A future made of water, air and earth – three elements with which green architecture works. These elements are the focus of some of the most essential and famous studios in the world which are united by a concept of future architecture being inclusive, green and marked by biodiversity.
Vincent Callebaut architectures: rethinking the green city
The Paris-based studio led by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut has designed and built a series of eco-efficient buildings that integrate greenery and renewable resources. The studio’s strengths are renewable energies, biodiversity and urban agriculture to transform the concept of green building with elegant projects, which are inspired by fantasy sagas.
We need cities that promote a symbiosis between humans and the environment
In 2015, his “Paris Smart City 2050” project to make la Ville Lumière an entirely green city caused a stir and earned him great fame. Callebaut said: “I was born in 1977 in one of the poorest regions of Northern Europe La Louvière, Belgium. The industrial crisis had heavily hit the area. I’m part of an insecticide-impregnated generation, asphyxiated by urban smog and full of plastic waste that infects our food chain.”
“In 2050, I will be 73 years old. The world population will be nine billion people, before reaching a peak of 12 billion announced for 2100. The statistics and scientific publications agree that in the future 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in just-in-time cities. Cities that are already responsible for 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions with ever-higher levels of social inequality.” The green architect’s most ambitious project stems from a concept that ecology and community are merging. Either they are allied, and we start again together, or everything collapses.
Can 21st-century cities meet the challenge of energy and social transition? Vincent Callebaut and his team believe humanity needs to take new actions. Their projects imagine fertile and creative, spectacular and science fiction cities. The facades of buildings are continually changing, mutating and intelligent, regenerative and organic – they breathe carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
Gardens are no longer a part of the building: they are the building. Callebaut explained: “Architecture becomes cultivable and edible.” All waste is recycled, creating a new circular economy. “Transforming our cities into ecosystems, our neighbourhoods into forests and our buildings into inhabited trees: that's our credo!”
Stefano Boeri: vertical ecology
Opened in Milan in 2014, Stefano Boeri's Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) was the first building of its kind in the world. It won the International Highrise Award 2014 and was chosen from among 800 skyscrapers. Today, it is one of the most important and well-known sustainable buildings in architecture.
It is a residential complex that combines metropolitan reforestation, Boeri said: “The building contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity without expanding the city.”
It uses the vertical nature densification model within the city, “Bosco Verticale biological habitats increase biodiversity, helping to generate an urban ecosystem. The different types of vegetation create a vertical environment that can be colonised by birds and insects, transforming Bosco Verticale into a symbol of spontaneous recolonisation of the city by plants and animals.”
I have a passion and an obsession for trees. I think of them as individuals
Boeri explained: “The creation of Vertical Forests in large cities will create a network of environmental corridors, which will animate the ecosystem of the main urban parks, connecting the different spontaneous vegetation growth spaces.” Boeri started in Milan, where is also President of the Milan Triennial and then brought the “vertical green” concept in the world by building vertical forests, designing entire forests in the city and between China and the Americas.
Boeri explains his stylistic code: “I have a passion and an obsession for trees. I think of them as individuals, and I've always tried to imagine an architecture that sees trees as a constituent element and not just an ornament.”
Zaha Hadid Architects: the ethics of forms
Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) is one of the world’s most acclaimed studios with its 950 projects in 44 countries and its 400 associates – including managers and architects.
The founder, Zaha Hadid, from whom the studio took its name, died in 2016. Born in Baghdad on 31 October 1956, Hadid profoundly innovated the architecture language. Hadid was described as “the architect who taught us to love curves” for her passion for sinuous forms, and in 2004 she was the first woman to receive one of the most prestigious awards in the world of architecture – the Pritzker Prize.
Among her most famous works are the London Aquatics Centre (2007-2012), in London, CityLife Milano Residential Complex (2004-2014), in Milan, the Napoli Afragola Station (2003-2017) in Italy and the Hadid Tower (2014-2017), in Milan.
Sustainability is the challenge that defines our generation
Hadid taught: “Architecture is inspired by landscape, biology and living beings. Today you can be more ambitious: you can have great spatial experiences, but one thing that has not changed is that we are dealing with gravity. We’re on the ground.” That's why Hadid taught that “design is second nature”, almost a second skin, which must inspire pleasure and fluid movement. But the key to her work is eco-compatibility in the broadest sense, which is simultaneously expressive and formal.
Today, the studio that bears her name is among the most active in the design of eco-compatible and green structures. The research campus for the non-profit institution KAPSARC in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is one of the latest.
Converting waste from a by-product to something that can be the heart of future society, will be crucial for the future.
The 70,000 square metre complex comprises five buildings: the Energy Knowledge Centre; the Energy Computer Centre, a conference centre with its 300-seat auditorium, a library ready to hold more than 100,000 volumes and the Musalla – a space designed for prayer.
It was ZHA's first project to obtain LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council, as the centre has been designed to minimise energy and resource consumption while taking Ryad's climatic conditions into account.
Carlo Ratti: a design which changes behaviour
Can we feed cities with nature? Yes, we can. This is demonstrated by the work of Carlo Ratti, one of the greenest and most important archistars, who directs the Senseable City Lab at MIT in Boston. Ratti said: “Most of the early western urbanisation was characterised by developmental patterns that clashed with nature.”
Today, the gap between urban and rural is narrowing – perhaps closing. A new awareness emerges, and Ratti's architecture aims to meet its challenges. "We are witnessing a boom in urban agriculture, as advances in hydroponic and aeroponic cultivation techniques facilitate the cultivation of vegetables in confined spaces. While cities will never replace rural areas as the main source of nutrition in the world, a higher percentage of food can be grown in urban areas.”
The relationship between environment and life means an increasingly close relationship between cities and the world, architecture and social space.
With Ratti, architecture meets high-tech design and advanced technologies. Ratti explained: “Architecture and design can act in two ways. First, by helping to rethink processes. We have tried this approach with Feel the Peel, starting with the question: what can we do to reuse orange peel after squeezing them? The idea: is to transform them into bioplastics and 3D print cups to drink the juice. But there is another aspect where design can play a key role – helping people to understand and change their daily behaviour.”
The archistar becomes an archigreen with an encounter between the need to understand and the answer, which enriches knowledge.