reasons that Philippe Samyn won first place in the competition in 2000 should be singled out, for it reveals an interesting development in criteria at the start of a new century: the structures and the proposed canopies consumed four times less steel than the rival projects. Philippe Samyn achieved this very concrete lightness by combining ingenious technical solutions with simple materials that could be made lighter through their assembly system. The metal umbrellas that provide shelter for the passengers on the four platforms are carried by five rows of five piles, formed from four hollow steel tubes that are clustered and joined on the upper portion by assembly nodes. These support points, built in steel tubes and sheets, have many functions: they support the roof covering and take the force of its arcs, they collect water, they carry the electrical power cables, and they even house the electrical cabinets between their ties. Each platform covering consists of a “train” of four canopies that are linked together. These canopies are carried by 20 parabolic twin arches, built as in the 19th century by assembling flat steels. This Meccano, simple in principle, makes it possible to obtain a structure with a very openwork design. Between each canopy, the lateral forces are transferred transversally by beams that join the two parts of each arch. At either end of the roof coverings, aluminum sheets are extended by a low steel nosing that reduces the gusts of air, similar to the ones set at the ends of high-speed trains for the same reasons.


The “fabric” of the canopies is made of aluminum sheets, following a curve that is not simply the result of forces but seems to have been made slightly bulbous. In this way, the canopies seem to be not so much domes that weigh on the columns but rather balloons held in place by the columns. Of course, this architectural effect accentuates the feeling of lightness in the building. The Kessel-Lo façade consists of a large glass wall, suspended from the arches and wind-braced, with the upper portion intersected by the footbridge that connects to the neighborhoods beyond the railways. Upon visiting the station, one is struck by the great simplicity of the composition. It comes from the functional clarity of the layout and also from the legibility of the structures, which are very well defined and at the same time not at all opaque. Canopies of this kind are often used with much more imposing structures. On the ground, the “do-it-all” columns are almost transparent because they are not massive. This architecture does indeed belong to its century, and yet, all things being relative, the visitor is more inclined to think of the Eiffel Tower than of a bit of high-tech derring-do of the late-20th-century variety. The comparison continues when one looks more closely at the assembly nodes and the twin arches: the simplicity of these effects required great ingenuity in calculation and design. The intersecting pieces, the arches, are made of common materials, but their assembly is meticulously conceived and designed, requiring careful execution. It must be noted here that Philippe Samyn’s architecture brings together two building skill sets: the art of calculation and of composition (skills belonging to the architect and the engineer) and the art of execution, which belongs to metalworkers who understood that this construction site, where the material is simple but its transformation complicated, was an excellent opportunity to apply and demonstrate their savoir-faire.

the platforms of the train station under their new canopy. the grouped columns consisting of four tubes can be seen, as can the openwork structure of the load-bearing arches and the alternation of aluminum canopies and translucent portions.


Diagrams of the structure. working document


aerial view and plan of the four “trains” of the canopies. at the ends, the steel “noses”


life at the train station under the new canopy. note the minimal visual clutter of the structures, which have been hollowed out, lightened, and “simplified” in order to allow for flow—both of light and of passengers.



a detail showing the fastening of the canopies to the existing building


the new railway landscape of leuven


→ Philippe Samyn

fire Station Houten buSineSS Park, Houten, tHe netHerlanDS 1998–2000 Client: town of Houten, the netherlands architects and engineering: Philippe Samyn

The fire station for the new town of Houten is a facility that plays a role that is both technical (six trucks, four firefighters, and their equipment) and civic (management of volunteers and training for young people), in a country where protection of the seawalls structured the community. The fire station is located in a well-organized park that is green and not at all dense. There, Philippe Samyn positioned a simple, transparent form; on its interior, he pursued his research on the efficiency of materials. To do this, he often breaks away the envelope from the contents. In this way, it is possible to streamline and slim down the envelope, which is returned to its archetype as shelter, and to design the interiors more simply, as they are freed up from the job of bearing the roof. The shelter is a parabolic vault carried by seven arches made of steel beams. The north façade is covered, the south façade glazed and equipped with photovoltaic panels. On the interior, a large wall divides the volume lengthwise. On the south, under the glazing, a large hall is used for the preparation of the trucks, which are parked just opposite the frames that open. On the north, the service areas occupy four detached stories under the vault, which is made of brick. The two tympana, which are half covered and half glazed, are framed by hollow steel sections. Philippe Samyn had the fine idea of liaising with the neighborhood schools. Each child did a beautiful drawing on paneling for the fire station. The ensemble makes a superb fresco on the interior wall, which has become a work of urban art.

the fire station on the garage side. one can see the photovoltaic panels arranged on the roof.



the simplicity of the garage operation. the trucks are maintained and equipped at the place where they are parked.

