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.
Dp Aquaterra by Tectoniques Architects
January 18th, 2014 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Tectoniques Architects
Land of the Brave
Today, architects and landscape designers have a duty to preserve and restore local collective memory and heritage, but without having any physical links with the former industrial activities. To avoid becoming a museum, this area must find itself a new purpose. Ecology is used as a means to reconcile the local people and this place, which have fallen out of love with each other. The aim of this resource building is to make visitors aware of environmental questions. The architects have designed it as a demonstrational scheme and a life-size experiment. With Minergie® certification, behind its original skin of wood bricks and its lens form, it contains all the energy systems that ensure good practices and thermal comfort.
Islands and artificial lakes at the bottom of the slag heaps
Aquaterra symbolises the second phase of the metamorphosis called L’Orée du Parc, which includes the building and its accompanying landscape. It is strategically located, and the building occupies a pivotal position in the time and space of the development. Its lens form is in harmony with the overall design.
North-west of the Parc des Iles, the building is central to various urban planning, roads and landscaping projects currently in progress. Urbanité, Europan’s scheme, is adjacent to neighbourhoods made up of clusters of small houses that are typical of mining areas. Connexions, a scheme which consists in upgrading of the north-south access road, is the indispensable link. Lastly, the Orée du Parc landscaping scheme adds to planting of the slag heaps.
The building is the anchor point for the relationship between people and nature, between the industrial history and the future, and between the town and the landscape.
Taking inspiration from a new landscape
The oval form is universal, organic and generous. It opens outwards on all its sides and offers great openness and transparency between the inside and the outside. For all the spaces open onto a panoramic, circular façade. On the inside, this simple figure allows very clearly readable, compact and economic spatial organisation. It is accentuated by a butterfly wing roof profile whose dark colour recalls the slag heaps.
This “look-out” building is a solitary object that will most probably not be accompanied or surrounded by urban development. Therefore it must act alone, on the scale of the large surrounding area. The choice of the oval form allows a continuous façade to be displayed, without any hierarchy of the orientations. One same architectural image is seen from all viewpoints. Conversely, the views of the site from the building complement each other, both near and far, in all directions. This capacity for focussing and concentrating the area towards a single point is the prime objective of the scheme and its architectural form.
The building’s programme is separated into two hemispheres:
Construction choices that evoke the site’s industrial heritage and highlight bio-sourced materials
The secondary structure consists of timber boxed constructions, filled and insulated with straw bales, for the external walls and the roof. The aim of using bio-sourced materials logically led to giving priority to the use of wood (for the structure, the internal finishes and the facings of external walls), combined with insulation material of plant origin produced by a short production and distribution channel.
The oval form was obtained without curved elements, which are too costly, but with a succession of small flat elements on small construction grids, which created the facets of this ellipse. The facing of the external walls is in an unusual material that refers to the local collective memory: the wood brick. Wood is used as a solid component; it is stabilised, net-linking Douglas Fir. The bricks are fixed on a framework of metal rods. So the wall is seen in two ways: from far away it looks like a wall of bricks, and from close up, it is a light, changing skin, like a curtain.
The building is compact and well insulated. It benefits from a good south-facing aspect, while being protected by an overhanging louvered sun-shield whose variable overhangs provide solar protection and shelter for the external walls. Daylight is distributed through the building’s entire width by the shed roofs, which are also used for ventilation and for air changes. The roof, which is considered to be an educational fifth facade, is planted with extensive (climbing and upward-growing) plants, and it also supports photovoltaic panels. Rainwater is recovered in tanks that are used for watering greenhouses and for flushing toilets. Humidity and thermal conditions are regulated in all spaces, and the quality of the internal air is controlled by a double-flow ventilation unit. A wood pellet boiler provides thermal comfort in winter.
Two wind generators add to the photovoltaic systems for energy production. The site is particularly windy, and is a reputed spot for flying kites.
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