24.2.09

Zhuhai - A green city in China

Recently we stumbled upon a really interesting article from Efficiency Freak regarding the efforts of Zhuhai, a city with its very own international airport and a formula one track, only an hour away from the cosmopolitan Hong Kong.
Welcome to Zhuhai, a city full of all the madness of modern China, and some of the hopes.

Zhuhai was what China cliche-lovers would call a “sleepy fishing village” (it had the same population as Oxford) before it had the fortune to be chosen as one of the special economic zones in the early 1980s.

Its incredible mayor, Liang Guangda, wanted to create a city unlike the get-polluted-and-rich-quick model, he wanted Zhuhai to become a serious international city, so he encouraged universities to open franchises here.
He also built great parks, a golf course, the international airport and the formula one track (but he annoyed Beijing in the process, so the last two are hardly ever used).

The city is, by Chinese standards, beautiful with tree-lined avenues and an incredible sea-front, which puts Hong Kong’s dire efforts to shame.
He shunned much of the low-budget filth-spewing factories that ruin southern China’s air quality and insisted on top notch computer companies which would encourage the city’s graduates from the six universities — the campuses of which are located in an incredible mountain setting — to stay and develop the city. And so the air is far cleaner than its near neighbours.
However, there are signs that some of this good work is being undone and the city is becoming more famous as a seedy tourist destination and is also getting ready for the
futile Zhuhai-Macau-HongKong bridge.
But his example shows, as ever, that brave visionaries can make an enormous difference. The city is far from an eco-model, but it beats the filthy skies of Dongguan and the pipe dreams of grandiose publicity schemes such as Dongtan.

20.2.09

Casa Batllo - Gaudi

Gaudi, has always been one of my personal favorite architects and his work never seizes to amaze me. This absolutely unique residence “Casa Batllo” or “Casa dels Ossos” currently open as a museum, was restored and remodelled by Gaudi for a wealthy Barcelona Aristocrat.
A remarkable combination of organic formations, irregular oval windows, flowing sculpted stone work, ceramic tiles and an arched roof , synthesize one of Gaudi’s exceptional masterpieces.
Take a deep breath and enjoy the pictures….

18.2.09

Xeritown - A sustainable City in Dubailand

Xeritown, a small development with a focus on sustainability, will attempt to work­ town squares, shops and living spaces into the desert climate, using efficient design techniques to cut down on the use of heat, water and energy.
Proposed to be built in the emerging Dubailand, a new extension of Dubai, the master plan of Xeritown consists of a number of dense urban clusters located within the landscape.
Designed to work in harmony with the environment of the region through site specific and climate sensitive architecture and planning, X–Architects and SMAQ, desided to built Xeritown across a north-south axis to exploit the cool breezes blowing in off the sea while the hot desert breeze is blocked out.
Inhabitants of Xeritown will also be protected by the dangerous desert sun since most of the buildings will be tall enough to block out the sun for most of the day, and walkways leading along shops and homes will have significant overhangs, so people can walk in almost complete shade. In places where buildings don't block out the sun, big flat circles that look a little like large masses of lily pads will hang over walkways.
The town will encourage a pedestrian-orientated lifestyle, and only two-lane streets will be made to significantly reduce the number of vehicles and pollution.
The architects were not just thinking about environmental sustainability, when working on Xeritown, they were also thinking about social sustainability and how different types of families, people of different ages, different incomes and different ethnicities could live in harmony.
The result? A town comfortable, enjoyable to live in and with streets that are built for people not cars.

14.2.09

Harmonia 57 - Green Building Sao Paulo

Now is the time for architects to put their green marks on this planet and establish sustainable living as the new way of doing things.

A great example of how we can accomplish that, one building at a time, is the Harmonia 57, an office building, designed by Triptyque, a French-Brazilian architecture firm.
Harmonia is a building that “breathes, sweats; grows new skin and modifies itself.” in a west side neighborhood, in Sao Paulo. Full of planted “pores” and a complete misting system, Harmonia 57 will soon be covered externally by a green layer that will become the ever-changing skin of the structure.
The building will harvest rainwater to be used and reused to mist the plants growing in the porous organic concrete, through pipelines visible in the exterior walls that embrace the structure like veins and arteries of a body.
The fa├žade of Harnomia 57 is surely a unique addition to Sao Paulo’s SoHo where artistic life and creativity penetrate easily and galleries and walls are mixed up, functioning as a stage for new expression forms.
We are expecting more initiatives like this one, one at a time. It just might be enough!