Details of the opening of the doors right: Seen from the garage, the interior façade of the offices, where the children collaborated on a fresco



Carin Smuts Cape town, South africa


in the market town of laingsburg, in the karoo Desert, is the Dawid klaaste Multipurpose Center (see p. 164).


→ Carin Smuts

Since 1989 the architect Carin Smuts has worked on a single area and for a single client: the inhabitants of the South African townships. Precision is essential when approaching her architecture. If the cities of white Africa belong to Western architectural culture, the Africa of townships has not, until now, appeared on the same stage. Its status merges with that of a third world country, and before the ecological crisis, only the vernacular architecture and the colonial and postcolonial architecture were known. Western critics might sometimes have expressed interest in the latter, but it cannot be said that they showed great interest in examining that half of the world. The fate of architectural culture did not play out there. The ecological imperative is changing this vision of the south, for its urbanization considerably increases energy consumption and pollution, included water pollution, and this on a worldwide scale. Now that there exists a sustainable architecture that makes sense within the ecological debate, architectural critics are examining this third world with a new eye, seeking architects who can set an example.

townSHiPS There are many ways to act. The first consists of disseminating a European model of sustainable architecture. But in its race for sophisticated technologies, Europe might lock itself into a model that cannot be imitated further south, because it is too expensive and, above all, unadaptable. The second way involves searching for architects who are part of an economy of self-development. Carin Smuts works in the townships, whose inhabitants had been excluded from development and who lost their vernacular culture. Does she practice sustainable architecture? She says so, and explains how: “The meaning of economy and the measured use of resources—we learn this at school. It is the very ethic of architecture! But to build in the townships, people must already be able to express a need, formulate a program, and know how to implement it. My experience has taught me that this is not possible unless people have taken back control of their own freedom. I see architecture only as a means for these men and women to regain control of their own governance.”

“our SuStainability iS about PeoPle” The work of Carin Smuts originates in the last decade of apartheid, which ended in 1989 with the abolition of the last segregation laws. She established her firm that same year. Born into a family of politicians and intellectuals (her great-uncle Jan Christiaan Smuts is one of the founders of holistic thought), the


young architect wanted to participate in the future policies for renovating the townships. This commitment began in 1982, when Carin Smuts, then a student, was assigned by her professor “a group of eight black youths who had come the university seeking help for the construction of a school in their township, in Cape Town, district 21. The inhabitants had bought the land but did not know what to do next. The project lasted five years and taught me a great deal. First, I learned that European architectural culture would be of no help to me. I also discovered that the NGOs funded only those projects that corresponded with their vision. They came to assess and to diagnose the needs but without ever asking the communities what their wishes were. The NGOs that I contacted did indeed want to give funding—one for a day-care center, another for a studio. We wanted a school.” Since that time, CS Studio has worked for the black communities. Its corpus is impressive: more than 100 built works, of all scales and in all localities. One might wonder how a small firm can do so much in so little time. Is Carin Smuts still an architect? Yes, but according to a different model, which she created with full knowledge of the facts: “In this country where no town planning agency oversees the plans of the townships, no public utility arranges for their needs or manages services, the architect replaces the public action at every stage.” CS Studio is dedicated less to sustainable architecture and more to sustainable development, using the architecture as a means. This mission, which could be called sustainable micro-development, through analogy with Muhammad Yunus’s micro-credit, requires a method as well as organization.

“arCHiteCture by eMPowerMent” CS Studio covers a wide range of functions: architecture, urban planning, landscape design, project management assistance, feasibility studies, and fund-raising. The team builds amenities, housing, and public spaces. The crystallization of the program is a large part of the work. The end product will be a work of architecture, but CS Studio first gets involved long before that, working with the inhabitants in order to help things “mature.” “People know how to define their needs but not to articulate them in a program. Before designing anything, we listen for a long time—it could take two years—in order to catch onto the program.” Next, Carin Smuts launches studies, with special attention paid to the urbanity of the projects. She combines a solid knowledge of the townships with—perhaps for the only time— a classical project practice. While they have lost their culture, the inhabitants have, by building and tearing down the townships, created an urban counterculture that Smuts has studied: “I learned that these in-between spaces matter the most. The living space is very small, there are no amenities, and so all social life takes place in the street. For this, the inhabitants make, out of nothing at all, small public spaces, the interstices that I have often studied in order to find the project’s apparatus. (…) Our projects are small. A large project such as the Guga S’thebe occupies 800 m2, which is the size of a bourgeois house in Cape Town. We had to expand this area, to transform it into a small town, with intersections between the rooms, inbetween spaces that the inhabitants can use as public space.” The project is designed in collaboration with the users, “who

