Library with garden: project by Stewart Hollenstein

Stewart Hollenstein have recently been awarded an honourable mention in the international design competition for the Regional Library in Varna, Bulgaria. The competition was organised by the Varna Municipality and the Chamber of Architects in Bulgaria.

Varna is a major tourist destination located on the edge of the Black Sea and is often referred to as the summer capital of Bulgaria. The Stewart Hollenstein scheme picks up on the rich history of Varna as a city of generous public gardens, merging this with the library program. A series of stacked landscapes, each with their own distinct character, provide a multitude of indoor and outdoor spaces for library and civic activity. The library is envisioned as the heart of cultural life in the city.

The design features a Children’s floor with an adventure garden, a flexible youth zone with hammocks, mobile shelving and pot plants, a quiet study floor with native garden and a roof top events terrace with views to the city and Black Sea beyond. The ground floor is an event hub, connecting the library with the activity of the street and adjacent town hall and bringing the landscape inside. The ground plane is designed as a highly inviting and open space with every side of the library activated with public programs including exhibitions, conferences, public program rooms, café and a generous public foyer.

 

Green Towers: Residential Project by MAD

The concept of “Cloud Corridor” by Chinese architectural office MAD addresses the concern of sprawl in cities and presents a typological alternative: the high-density vertical village. By reorienting the streets vertically, nine interconnected residential towers redistribute the urban fabric to cohere disparate neighborhoods into a vertical village with public spaces and gardens in the sky. Connective corridors weave circulation between towers to foster a sense of community among residents and activate the towers as a bustling village within the city.

Proposed as an urban landmark, “Cloud Corridor” expresses a devotion to nature. Each floorplate boasts gardens to accompany residential units. The garden patios and courtyards provide a lush environment amid the surrounding urban density, and provide a retreat from the everyday among nature.  Elevated corridors and multi-level garden patios shape the city skyline and provide viewing platforms for residents to overlook the bustling activity below and the natural landscape beyond. “Cloud Corridor’s” podium dually serves as a public park and as a transportation hub. The sculpted area is covered with a grass lawn and punctuated by trees; the transformation of its massing suggest the image of rolling hills.

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.

Further information: biesboschmuseumeiland.nl and marcovermeulen.eu

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?
Schaede
: 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?

Further Information: casakaiensis.de

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.

Further Information: konradwojcik.prosite.com