by STIRworldJul 08, 2022
Of the many realisations that came with the pandemic, among the most relevant would be how important the relation between humanity and nature is. Every book, article, and talk in the wake of this unprecedented event discussed how we sought to reconnect and go back to nature. As sustainability as a buzzword picks up in nearly all industries, even more so in a post-pandemic age, travel and tourism, along with their latent costs to the environment (especially air travel), remain among the biggest contributors to excessive consumption and ecosystem disruption in various parts of the world. So while sustainable travel seems to be the need of the hour, including more sustainable conveyances and means of travel along with encouraging sustainable local practices, it would seem imperative to imbue the same notion to the sizeable architectural and infrastructure developments happening in these zones in the wake of rising tourist influx. The question here: can sustainable notions of architecture, materialised in tourist-frequented lands, contribute to the realisation of sustainable travel? Adding to this extensive dialogue between both these realms, the Swedish marque well-known for its revolutionary electric vehicles steps forward with a full-scale, inhabitable, realisation of a design contest submission that reimagines sustainable travel. With KOJA micro space tree house, Polestar extends its efforts of sustainability from the sphere of car manufacturing to the realm of architecture.
Designed by the Finnish designer Kristian Talvitie, the concept of the tree house, responding to the theme of ‘progress’, received an honourable mention in the 2021 Polestar Design Contest. Ahead of the launch of the 2022 contest, Polestar breathed life into Talvitie’s design, KOJA - Swedish for hut or den - realising it in the village of Fiskars. Nestling in the enchanting woodlands of the art and design hub in southwestern Finland, the tree house addresses the issue of sustainable travel by proposing reducing the need to travel long distances to connect with nature. “Most designers look at design from a user perspective. I also look at things from the environment’s perspective. There should be a symbiosis between design and where it’s encountered,” shares the designer of KOJA, Kristian Talvitie on the genesis of the thought, introducing a modular solution that could allow tourists to seek their escapes closer home.
That, of course, doesn’t take away from the desire of travelling at large and visiting exotic places along far flug corners of the globe, but what it does is introduce an alternative for short getaways amidst idyllic settings that may significantly cut down on travel costs, fuel consumption, and the ecological burden on sensitive ecosystems. This holds especially true for urban and peri-urban dwellers.
At a quick glance, the deceptive appearance of the main structure that is attached to the tree and remains floating above the ground draws striking resemblance to a spaceship descending amid the murky forests. While anchored to the ground through a flight of stairs and the tree that goes through the middle of the structure, KOJA seeks to provide an immersive experience of the natural environment. The panoramic glazed façade and skylights maximise the view from the treetop along with bringing in ample daylight. Though the dark wooden exterior of the structure seems to blend into the trees, the curved transparent front is illuminated with a warm interior lighting design to present the structure as an un-earthly glowing body. Bringing together the values of sustainability and the distinct design language of the Swedish car brand, KOJA uses eco-friendly and durable materials, such as locally sourced wood and wool. “KOJA connects to the growing micro space trend, and this tree house is accessible for people who would otherwise take a much longer trip to experience the wilderness,” states Polestar in an official release.
In realising a concept that contrasts with and complements its natural environment - simply by virtue of being a human intervention on a natural site, albeit in a homogenous composition - , Talvitie worked alongside the Polestar Design team in Gothenburg, Sweden, and with his colleagues at the Finnish Design agency, Ultra. “We were fascinated by the idea and how it translates our brand values into a different environment. That was key for us, and we were so impressed that we decided to build it,” states the Head of Design at Polestar, Maximilian Missoni. KOJA is the first submission from the Polestar Design contest to be built in reality. It is also a part of the exhibition during Fiskars Village Art and Design Biennale, House by an Architect, open from May to September 2022.
(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)