do not have an architectural requirement. (…) But they have a creative energy that I wish to free. I think that once the program is set, the project should not impose a goal but rather propose an infrastructure that the inhabitants will then take over.” In fact, the firm often designs projects as a collection of autonomous spaces, brought together under a structure that bears and distributes the load. The fitting out is done with the inhabitants, who know that they will take up a trowel or paintbrush to do this. This retreat by the architect can be explained by the lack of a shared vernacular building culture: deprived of this resource and not wanting to import Western building culture in an abrupt way, Carin Smuts keeps construction to a minimum, preferring to transfer the challenges of selfdevelopment further along in the process, at the fitting-out stage. All the same, these simple building envelopes speak strongly, whether one is looking at the large golden cone that tops the hall of the Guga S’thebe Cultural Center or the soaring roof structure of the Gugulethu Central Meat Market: “People weren’t concerned by architecture but architecture becomes the element of fun! And we use it in the process.” The strategy continues further along in the process. “The community center or the school are discussed with the residents, who should then get involved during the construction phase. Construction should not come from somewhere outside. The best way that I have found is to recruit the workers in a 2 km radius. The problem is that the inhabitants of the townships never received any training. I negotiate with the contractors for training workshops on-site, in masonry, for example. That requires the use of appropriate techniques.” The firm’s presence is a long-term fact, and the architect remains the expert on the micro-development that is promoted by this vision: “People need to be able to count on our help always: say, when the facilities run into problems or need to be expanded. If requested, I return to the sites to “inject” an idea or help with the construction, but on the condition that people achieve the results by themselves.”

the plastering and painting. The use of the sheet metal comes from the townships: “Corrugated iron is the essential material of the townships, and the roofing trade is the only one that the inhabitants have mastered, using solutions that we could never have invented. I steal from them, and I give it back to them!”

“tHat’S wHy i Start to reinforCe tHeir Creative rigHt” Carin Smuts also steals color from them, using it in very bright hues. It is not a question of beautifying the townships but rather of observing the same economy of means: “The inhabitants use lots of colors to ennoble the humble materials. I do as they do. I also use color in public spaces and schools when there is no money in the budget to plant and maintain gardens.” Carin Smuts is clearly less concerned with the architectural form than with organizing the various strands of the designing and building process, a process that should produce its own aesthetic. This aesthetic, which she does not control, is asserted from one project to the next, however. Has Carin Smuts spent the past 20 years building “models”? The word evokes a “completed” form. The facilities by Smuts never seem finished; moreover, they change often. Carin Smuts’s architecture brings sites together without the concealment of an envelope—it does not hide the frugality of materials but instead leaves its door open. The many multipurpose centers that she has built are in themselves an interesting concept. This somewhat fuzzy name enables CS Studio to forget functionalist programs from the West, where a school can only be a school and a sports field is exclusively for sports players; instead, the firm designs and builds sites that are less defined, more flexible, expandable, and made to accommodate a society that needs development rather than codes of practice. A project by Carin Smuts produces more cultural energy than it spends on material. If her work serves as a model, it is because of this way of treating architecture as a means rather than an end.

“arCHiteCture beCoMeS SuStainable only if it’S aPProPriateD” The micro-development process logically results in building choices. When budgets are small, it is necessary to choose: what material can be bought with the budget. Can it be found within a 30 km perimeter? Will the people know how to work with it? Carin Smuts sums up her approach with a formula: “I do local: materials, details, labor.” Throughout the projects, Carin Smuts favors the use of brick, which is inexpensive, plentiful, workable, affordable in terms of maintenance, as well as recyclable and beautiful. Using brick, she implements a “sustainable construction system,” surely the least expensive in the world: double walls separated by a slot for air and ventilated by openings. The exterior wall ensures waterproofing, while the inner wall can be delivered untreated to the users, who will do 163

