Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Leith Renewable Energy Plant in Leith, UK by Gordon Murray Architects
April 12th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
The Leith Renewable Energy Plant has an opportunity to make the most of its unique setting at the waterfront of Scotland’s capital city by drawing inspiration from the surroundings, reflecting their maritime industrial character and history.
The design works at a variety of scales. At long range, recognising the importance of established view corridors from a range of key viewpoints. At the medium range, careful manipulation of the contrast between solid, void and transparency can help define massing, articulating the scale of the main elements. At closer range, surface texture should be considered to create a response which is robust and appropriate for the setting.
Elements of the proposed Renewable Energy Plant which will have a presence on the wider Edinburgh skyline, namely the stack and boiler house are identified and separated from parts which will be subsumed by the scale of the existing port operations.
These high level elements are treated in an architecturally expressive manner suggesting connections with a range of maritime forms, from the sails of tall ships to the cliff like faceted forms of icebergs. By manipulating the profile of the high level structures to remove absolute vertical planes, the impact of the overall mass on adjacent areas can be softened, with any sense of overshadowing diminished.
Subdividing the overall mass vertically also gives the appearance of a group of elements rather than one large volume. The stack itself is treated as highly sculptural vertical markers, recalling the influence of Antonio Sant’Elia in its massing.
There are unique opportunities to be explored due to the ever changing qualities of light which occur on this part of the east coast. The way sunlight falls on the Renewable Energy Plant under a range of different conditions will dramatically alter how it is perceived – as an intangible form in the mist of a haar, a bright reflective object in the morning sun, or a dark monolith at dusk. The skin should allow for these variations to be enhanced through reflection and highlight, rather than remaining constant, monochrome and static.
There is widespread recognition of the need to develop Renewable Energy technologies at both national and international level in order to address the impact of climate change and ensure a stable domestic energy supply. The EU Renewable Energy Directive and the UK Climate Change Act commit us to achieving an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and reductions on CO2 emissions of at least 26% by 2020 from 1990 baseline levels.
At the same time there is increased awareness and concern over the physical realities of the technologies and facilities necessary to achieve these targets. New proposals come under ever increasing scrutiny to ensure their impact on the environment and visual setting is fully considered, aiming to deliver a high standard of design for the benefit of local communities and to mitigate the effect of new plant on sensitive visual receptors.
Good design can play an important role in providing a bridge between these aspects. It can enhance visual appearance, improve site layout, and be a powerful means of communication between all parties engaged in the consenting process.
Gordon Murray Architects were commissioned by Forth Energy, a joint venture between Forth Ports Plc and SSE (Scottish Southern Energy) to develop conceptual design proposals for a series of new Biomass Renewable Energy Plants at their ports of Dundee, Grangemouth, Rosyth and Leith in support of Section 36 Applications. The projects have an estimated combined construction value of over £1 billion.
It is hoped the Renewable Energy Plants will be operational by 2015.
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