10.2.09

Zaha Hadid - Regium Waterfront Museum Italy

When you want your city to be referred to as the cultural capital of the Mediterranean you need something that would get international attention.
That’s exactly what the city of Reggio Calabria did when they assigned Zaha Hadid with the development of the Regium Waterfront, a museum and a multifunctional block that will include a shops, cinemas, a gym and even local craft laboratories!
The location (and a sea star…) was all Zaha needed to get inspired since it provided a great opportunity for creating two really peculiar constructions. The two buildings will sit on the narrow sea strait separating continental Italy from Sicily and will be visible from the Sicily coast and the sea.
Another exploration of organic formations has just begun and the Mediterranean will be proud to bare the mark of such a future forward building!

6.2.09

Renzo Piano Designs the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center athens, greece – detail images courtesy of renzo piano building workshop

SNFCC, a new urban icon and an emissions neutral facility in line with the highest standards of environmental sustainability, will be housing the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera.
SNFCC has been designed by, one of the masters of sustainable architecture, Renzo Piano and is scheduled to open its 187.000 sqm’s to the public in 2015, at the Faliron Delta area in Athens. The cost of its development is estimated at approximately 450 million USD.
The SNFCC, will be entirely financed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and once completed it will be turned over the Greek State thus becoming the first public-private endeavour of its kind in Greece.

Including the latest in environmentally progressive facilities, a roof with a series of interconnected photovoltaic cell panels, which will take advantage of the pure 'green' solar and wind energy covering the building’s needs and the incorporation of the see into the design, SNFCC will become a landmark of sustainable architecture in Greece.
For more on Renzo Piano, in Future Architecture:

4.2.09

Zira Island - Eco Community in Azerbaijan

Danish architects BIG Architects and Ramboll engineers have designed the masterplan for an incredible eco-community, carbon-neutral resort and residential development on Zira Island in Azerbaijan.
The architectural proposal was inspired by the country’s dramatic natural setting and the main goal was to create an organic skyline that merges buildings with the natural topography of the island.
The 10.8 million square feet eco resort, will be located in the bay of the capital city Baku, only a ferry ride away from a growing metropolis so dependent on oil and will set an example by making effective use of solar heat panels, photovoltaic cells, waste water and rainwater collection, and an offshore wind farm.
According to BIG, the development aims to be “entirely independent of external resources” an ambitious goal that will be achieved through a mix of traditional Azerbaijani building tradition and new technologies.
Developing sustainable communities around the world, like
Masdar and Dongtan, has become the new norm in architectural development and should be continuously encouraged in every way.

2.2.09

Masdar City - Foster + Partners

In February 2008, Masdar (which means “the source” in Arabic) will break ground on the six-square-kilometer city that its backers say will be the first zero-pollution, zero-waste city. The city will be capable of housing 47,500 people, who are scheduled to start moving there in 2009. Construction is expected to take 10 years.
The vision of the city, designed by Foster and Partners, is to be a model for sustainable architecture.

A solar-photovoltaic power plant will deliver energy to buildings. Builders also envision using solar canopies that provide shade, as well as power.
The city will be placed to take advantage of the cool sea breezes, while a perimeter wall around the entire city will protect buildings from the hot desert air and noise from the nearby Abu Dhabi airport. No cars will be allowed in the city. People will get around through an electric light-rail system that will be linked to the center of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
A desalination facility will be 80 percent more efficient than existing plants, and all wastewater will be purified and recycled to grow plants that could be used for biofuels.

Masdar City will be the home of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which backers hope will attract some of the best academics from the around the world. Also envisioned are research and development facilities from multinational companies and start-ups in the clean technology area.

CNET News, dated 18/01/2008 http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-9853581-54.html