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DawiD klaaSte Center laingSburg, karoo, SoutH afriCa, 2002–2005 Client: town of laingsburg architect: Carin Smuts

The Karoo is a vast semi-desert region stretching along the large plateau of South Africa, in the backcountry. The small town of Laingsburg, 280 km from Cape Town, is a stopping place along the large east-west axis linking Cape Town to Pretoria. The town was established in the 18th century as a market-garden area where travelers would stop to pick up fresh produce. More recently, this agricultural oasis delivered up a eurypterid (sea scorpion) fossil dating back to a time when the country was under water. Local myth soon turned the fossil into “giant cricket.” The Municipality of Laingsburg commissioned a multipurpose center to house the social services and foster young businesses, offering office space and studios. First, the site was selected by a project management committee made up of members of the communities, the town council, and the region. The selected site, a former rugby field in one of the old black neighborhoods, was occupied by two metal hangars and a large windmill. Carin Smuts offered to transform them into an attractive ensemble. The concept matured during collective workshops that addressed subjects as diverse as the rich local environment, the memory of the 1981 floods, the giant cricket, and even the joint role of the windmill and the train in the history and the imagination of Karoo. Carin Smuts also learned that she would find good iron craftsmen in Laingsburg. The project is structured by a new concrete ramp that leads to the upper level, passing through the windmill. Upon reaching this platform, the visitor discovers an old freight car, which has been turned into a restaurant, and then accesses a walkway leading to the hangars and to the washrooms, added to the west façade. The hangar on the south accommodates a large public hall for parties and performances, while the hangar on the north has two floors devoted to the social services and the premises for new businesses. The hangars were renovated. The roofs, redone with new sheets, were lowered in order to form overhangs shading the ground floor. The old roofs were reused for the vertical siding that protects the walkway and the upper floor of offices. The center was painted bright red in memory of the victims of the 1981 floods. The poet Diane Ferriss composed a now-famous text about that event, in which she compared the explosion of water with a red bull. The renovation of these metal hangars was embellished by ironwork, executed by Willie Bester and his apprentices. The ramps of the walkways and of the buildings were made with pieces of farming tools salvaged and assembled in baroque grids.


Obviously, this building puts on quite a show in the desert, whether paying homage to the bygone days of the railroad or bristling like a giant scorpion with its protective shells and sharp angles. This very figurative side deserves a comment. In Europe, architecture is often abstract now. In the south, it retains an iconographic role in the society. The architecture of Carin Smuts is resolutely figurative because it plays a very strong role in terms of training and identification.

general view and site plan of the center, signaled by its windmill



left and above: exterior views of the center below: façades of the center, on the side of the large access ramp and on the service-area side






above: a “model” of the center by the artist willie bester right: Plan of the center: the windmill (a) and the restaurant/freight car (b), the offices and studios (C), the village hall (e), and the bathroom block (f) below: view toward the restaurant car, set in the windmill




the interior gallery between the offices and the restaurant


→ Carin Smuts

guga S’tHebe—artS, Culture, anD Heritage village CaPe town, SoutH afriCa, 1996–1999 architect: Carin Smuts built Surface area: 800 m2 Cost of Construction: 3.5 million rands (300,000 euros)

The small world of Guga S’thebe offers an auditorium, studios for applied arts, a boutique, and a restaurant. It is built with the budget of a Cape Town house, a venture made possible by the simple construction: no excavation, few service spaces, brick walls, single-slope roofs. Carin Smuts and her representatives were able to use each square meter by putting each function in a simple box, two stories high at the most. The boxes are positioned in an arena-like configuration around a courtyard and outdoor amphitheater that they protect from the sun. Within the surrounding wall, a walkway leads to a large central foyer. The lower level accommodates a boutique that sells the work from the studios and gives access to the parterre of the auditorium and the amphitheater. The upper level leads to an interior balcony of the hall and a balcony outside the amphitheater. The boxes are assembled outside. This conserves the small public squares that expand the space and are heavily used: the boutique opens onto an atrium, musicians set up in front of the restaurant, the workshops open onto the courtyard. The potters, painters, and sculptors take over the walls and the floors, with the complete consent of the architect. To find Guga S’thebe in the slums of Cape Town, the visitor looks for the large concrete cone of the nuclear power station. From there, he or she finds the gilded cone of the auditorium, which took over as the emblem of the neighborhood.

