by Nivedita Jayaram PawarMar 24, 2021
Australian architect Koichi Takada has presented a progressive vision for the future for architecture, addressing the current climate emergency that the world is facing. Followed by a speech in October 2020 given by the president of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, Bloomberg Green opened its way towards what they call the ‘new European Bauhaus movement’ that would have ‘its own aesthetics, blending design and sustainability’. Since the Bauhaus movement that occurred a hundred years ago, reshaping the architecture of the West through its modernist designs, this new movement aims to help create a new common aesthetic born out of the urgent need to combat climate change.
Three architects known for their focus on sustainability; Koichi Takada, De Smedt, and Casper Mork-Ulnes, were invited to present their proposals by Bloomberg Green. The brief was to choose a place in Europe to design a single-family home that would suit the climate, and that it should produce more energy than it utilises.
“For the Bauhaus, form followed function, but here we say form follows nature,” says Takada. The original Bauhaus, an early 20th century collective of designers and craftspeople, has been the core ideology behind much of what we recognise today as modern architecture. “For the future of the planet we must shift from industrial to natural. We need a kinetic, living architecture that respects the environment while enhancing the wellbeing of the humans who inhabit it,” says Takada.
Deriving inspiration from nature, Takada’s response to this challenge is the design of the Sunflower House, a Carbon Positive single-family dwelling inspired by the distinctive yellow flower and powered by the sun. The house has been designed for the Italian region of Umbria, renowned for its rolling farmland and yellow fields of sunflowers, where heat waves have become more frequent and extreme. Elevated from the ground to minimise interference with the biodiversity of its surroundings, the solar panels on its petaled roof have been designed to rotate on sensors for maximum sun exposure.
The structure of the Sunflower House is to rotate around a central ‘stem’ to follow the sun, allowing the moving ‘disc florets’ to produce up to 40 per cent more energy than static panels. Energy that may not used could be fed onto the grid or stored in battery ‘seeds’ and rainwater is to be collected and used for irrigation and toilet flushing. The perimeter around the roof would shade the windows below and would aid in ventilation. A secondary rotating mechanism over the glass walls shall protect the building from solar radiation.
“Climate change must be a catalyst for positive change, beginning with our humble homes,” says the Tokyo-born architect based in Sydney. “Artificial structures require large foundations but with sunflowers, nature achieves a beautiful balancing act,” says Takada. “There is minimum intervention on the ground so the earth has room for other activities, yet the sunflower magically nods its head to bathe in the light. The Italian word girasole, which literally means ‘turn to the sun’.”
Every floor of the Sunflower House will host a two- or three-bedroom apartment, and each building can be as high as three stories. Scalability opens up the possibility of creating a climate-positive neighbourhood inspired by the sunflower fields.
“Designers and architects talk about drawing inspiration from nature in an aesthetic sense but we must go much deeper than that,” says Takada. “It is not just about making a building appear visually natural, it is about creating positive environmental change in the homes we live in, the neighbourhoods we work and play in, and ultimately the planet we are privileged to inhabit.”
Name of the project: Sunflower House
Client: Bloomberg Green
Architects: Koichi Takada Architects
Location: Le Marche, Italy
Building type: Single-family dwelling
CGI: Doug and Wolf