by Anmol AhujaMay 23, 2022
While discourse and search for solutions persist, the conversation around climate change and global warming seems inconsistent. Despite an alarming implication of the global crisis, the world still seems to be spiralling in the conventional means of mitigating these changes. With younger generations now stepping into the realm of protecting their future, there is a renewed interest in developing new approaches, from all industries.
While sustainability has been the word decorating every project, these past few years, its ambiguous and recurring usage, somewhere presents itself as a greenwashing strategy. In 2022, the design and architecture world ventured to break away from the meaningless usage of the term and find practical solutions to reinstate 'sustainability' as a practice with a hold. In the course of this radical move was the renewed use of energy generation in architecture. Moving away from the conventional use of solar panels on rooftops and barren land, we witnessed a multitude of possibilities for renewable energy in architecture.
In their attempt to counter climate crisis and help create a sustainable future, architects around the world approached design as an instrument for prominent change. STIR dives into five architectural projects from 2022 that employ renewable energy.
1. Google's new Bay View Campus by Heatherwick Studio and BIG
Location: Silicon Valley, California
While campus and tech multinationals seek to move away from the conventional 'floor-on-a-skyscraper' typology of workplace design, (a low-rise fortress surrounded by parking in the case of Silicon Valley) the design of Google’s new headquarters in California by two world renowned firms—Bjarke Ingels' BIG and Thomas Heatherwick's Heatherwick Studio—seems to follow up on a single question, definitively harbouring Google's design brief: How can you make the office more human?
The most striking feature of the campus perhaps—even more so than the enormous yet horizontally expansive scale of the development, its form, or its ribbed, dragon-scale like skin—is how the entire spatial program of the building is accommodated in only two floors, marking a succinct, clear distinction in functional aesthetic. The entire low-rise expanse seems to spread like a village along the site's plane, bearing semblance to the Californian landscape with the 'pitching of a tent' framing the overall appearance of the buildings in the campus. The progressive canopies capping the campus buildings and their tent-like enclosures are composed of waves of dragon-scale photovoltaic tiles, transforming energy generation systems into an incorporated design feature. At the building’s roots, North America's largest geothermal pile system forms the foundation of individual structures. Bearing testament to the scale and scope of the undertaking, the Bay View campus, comprising three of the most sustainable workplace buildings in the world, a 17.3-acre park and wetlands reserve, is only the first phase of the development.
2. The Novartis Pavillon by AMDL Circle
Location: Basel, Switzerland
"Future-orientated, innovative, open and optimistic" is how Italian architect Michele De Lucchi's AMDL Circle introduced its design for the Novartis Pavillon in Basel, Switzerland. Presenting itself as an architectural symbol, the sculptural form of the new pavilion with its technologically advanced lattice facade explores the potential of architecture to communicate the values of science. Creating an interface between the clients and visitors, the pavilion is anchored outside the perimeter of the Novartis campus, in a park designed by Gunther Vogt. While creating a place where the city connects to the pharmaceutical company—inside a ring-like configurable plan—the architects introduced flexible spaces for discussion and soaring high volumes for interactive exhibitions. Amid the many architectural marvels on the campus, the Novartis Pavillon aims to be "educational, expository, receptive, dynamic, and encourage the coming together of people."
While marking technological intervention to represent the relation between science and architecture, the Novartis Pavillon goes beyond being just a showcase for the company to a self-powered art installation. However, the initial idea of creating a circular plan stems from the architects' consideration of it as "a powerful field of psychophysical energy, a sort of sacred area where all physical and spiritual forces are concentrated."
3. ECHO, TU Delft’s new campus by UNStudio
Location: Delft, The Netherlands
Global architectural firm UNStudio leads by example with their recently completed project ECHO, the new energy-generating interfaculty teaching building at TU Delft in the Netherlands. Future flexibility and wellbeing of the university building's users were considered key aspects driving the ethos of the project, from getting maximum daylight to generating clean energy on its own, as well as ensuring the cleanest air quality for students and faculty alike. A healthy building promotes a healthy sense of being, physically, psychologically, and socially.
Five years in the making (2017-2022), ECHO is being heralded as the most sustainable building at the Technical University Delft, contributing to the university’s ambitions to operate as a fully sustainable campus by 2030. Harvesting and producing more energy than it consumes, ECHO combats the growing number of students and their need for more educational space with its multifaceted design, meeting the acclaimed Dutch university's requirement for extra teaching spaces "now and in the future." The Dutch architects relay that the project "transcends current learning environments (as) a model for new ways of learning and for future campus buildings."
4. Rain Harvest Home by Robert Hutchison Architecture and JSa Arquitectura
Location: Temascaltepec, Mexico
Rooted in and heavily influenced by its dramatic, breathtaking and verdant location, the Rain Harvest Home known as Casa Cosecha de Lluvia in Temascaltepec, Mexico, conceived as a collaboration between Robert Hutchison Architecture and JSa Arquitectura reveals itself as a society of three distinct forms, a main residence, a detached art studio, and a bathhouse, that has rainwater harvesting at the core of its distinct architecture. A sustainable and off-grid haven, Rain Harvest Home displays a picturesque and sturdy example of what sustainable architecture defined strictly by context can be, and how the built can form symbiotic friendships with its surroundings.
Residing in the mountains a couple of hours west of Mexico City, the unassuming project encompasses permaculture principles to establish an all-inclusive, integrated relationship between people and place. “Here, as in the surrounding region of Central Mexico, water has become an increasingly precious resource as temperatures rise and populations increase. Although the region sees a robust rainy season, rainwater harvesting is not common; instead, pumping in water from distant watersheds is standard practice. Rain Harvest Home takes a different tack, proposing an integrated approach to designing regeneratively with water,” shares Javier Sanchez, who is also the client. Currently a family retreat, the project will transition to a permanent residence soon.
5. The Sun Rock by MVRDV
Location: Taichung, Taiwan
Amid efforts to mitigate the climate crisis and global warming, Taiwan is aiming towards a planned transition to green energy. Building on the East Asian country’s ambitious aim of a clean energy spree through 2030, Rotterdam-based architecture firm MVRDV shapes a built manifesto for the government-owned power company, Taipower. The Sun Rock will represent in fullness, the company’s aim for a carbon-free future by focusing on generating clean solar energy as efficiently as possible. A literal translation of its moniker, Sun Rock is imagined as a smooth, boulder-like form wrapped almost entirely in photovoltaic panels. The sustainable architecture is aptly described as "a manifesto in a building,” and will house an operation facility containing offices, a maintenance workshop, storage spaces, and a public gallery.
The site situated at the Changhua Coastal Industrial Park, near Taichung, receives a substantial amount of solar exposure throughout the year. Designed to maximise the absorption of sunlight, the structure slopes gently on its southern side, with a visibly bulbous dome rising towards the north. The resulting form facilitates maximum possible area to harness solar energy throughout the day, according to the Dutch architects. Layering on the efficient form of the building (estimated to reach completion by 2024) is the innovative façade design dressed almost entirely in solar panels.
- AMDL Circle
- Art Installation
- Best of 2022
- Bjarke Ingels
- Climate Crisis
- Dutch Architect
- Facade Design
- Global Warming
- Heatherwick Studio
- Interactive Exhibitions
- Italian architect
- Mexico City
- Michele De Lucchi
- Renewable Energy
- Silicon Valley
- Solar Energy
- Solar Panel
- Sustainable Architecture
- The Netherlands
- Thomas Heatherwick
- UN Studio
- Workplace Design