the access gate to the center and, on the interior, the podium of the amphitheater, which is open to the sky right: the entrance on the street. at right, the golden cone of the performance hall


exterior view


→ Carin Smuts

weSbank PriMary SCHool weSbank, SoutH afriCa, 1999–2002 Client: town of kuilsrivier architect: Carin Smuts

This school hunkers down in the middle of the slums, offering space and safety to the students. The classes and offices are set in small buildings that fan out around a courtyard. They are grouped and arranged by a two-story covered gallery, in thin concrete slabs carried by columns. This arrangement allows for the protection of arriving students. On the interior, the courtyard is truly refreshing, a public space that has no equivalent in the surrounding slums and one that allows the children to frolic in safety. The pavilions are made of double brick walls, with a roof and shading device in corrugated iron. The gallery that runs around the courtyard is punctuated by concrete walls that control the security doors between two pavilions and carry the stairwells. In general, Carin Smuts has abandoned the idea of planting trees, which are expensive to put in and which often wither for lack of care. The trees are replaced here by these vertical concrete walls, which are sculptural and painted bright green. Carin Smuts used other very bright colors coming from the slums: a very bright blue and a primary yellow to showcase the formal beauty of the concrete walls.

interior view of the gymnasium


the entryway to the school


the interior courtyard, accentuated by the green walls of the stairwells below: an interior view from the upper arcade


the interior courtyard



about tHe autHorS

Marie-Hélène Contal, born in Nancy, France, in 1956, studied architecture in Nancy and political science and urbanism in Paris, taking her diploma in 1981. In 1982 she started her career guiding the greater projects of Vittel, specializing in the following years as architectural critic at Archi-Créé. In 1991 she was named state counsellor of public building projects of the ministry of Emile Biasini, guiding the cultural projects of the grands travaux up to 2001, when she was named deputy director of IFA, the French Institute of Architecture at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris. Since then she has been responsible for the scientific and didactic activities, planning nationally and internationally acclaimed expositions, symposiums, and publications, such as “Constructive Provocation” about the rational architecture school of the Austrian region Vorarlberg, a milestone in sustainable design. Her critical work on the role of the planner and architect in a contemporary urban and political context that moves toward sustainability has been published in several European countries. On behalf of the European program “EU Culture 2000” she launched the gau:di actions on sustainable architecture for the profession and the greater public, creating a biennial European student competition on sustainable design, pedagogic programs for kids, archival work on avant-garde architects’ heritage, and an international stock-exchange for architecture critics. Since 2006 she has worked on the creation of the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture on behalf of the Cité de l’Architecture of Paris and an international scientific board of specialized architecture centers and schools. In 2009 she served as curator of “International Experiences in Sustainable Architecture,” part of the exhibition “The Ecological Habitat,” at the Cité de l’Architecture in Paris.

Jana Revedin, born in Constance, Germany, in 1965, studied architecture in Buenos Aires, Princeton, and at Milan Polytechnic, where in 1991 she was awarded her diploma with a thesis entitled The Concept of Open Space in the Social Architecture of German Avant-Gardes. From 1991 she taught as Aldo Rossi’s assistant at the IUAV Venice, receiving her diploma in architecture teaching and taking her PhD with a dissertation entitled Monument and Modernity: Elements in the Construction of the Avant-Garde Town. In 1996, she created her own architectural practice in Venice and in Villach, Austria. This professional decision—to begin immediately by building a practice with a European dimension—proved decisive, giving her access to new research on sustainable architecture. Her dual Italian and rationalist German culture gives her a special eye for this movement. As an architect, Jana Revedin has a predilection for timber construction and for sustainable mixed structures, using local, recyclable materials. Her productions include passive energy housing programs and public buildings as much as renovations of historical works and interior design. With a specialization in the Early German Moderns, she has published numerous works on architecture and public spaces in the Modern Movement. In 2005 she was selected to be curator of the biennial gau:di European Student Competition on Sustainable Architecture, launched by the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine of Paris and co-produced by a European network of specialized universities. In 2006 she became creator and curator of the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, the first international architecture prize that honors sustainable design worldwide.

