Sustainable Architecture gets Sophisticated

Building green doesn’t have to mean sacrificing on style. With the drive towards sustainable design, more and more architects are applying traditional materials to their structures, redirecting contemporary design. This is the future of stylish sustainable architecture.

By Bogosi Makhene

Vedana Restaurant’s bamboo dome

Bamboo, known for its tensile strength, versatility, aesthetic prowess, and renewable properties, has been termed by Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia as “the green steel of the 21st century”. This is an attribute evident in his Bamboo Dome over the lakeside Vedana Restaurant at the Vedana Resort in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam’s largest nature reserve.

The 16-metre-high structure, the tallest dome from Vo Trong Nghia Architects, has three gabled roofs made from 36 bamboo modules, suggestive of the design of traditional Vietnamese roofs. Its most striking feature is the flower-like pattern created as the bamboo arcs intersect, beautifully achieved as a shaft of light travels through an oculus at the apex of the dome.

The Arc

The 760sqm Arc building on Bali’s Green School campus was designed by Bali-based architectural design studio IBUKU, whose ethos in design is one informed by beauty. The Arc has won numerous awards and has undoubtedly raised the bar for sustainable education. It also an engineering feat. Built from a series of 14-metre tall intersecting bamboo arches which are inter connected by anticlastic gridshells (which curve in two directions), redistributing the weight of the 19-metre construction for a magnificent ‘draping’ effect. Created by a unique strategy of generous spatial design with minimal structural impact, the harmonious flow of the gridshells are based on a three-dimensional coordinate system.

Inspired by nature, technically informed by ancestral workmanship and intersected with modern construction techniques, the structure marries geometry and materials in the most unparalleled way.

IBUKU is creating a new design vocabulary based on this one material (bamboo) and exploring the way sustainable architecture and design can redefine luxury.

The Aman Miami Beach Residence

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma’s latest work, The Aman Miami Beach Residence on Miami’s beachfront, is true to his signature style which combines tradition, design and technology. The 18-story building is elevated three stories above the ground on pillars, which are finished with vertical timber slats, creating the effect of light stilts. Inside, the atrium is made from custom wood latticework mirrors a wave overhead. The lattice further frays out like branches with undulating floor to glass windows offering uninterrupted coastal views.

Kuma’s Tsubomi Villas and Yoga Pavilions in Bali, designed around the ancient Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi (searching for beauty in imperfection) and made from glass and timber screenings, further reflect the pull towards the use of locally sourced materials, yet with unique aesthetic sensibilities.

The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library designed by Sir David Adjaye is made entirely of rammed earth, a beautifully practical, environmentally sustainable construction technique, which uses compacted natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime or gravel. In this case the rammed earth façade is achieved through the use of locally sourced compressed mud and cladding from local wood.

The design has imbued the indigenous material with modernist appeal. The structure stands as a metaphor for knowledge-based nourishment, and the eight cylindrical granary-styled forms reflect the cycles of planting, harvesting and feeding. They are given a contemporary edge by domes with apertures that are designed to re orientate light to create a distinct ambience for the aligned programmatic functions, which include a temporary exhibition space, research and special collections centre, auditorium, museum, seminar rooms and a women’s empowerment centre.

In keeping with material technology, the structure has an equally innovative energy system. State of the art photovoltaic solar panels absorb light and generate electricity through geothermal heating. The walls are able to store energy during the day and emit it back at night, serving as a heat /warming mechanism.

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