Solar Powered Theatre in France is a Real Feat in Engineering

The Japanese architect Shigeru Ban recently completed a very interesting and innovative theater building in Paris, France. Shigeru Ban is well known for pushing the envelope when it comes to architectural design, as well as for his humanitarian design work, and this theatre is no exception. It features a wall of solar panels, which is movable so that it can follow the sun all day.

Ban created the Seine Musicale theatre building in collaboration with French architect Jean de Gastines. It is located in the western suburbs of Paris, on the Île Seguin. The round building can seat 5,500 and contains two separate main halls, five recording studios, several practice rooms, as well as a huge rooftop garden that is planted with more than a dozen different tree species.

However, the really impressive part of the building is the 200-ton and 147-foot (45-meter) movable “sail” covered in solar panels. It is a heliotropic surface, which is capable of automatically tracking the path of the sun at a rate of 16 feet (5 meters) per minute. In this way the solar power generation of the array is maximized, while the “sail” also provides shading for the interior. It is definitely a feat in sustainable design, and Ban hopes in time the building will become one of the world famous symbols of Paris, alongside the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre pyramid.

The theater has a timber structure, which is robust enough to support its glass skin. The ceiling of the 1,150-seat classical music auditorium is made out of hexagonal elements that satisfy the acoustic demands of building such a structure. It is covered with an array of tubes that are made from wood, cardboard and paper, while weaved wooden slats cover the walls.

This project took four years to complete, and it is a great example of how cutting edge technology can be used to make our buildings more sustainable. Hopefully more future projects will incorporate such innovative solutions.

Pop-Up Hostel Coming Soon to the Welsh Countryside

The firm Miller Kendrick Architects of London, UK recently completed a unique pop-up cabin in the Welsh Countryside. It’s called Arthur’s Cave and was the winning entry in a recent Wales’s Year of Legends festival, which invited designers to come up with proposals for mini-hostels to be built in Wales. Arthur’s Cave draws inspiration from the legend of King Arthur who according to folklore once took refuge in a cave in the area.

The cabin is very small and cave-like. It features a small living area, a bathroom and a den-like bedroom in the back. It has an undulating rib structure and sheathing made of CNC-cut birch plywood. Each section of the ribs is made up of many smaller pieces, which are joined together by jigsaw joints. A small woodstove is also installed in the cabin and takes care of the heating needs. The cabin also has hot and cold running water, and LED lighting throughout. Power comes via an array of solar panels while it is also equipped with a composting toilet. In other words, it functions off-the-grid.

The cabin is located in Castell y Bere and the materials used to build it were sourced locally. They include dark-stained larch boards from the nearby Esgair Forest, which were milled in Machynlleth . They also used sheep’s wool for insulation and they obtained this material from the town of Ty-Mwar.

This first Arthur’s Cave will soon be a part of a popup hostel, along with eight other cabins like it. The hostel is set to open later this summer, and will offer a comfortable, sustainable and unique glamping experience. There is no word on what the prices to rent one of these cabins will be.

A Former Factory Worker’s Cottage Converted into a Home

Renovating an existing building can sometimes be the greenest choice, and this revamping of a traditional worker’s cottage into a modern family home is certainly a prime example of this. The renovation was carried out by the Australian firm A For Architecture and the home is located in Melbourne, Australia. The house was once the home of a local factory worker and was built in the middle of the nineteenth century, along with hundreds of others just like it.

The original layout of the house featured many small rooms, and consequently a lot of walls. They started the renovation by first taking down a number of these dividing walls, to make the spaces more open. They kept the two bedrooms, which are located at the front of the house, but they moved the bathroom from the rear to the middle of the home, where it is now located next to the laundry room and a storage space. It was completely redone and is quite large, featuring a sink, shower and toilet. A third bedroom is located just above it.

The living area is at the rear of the home and opens onto the back garden. They also installed several skylights into the roof here to let in even more natural daylight. Apart from having a good connection to the garden, the clients also wished for a layout that would allow for both privacy, as well as spaces where the family could spend time together.