Thomas Herzog, born in Munich in 1941, own practice since 1971, Professor of Architecture since 1974 in Kassel, Darmstadt, and Munich; Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the Technische Universität München 2000–06; Guest Professor at Tsinghua University Beijing; Graham Professor at University of Pennsylvania (PENN). Chairman of 4th European Conference on Solar Energy in Architecture and Urban Planning 1996. Principal awards: Miesvan-der-Rohe-Prize 1981; Auguste-Perret-Prize for Technology in Architecture 1996; European Prize for “SOLARES BAUEN” 2000; Heinz-Maier-Leibnitz-Medal for excellent research 2005; European Award for Architecture and Technology 2006; International Architecture Award, Chicago, Athenaeum 2007; Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, Paris 2009. 177

about tHe winnerS

Stefan beHniSCH, gerMany Stefan Behnisch (born 1957) is the most promising European architect currently introducing state-of-the-art techniques of sustainable architecture to the USA, techniques that have already been realized in Europe. His partner for all these projects was the innovative climate engineering firm Transsolar. With projects for a laboratory building in Cambridge, MA (Genzyme Center), and one in Toronto, ON, Canada (Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research), Behnisch Architects has proven that these high standards can indeed be realized within competitive budgets and within American contexts. With the commission for the 100,000 m2 Allston Science Complex at the renowned Harvard University, Behnisch is moving to the next level of building for Ivy League schools.

fabrizio Carola, italy anD Mali Born in Naples in 1931, Fabrizio Carola is a graduate of the ENSA de La Cambre (1956) in Brussels and of the Naples Faculty of Architecture (1961). He discovered Africa in 1971 with a commission in Mali. He has continued to work primarily on that continent, in collaboration with UNESCO and many NGOs. His major works include: Kaedi Hospital in Mauritania (1984), the Center for Training and Research on building technologies suitable to the Sahel at Mopti in Mali (1995). In 1985, he founded the Napoli: Europa-Africa (N:EA) Association, which he heads. He was awarded the Aga Khan Prize in 1995. He receives frequent invitations to teach the technologies of curved surface masonry construction in Barcelona, Genoa, Brussels, Grenoble, and other European cities.

eleMental / aleJanDro aravena, CHile After graduating from the Catholic University of Santiago in 1992, Alejandro Aravena took the famous IUAV course in history and theory of architecture in Venice before returning to settle in Chile in 1994. He has taught at Harvard, in Barcelona, and now at his own alma mater. He joined the Elemental team in 2000 and became director in 2006. His personal production has been widely published and recognized: he received special mention at the Venice Biennial in 1991, was selected by Architectural Record for its list of the ten most promising architects in 2004, and won the Erich Schelling medal in 2006. Aravena has had several works of architectural theory published by Ed Arq.

françoiSe-Hélène JourDa, franCe Françoise-Hélène Jourda was recognized early in France for combining her search for architectural beauty with a sensitivity to the new fundamentals of the post-Industrial Age. As a pioneer of sustainability, she focused on the economic usage of materials and energy, new approaches to lifestyle and work procedures, and the development of towns and cities. As a result of her work as a professor and an architect in Germany and Austria, Jourda has become a central figure in the debate regarding sustainability in Europe. She maintains the idea of architectural research, open to new technologies, social trends, and urban issues. Her activism led her to found Eocité, a sustainability advisory board specializing in initiating collaboration between construction companies, local members of parliament, and citizens in the lead-up to undertaking any urban development.

balkriSHna DoSHi, inDia Balkrishna Doshi, born in 1927 in Poona, India, is a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a fellow of the Indian Institute of Architects. After initial study at the Sir J J College of Architecture, Bombay, he worked for four years with Le Corbusier as Senior Designer (1951–54) in Paris and for four more years in India to supervise his projects in Ahmedabad. His office Vāstu-Shilpā (Environmental Design) was established in 1955. Doshi worked closely with Louis Kahn and Anant Raje when Kahn designed the campus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. In 1958 he was a fellow at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Doshi has been a member of the jury for several international and national competitions, including the Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts and Aga Khan Award for Architecture.


HerMann kaufMann, auStria Born in 1955 in Reuthe, Austria, Hermann Kaufmann comes from a family with a long tradition in the carpentry business. In the parental business he became fascinated by wood as a building material but also learned about technical thinking, which fundamentally shaped his work as an architect. He graduated from the Technical University, Innsbruck, and the Technical University, Vienna. In 1983, after two years of practice, he founded his own architectural office with Christian Lenz in Schwarzach, Austria. Residential construction became his focus—especially in connection with wood and the question of energy consumption—as well as schools and public buildings. Since 2002 he has been a professor of architecture at the Technical University, Munich.

