Green Sculpture: The Biesbosch Museum in the Netherlands

For most visitors, the Biesbosch Museum is the starting point for exploring the Biesbosch National Park. Like a green sculpture the museum has been completely transformed and extended with a new wing by Studio Marco Vermeulen.

Both the new wing of the museum and existing volume are designed to minimize energy consumption. On cold days, a biomass stove maintains the building at the right temperature through floor heating. On warm days, water from the river flows through the same piping to cool the building. Sanitary wastewater is purified through a willow filter: the first in the Netherlands. The old and new sections of the museum are surrounded by earthworks and covered with a roof of grass and herbs. The roof adds ecological value, creating a sculptural object that reads as land art and, at the same time, manifests itself in the surrounding landscape.

Water safety was the key reason for the development of the Biesbosch Museum Island. As part of a national water safety programme, the 4450-hectare Noordwaard polder has been turned into a water-retention area. The Museum Island, which will be realized in the spring of 2016, is a freshwater tidal park that receives river water through a newly dug creek. A meandering path provides access to the island, which continuously changes in appearance because of the changing water levels.

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3 Questions to: Kai Schaede (CasaKaiensis)

The houses from Meike Wachholz and Kai Schaede look just like out of a fantasy film or a fairy tale. The two craftsmen are from Herford in Germany and make wooden houses for gardens since 2010. There is no catalogue for these custom-made constructions. Every single house is a unique craft and is individually planned with the customer.

Mr. Schaede, your houses seem to be all twisted and askew, why is that?
: They not only seem to be askew, they are! But only in moderation. You shouldn’t take it too far, because there is only a slim line between art and kitsch.

Of course it is the unusual appearance of the houses that stands out. There are associations to fairy tales or fantasy films. But that has never been my intention. Such images are more of a distraction than an inspiration. Most of my inspiration comes when I am right at the spot of the future house. There are so many details that only work when they are fitted to the surroundings, lots of small things that you can’t imagine while planning it out in the office.

The interiors are also quite interesting. The angular walls offer much more usable space than straight walls, without diminishing the base area with cupboards or shelves, those are integrated into the walls.

We are trying to create a space that lets the people grow instead of wither, where you can spend your time in a healthy way. A space where calmness can unfold.

Is it more difficult to build a “crooked” house compared to the normal, rectangular style?

Schaede: Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it? For a normal house you need two angles: 90 degrees and 45 degrees. That’s enough to create all the parts for construction. Our houses are different and there is much more calculating. It is especially difficult when the roof is twisted around itself. But after a while all this puzzling becomes a routine. So, for me it’s easy! Technical problems that arise can always be solved. It is much harder to create unique aesthetics.

Who are your customers and what ideas and requests do they have?
Schaede: Usually the authorities are women, who drag their husbands with them. At first they don’t have specifics other than wanting a CasaKaiensis in their garden.

Then we have a look at the site and by speaking with the customers we can develop a concept for the house. Usually I will show some sketches to the customers and together we work something out. Sometimes I realize really weird ideas of the customers for example a folding roof that can open up when the owner is sitting in the loft and wants to enjoy the view over his garden.

If it is a larger house I am constructing I have an architect at hand who creates a detailed construction drawing. Of course there are certain construction rules that I have to meet, but the building control authorities have fortunately no influence over how I bring my houses to life. If they would only allow the things that they already know, then how would the world of CasaKaiensis look like?

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Primeval Symbiosis: Eco-Friendly Living Among the Trees

Compared to natural life, the humans have a very short history on this planet. Plants and trees have been around for billions of years, mankind not even for a million years. In this short time we have left a heavy impact on nature. Increasing population leads to the destruction of natural habitats and to the creation of concrete metropolises. Some effects of this are air and water pollution and the vanishing of natural soil. In order to minimise the damage done to the environment new ideas for alternative ways of living are needed.

The young architect Konrad Wójcik might have found one possibility for people to live comfortably in nature by only leaving a minimal ecological footprint. His project Primeval Symbiosis is based on dwelling units that are inspired by the functionality and structure of trees. For many animals trees are the optimal shelter against cold and hot weather as well as predators; at the same time they provide food and energy. Usually when we think about a tree-house for people we think about a construction that is in a tree, but Wójcik designed so called Single Pole Houses that are formed like trees and can be individually erected in forests or other natural areas. The geometrical form reminds of a triangular fir tree and inside there is room enough for two people to live on four floors. The house is based on a stem-like pole that makes the smallest possible imprint in the forest floor and serves as stabiliser, technical core and as geothermal energy source. The “roof” is equipped with solar cells and the lower parts function as rain water reservoir and bio waste digester ­– making the construction fully independent of external energy sources.

The idea is to erect groups of Single Pole Houses approximately a few hundred meters apart from each other. Potential target groups are environment conscious people and families, as well as tourists or property-sharing groups. Also, they could be erected in nature reserves as research stations.

The layouts of the Primeval Symbiosis project look very promising and one might hope that there will be a proper realisation in the near future.

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Green Islands in the City: 25 Ideas for Urban Gardens

Kamel Louafi is a German-Algerian landscape architect. He gained international fame by designing and implementing the garden areas for the world fair EXPO 2000 in Hannover, Germany. Other works of him are gardens in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi-Arabia as well as the redesign of the Königsplatz in Kassel and the Opernplatz in Hannover. Louafi published several books about landscape architecture and landscape art.

Louafis latest book is called “Green Islands in the City”: 25 landscape architects as well as an architect outline their ideal vision of an urban garden. The approaches show the motivation and engagement of the experts who are specialists in the fields of urbanization and planning of green spaces. The visions and ideas for the development of enjoyable green cities presented here are plentiful and diverse, but all driven by common goals. The text passages in “Green Islands in the City” are in German, English, French and Arab languages. The book can be ordered ov

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Raising Green Walls: Deltaflore by Pawlica Design

Deltaflore is a new way of bringing green walls into homes.  A triangular module system allows it to create different combinations depending on the size of the wall and the desired shape.

Even green railings are possible by stacking the tiles next to each other. The plants that grow out of the organic shaped holes in the tiles are nurtured by an integrated irrigation system and a natural substrate. 

The French designer Benjamin Pawlica made the Deltaflore modules from durable concrete and in many different colours. They can be applied inside the house as well as outdoors.

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