For this reason the architects kept the original layout of the bedrooms in the front, while the rest of the home is now basically one large space. Glazing was installed along the entire back wall of the home, which together with the many skylights makes the interior appear spacious, aids ventilation and lets in lots of light. They kept the existing brick walls, but added timber and concrete during the renovation to make it more robust and give the home that modern, industrial aesthetic.

All in all, this is a great renovation of an old building, and they managed to keep heaps of material out of the landfill while transforming it into a lovely family home.

The World’s Largest Vertical Garden Rises in Colombia

Green facades, or just adding some greenery to city buildings, help purify the air and make the cityscape that much more beautiful. Adding living greenery to our urban buildings in the form of vertical gardens not only helps to make cities more beautiful, but also serves the practical purpose of producing extra oxygen and cleaning the air. One great example of such a vertical forest is the Santalaia building in Bogotá, Colombia, which is also the world’s tallest vertical garden.

The Santalaia is a residential building which rises 9 stories high (with 2 stories below ground) and covers 33,550 square feet (3,117 square meters). It is the brainchild of biologist and botanist Ignacio Solano of Paisajismo Urbano, who worked with green roof design firm Groncol to create this gem. The garden consists of more than 115,000 plants, which are of 10 different species, including Hebe Mini, rosemary, asparagus fern, vincas and spathiphyllum that come from Colombia’s western coast. These plants cover practically the entire exterior of the building.

The plants are irrigated with the help of the so-called “F+P” hydroponic system, which is patented by Paisajismo Urbano. It is made up of pillars, that each supports a segment of greenery. These are irrigated by 42 irrigation stations to keep the plants growing. The water used comes from the residents’ bathrooms. The irrigation system is also fitted with humidity and radiation sensors that help in optimizing water consumption.

They estimate that the vertical forest produces oxygen for 3000 people, while helping to offset the carbon footprint of about 700 people. It also helps to filter out the emissions of 745 cars. Because of this, they are calling the tower a “living building” and it is quite fitting. It also brings some much needed nature into the densely populated city, and more cities around the globe should consider the addition of such vertical gardens to their skyline.

Capsule Hotel Makes Layovers More Comfortable at an Italian Airport

Flying is anything but great for the environment, but it has become pretty much unavoidable. It has also become a lot less comfortable than it used to be just 20 years ago. Prices have gone up, seats have gotten smaller, and layovers can sometimes last a day if we wish to book the cheapest possible flight. During these layovers, a lot of people opt to sleep somewhere in the airport instead of booking a hotel, which together with transportation to and from the airport can get pricy. These kinds of sleeping arrangements are usually not very comfortable. Not so at the Naples International Airport though.

The local design firm Carlotta Tartarone and Studiotre has created and installed the so-called Bed and Boarding (or BenBo) capsule hotel in the Naples airport. The idea came from the Japanese capsule hotels located at Tokyo airport that offer cheap, basic accommodation to travelers. The BenBo is located right at the airport, and never closes. The pods it’s made up of can be rented out to get some sleep in between legs of travel, or for just an hour to shower and change before continuing on with the journey.

Each capsule measures 43 sq ft (4 sq m) and is equipped with an automated door and soundproof walls. The furnishings in each capsule are basic and include a bed, storage cabinets, a mirror, a workstation, and free Wi-Fi. Two of the capsules are also wheelchair-accessible. Each guest has access to a private bathroom with shower, which is not attached to the capsule they are renting. Part of the hotel is also a well-lit common space, which effectively ties the capsules together and provides a space where guests can socialize or work.

As for the prices, you can rent a BenBo capsule for $9 for the first hour, $8 for the second hour, while a 9-hour stay will set you back $28. Future plans include building similar hostels at the airports in Rome, Bergamo and Palermo. They are also planning to enlarge the current BenBo hostel in Naples to include 30 two-room capsules.