rural StuDio / anDrew freear, uSa Andrew Freear, an Englishman from Yorkshire, is a graduate of London’s Architectural Association. He practiced in London, then in Chicago, where he became Professor of Design at the University of Illinois. He then joined Rural Studio as deputy director, in charge of undergraduate studies. In 2002, he succeeded Mockbee as director of Rural Studio. In 2005, Andrew Freear received an award from the Rural Sociological Society for “Distinguished Service to Rural Life.” In 2006 he received the Ruth and Ralph Erskine Nordic Foundation Award. However, he is also keen to remain a member of the Rural Heritage Foundation in Thomaston, Alabama, and of the Volunteer Fire Department in Newbern, Alabama.

wang SHu, CHina One of the most experimental and outspoken architects of China, Wang Shu, born in 1963, surprised the world at the 2006 Architectural Biennale Venice with the Chinese contribution “Tiles Garden: A Dialogue Beyond City, Between an Architect and an Artist” in which he presented an installation of a sea of gray Chinese tiles, crossed by a bamboo bridge. Those tiles, thousands of them, came from demolition sites in China, where old structures were being replaced by new building complexes. Wang Shu shows how recycled and familiar materials (tiles and bricks) can be used in very contemporary architectural projects. His work refers to the large-scale demolition so common everywhere nowadays in China and explores how to keep up traditional modes of living in a rapidly changing context. Wang Shu is professor and head of the architecture department at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou.

PHiliPPe SaMyn, belgiuM Born in 1948, Philippe Samyn is a civil engineer (UL Bruxelles, 1971) with a master of science in civil engineering (MIT, 1973), and a civil urban design engineer (UL Bruxelles, 1973) with a degree in architecture from the La Cambre School (1985) and a PhD in structural mechanics (U. Liège, 1999). In 1980, he founded Samyn and Partners, which has become a major architectural and engineering practice in the Anglo-Saxon style. He teaches stability and structural design at La Cambre as well as teaching in the civil engineering departments at universities in Mons and Brussels. He has been a member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences, Art and Literature, since 1992. Philippe Samyn’s objective is to open up new conceptual approaches in the field of constructional ideas and efficient use of energy and materials.

Carin SMutS, SoutH afriCa Born in Pretoria in 1960, Carin Smuts is a graduate of the UCT (1984). CS Studio, the firm she founded in 1989, deals with projects of all sizes: large structures such as the Laingsburg multipurpose center or expansions to Cape Town University but also rural community hostels, community centers, and currently the project for Caledon-Helderstroom prison. An acknowledged specialist in “low-cost housing,” Carin Smuts is often called upon to work on similar sites abroad, for example, in Brazil in 2000, where she was invited by the MST Movement. She teaches in workshops at many universities in South Africa and Namibia.


illuStration CreDitS Albertina Wien, Adolf Loos Archiv 11 bottom Amateur Architecture Studio 86 top, 87 bottom, 90, 91 top, Arban, Tom 15, 19, 20 bottom Bastinc, C. & Evrard, J. 145, 147 left Bauhaus Archiv Berlin 10 top Behnisch Architekten 20 top, 22 right and left, 23 top and bottom, 24, 26 top, 27 bottom Carola, Fabrizio 97, 108 Clearey, Melanie 172/173, 174 bottom Cook, David 20 middle Coolens & Deleuil 151 top CS Studio 163, 165-167, 168 top left, 168 top right, 169 De Coninck, Jan 154 left Elemental 10 bottom, 113, 115, 118 bottom left, 120 bottom, 122/123, 124 top left, 124 top right, 124 bottom, 125-127 Gandhimurthy, Jagadishkumar 45 bottom left and right Hammer, Manfred Richard 36/37 Hermann Kaufmann ZT GmbH 63 top, 63 bottom, 64, 67 top, 69 top, 71, 72-76, 78 bottom Herzog + Partner 177 bottom Hoof, Khushnu Panthaki 30 bottom Hursley, Timothy cover illustration, 129, 131, 135, 136-138, 140 left, 141 top, 141 bottom right, 143 Jana Revedin Architetcs 177 top right, 177 top left Jourda Architectes Paris 12 middle, 49, 51, 52-57, 58 bottom Kandzia, Christian 27 top Klomfar, Bruno 61, 65/66, 67 bottom, 68, 69 bottom left, 69 bottom right, 77, 78 top, 79 Kunstbibliothek Berlin, Tessenow Archiv 12 top Lambro 161, 165 top, 168 bottom Museum of Modern Art New York, Mies van der Rohe Archive 9 top Nachrichtenamt der Stadt Köln 8 Pahad, Himansu 33, 34 bottom Pandiya, Yatin 30 top, 40 top left, 40 bottom Plissart, Marie-Françoise 147 right, 149, 152/153, 155 Rahn, Ben 21 Revedin, Jana 9 bottom, 11 top, 12 bottom and middle, 17, 26 bottom, 58 top, 59, 82/83, 97/98, 99, 101-107, 109, 111, 133, 134 top left, 134 bottom left, 139, 162, 170-171, 174 top, 175 Richters, Christian 156/157, 158 top and bottom right, 159 Rural Studio / Will Brothers, Elizabeth Ellington, Matt Finley, Leia Price 134 bottom right Rural Studio / Forrest Fulton, Adam Gerndt, Dale Rush, Jon Shumann 140 right, 141 bottom left Rural Studio / Gabe Michaud, Jared Fulton, Marion McElroy, Bill Nauck 142 left, 142 right Saillet, Erik 47, 48 Samyn and Partners 146, 150, 151 bottom, 154 right, 158 bottom left Schodder, Martin 25 Vāstu Shilpā Foundation 29, 31, 35, 38, 39, 40 top right, 41-43, 44 left, 45 top Wang Shu 81, 85, 86 bottom, 87 top, 88/89, 91 bottom, 92-95 The authors and the publisher thank the photographers, architects, and organisations for the kind permission to reproduce the photographs and drawings in this book. Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders of images. We apologize in advance for any unintentional omission and would be happy to insert the appropriate acknowledgement in any subsequent edition of the book.

