Thursday, December 29, 2005

EcoHouse Brazil

Sarah Rich of Inhabitat writes about the Ecohouse Brazil "..In the Urca neighborhood near the base of Sugarloaf mountain and the shores of Rio de Janeiro, architect Alexandra Lichtenberg tackled a remodeling project that demonstrates that being green isn't the exclusive domain of high-cost, luxury residences and backwoods off-grid dwellings. A good green remodel is within reach of the average well-intentioned homeowner in the average urban neighborhood anywhere in the world, and the EcoHouse proves it..."

Photos Courtesy of Inhabitat

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Centre Culturel Tjibaou

Galinsky writes "....The Centre Culturel Tjibaou, dedicated to Jean-Marie Tjibaou who died in 1989 while leading the fight for his country's autonomy from the French government, is devoted to the cultural origins and search for identity of the native Kanak people of New Caledonia and the South Pacific. In the native tongue of Jean-Marie Tjibaou, pije language, it is also known as Ngan Jila - meaning cultural center.

The Center itself is similar to that of the villages in which the Kanak tribes live; a series of huts (or case in French) which distinguish the different functions and hierarchies of the tribes (les tribus) and a central alley along which the huts are dispersed. More specifically, the Cultural Center is composed of three ?villages? made up of ten ?Great Houses? of varying sizes and functions (exhibition spaces, multimedia library, cafeteria, conference and lecture rooms). The ?Great Houses? are linked by a long, gently curving enclosed walkway, reminiscent of the ceremonial alley of the traditional Kanak village.

The identity of the Kanak is not only reinforced through the form of the building but also through its relationship with the natural landscape. Located on a peninsula between the storm-tossed Pacific Ocean and a calm lagoon the design of Renzo Piano takes advantage of the prevailing winds from the ocean side through its system of natural ventilation. Horizontal wood slats composed of iroko wood (a type of wood that is impervious to rot and can withstand cyclone-force winds) of the outer facade on the ocean side filter the wind into a second layer of skin, an inner facade of glass louvers which open or close according to wind speed, allowing wind to flow through the building for passive ventilation. The double layer of skin also filters the warm air upward functioning similar to a chimney.

The sound and feel of the wind is something that can only be experienced by being there and seems to transcend any kind of technological terms or mechanisms. It is a feeling of being inside, yet outside at the same time; of being protected yet still close to nature.

The Center is also composed of various exterior spaces which further explore the relationship of the Kanak culture to nature and the landscape; a Kanak pathway which winds through the dense natural vegetation, traditional ceremonial grounds of the Kanak with traditional huts, an outdoor auditorium and residences for visiting artists, lecturers, scholars and students. These spaces, as well as the main building, integrate themselves and take advantage of the natural beauty of the site.

Photos Courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Infinitely Recyclable Glass

Developing countries produce there own fair share of broken glass that often ends up in landfill sites or on top fences as a burglar deterrent. Apart from recycling broken glass back into bottles and drinking glasses, this raw material can also be incorporated into floor and wall tiles.

In an article posted by Jill for Inhabitat she writes "...Glass is an amazing material. Not only is it durable, smooth and transparent, but it also has the unusual quality of being infinitely recyclable. Whereas other materials like plastic and metal gradually deteriorate over repeated recyclings, glass has the unique ability to be melted down and turned into something else over and over again, without ever experiencing any loss in quality. Add this to the fact that post-consumer glass containers now make up the second highest consumer waste product after paper, and you can see where I'm going here..

You can do your part to conserve this great resource by recycling glass containers, and by supporting industries that recycle and use recycled glass products. One good place to start is in your interior design. In the past decade, architects and material designers have begun to realize that the unique qualities of glass make it an ideal material for building - and not just in flat-paned windows and doors. Recycled glass is now making appearances in everything from kitchenware, to bathroom tiles, to the aggregate in floors and countertops.

Probably the most stunning architectural use of recycled glass can be found in Vetrazzo a ceramic aggregate material made by Berkeley based Counter production. Made from 85-90% post-consumer recycled glass, Vetrazzo is as smooth as marble and four times as strong as concrete. Is is usually used in countertops and tables but can also be used in floors and walls. The material comes in a wide variety of colors, can be custom-ordered in any combination of colors and aggregate sizes.

I once worked in a building with an all white Vetrazzo floor, and it was beautiful. The light would reflect and flicker off the glass specs, and I repeatedly found myself kneeling over to stare at the floor..."