Architecture that doesn’t only live in nature but is made of it


By Allison Meier
August 11, 2014, Hyperallergic

Inspired by bird nests or vanishing building techniques, architecture based on natural materials is an expanding focus in both sculpture garden and urban landscape. The 2007 Natural Architecture book compiled some of the practitioners of bamboo building and structural weaving, and this month Natural Architecture Now: New Projects from Outside the Boundaries of Design by Francesca Tatarella continues the dialogue.

Released by Princeton Architectural Press, it includes 25 studios and over 50 projects. From Patrick Dougherty’s branch weaving to Roberto Conte’s layered stick fences, Natural Architecture Now demonstrates the diversity of how to build sustainably, albeit fleetingly. As Tatarella writes in the preface, the structures “speak to a different concept of time” as they “are by definition temporary; while visiting them, we cannot help but be reminded that sooner or later, the branches and leaves that form their outer shells will rot and be absorbed back into the landscape, just as stones will fall from foundations and, over the ages, be worn away until they are just pebbles.”

While they exist, however, they can engage with our relationships with nature. Concrete and glass buildings have little to do with geography, yet when Alfio Bonanno uses branches washed up on Lake Simcoe’s shores in southern Ontario, there’s an immediate resonance of place. The book includes some projects designed to interact with nature, such as Ants of the Prairie’s “Bat Tower” as part of Joyce Hwang’s Pest Architecture series to give a home to the much maligned creatures, and Yolanda Gutiérrez‘s “Sanctuary (Santuario)” of curves of woven reeds designed to encourage birds to nest near Mexico City. Porky Hefer Design, meanwhile, takes inspiration right from natural designs, particularly the nests of weaver birds which are replicated on a large scale as structures in South Africa. Read more…

Rebel architects: building a better world

Nigeria Floating Structure

By Aaron Millar  
August 9, 2014, The Observer

Working on the fringes of the law, rebel architects are trying to improve people’s lives in tough areas. From floating homes to disaster-proof houses and bamboo domes, Aaron Millar meets the men and women building for their communities.

Buildings affect us. They reflect our cultural values and mould our behaviour. “We shape our dwellings,” Winston Churchill said, “and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” Yet in recent times appearance has been admired over purpose, aesthetics over social need.

That may be set to change. Santiago Cirugeda, a subversive architect from Seville, has shunned the glamour, and financial security, of luxury office space for the architecture of activism. In austerity-hit Spain, 500,000 new buildings lie derelict, unemployment is high and funding for community initiatives is minimal. Pulling these threads together, Cirugeda and his team – often working on the fringes of the law – use rapid building techniques, recycled materials and volunteer labour on abandoned municipal land for projects that people need.

In the waterside slums of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 480,000 residents face the threat of displacement as the government seeks to redevelop their land, claiming urban renewal is necessary for economic development. But Kunlé Adeyemi has an alternative solution. He envisages a city of floating homes that would allow residents to remain within their community, and safe from rising tides, while at the same time improving the quality of their lives.

In Pakistan, Yasmeen Lari is applying skills learned building vast commercial structures and restoring historic national monuments to help communities at risk from flood and earthquake damage. She has built more than 36,000 safe homes and won the UN Recognition Award in the process.

But perhaps most striking of all are the buildings of the Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia. Since the economic boom of the 2000s, population – and pollution – in the country has soared. Only 2.5% of Ho Chi Minh City is “green space” and nine in 10 children under five suffer respiratory illness. Nghia is combatting these problems with green architecture: buildings infused with living plants and trees. “Vietnamese cities have lost their tropical beauty,” he says. “For a modern architect the most important mission is to bring green spaces back.” Read more…