51 Seine Aval cities, 51 avant-garde works in 2058. For the Yvelines general council, the Global Award for sustainable Architecture/Collection Manifeste d´Architecture du XXIème sciecle en Seine Aval is much more than international awards granted to skilled architects. Indeed, it is an esthetic and tangible symbol in order to show that sustainable development is not only interesting for preserved lands but that it is an everyday concern for all of us. This contemporary full-sized collection is meant to lead to the future, to accompany the Yvelines citizens in this inescapable and necessary change of mentalities, which concerns the places where we live, how we move-to sum up, where we feel alive. That is the reason why these awards will be granted, throughout the years, to architects who will have conceived small, innovating and ecological buildings, which are totally adapted to the needs of the cities in which these houses will be built. Every one of us must acknowledge the fact that it is no longer time for architectural excessiveness, but that it is now time for creativity and sobriety, in order to invent and experiment areas more respectful of environment. Pierre Bédier President of the Yvelines general council

51 communes de Seine Aval, 51 œuvres avant-gardistes en 2058. Pour le département des Yvelines, le Global Award for sustainable Architecture/Collection Manifeste d´architecture du XXIème siècle en Seine Aval est bien plus qu’une distinction internationale pour des architectes de talent. Ces prix sont le symbole esthétique et palpable que le développement durable n’est pas le privilège des territoires préservés, mais qu’il peut être l’affaire de tous. Cette collection contemporaine grandeur nature a pour vocation d’ouvrir la voie du futur, d’accompagner les Yvelinois dans cette révolution des mentalités inéluctable et nécessaire quant à notre manière de nous loger, de nous déplacer, en un mot de vivre. C’est pourquoi ces prix récompenseront au fil des ans les lauréats qui auront imaginé de petits bâtiments écologiques, innovants et adaptés aux besoins des communes d’accueil. Chacun d’entre nous doit prendre conscience que le temps n’est plus à la démesure architecturale, mais à la sobriété et la créativité où s’expérimentent et s’inventent des territoires plus éthiques. Pierre Bédier Président du Conseil général des Yvelines

Translation from French: Elizabeth Kugler, Boston Translation from German: From the Avant-Garde to Sustainability Julian Reisenberger, Weimar Project Management: Henriette Mueller-Stahl, Berlin Layout: Nadine Rinderer, Basel Lithography: Thomas Dillier, DillierundDillier, Basel

Selected texts in French are available at Library of Congress Control Number: 2009923706 Bibliographic information published by the German National Library The German National Library lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, re-use of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in other ways, and storage in data bases. For any kind of use, permission of the copyright owner must be obtained. © 2009 Birkhäuser Verlag AG Basel ∙ Boston ∙ Berlin P.O. Box 133, CH-4010 Basel, Switzerland Part of Springer Science+Business Media Printed on acid-free paper produced from chlorine-free pulp. TCF ∞ Printed in Germany ISBN: 978-3-7643-9938-2 987654321