When it comes to sustainable housing and urban recreation, multi-functionality and biomimicry are the wave of the future, with communities intentionally designed so that residents have plenty of access to green space even in the most densely populated cities. The green recreation spaces of the future are often designed to use space creatively, providing unexpected pockets of nature, while the lines are blurred between nature and architecture in conceptual eco-housing.
Stacked like Jenga blocks, the buildings that make up the Interlace Residential Complex in Singapore form a hexagonal arrangement to form eight large open courtyards where residents of the luxury apartments can gather to interact, swim and enjoy nature. The complex houses 1,040 apartment units of various sizes standing 316 stories tall, creatively using the site’s 20 acres to fit in large amounts of both housing and outdoor recreational spaces.
Like an illustration from a child’s storybook, the Vegetal City concept by Luc Schuiten merges architecture with nature in such a way that it’s practically impossible to discern dwellings from actual vegetation.
Schuiten’s designs are the result of decades of observation and imagination, and his watercolor paintings depict a fantastical vision of how humans could build more intelligent cities that work in harmony with the earth instead of against it. The character of each of his cities is drawn from its environmental setting, including canyons in the desert and a ‘lotus city’ in a humid locale.
Combining green recreation space with office buildings, a design museum, training center and convention facilities, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park will bring rolling green hills to the heart of South Korea’s largest business district in 2010. The project, designed by Zaha Hadid, establishes a cultural hub in the center of Seoul complete with reflecting pools, lotus ponds, bamboo groves and other elements of traditional Korean gardening.
Imagine a lush, green, mountainous wonderland of buildings within the stark concrete setting of a big city. The ‘Magic Mountains’ concept proposing a new green central business district in Chongqing, China, was created by CEBO/Chongqing University for the CO-EVOLUTION exhibition in Copenhagen.
The designers say, “Chongqing, the biggest municipality in the world, is undergoing high-speed urban development. 50 million m2 of floor space and 500 km of highways are being added to the urban landscape and 1,200,000 people are relocating to the city every year. The GCBD district resembles the natural skyline of Chongqing, but with inhabited mountains. The mountain-peaks match the high density centres; the mountains lower reaches resemble traditional Chinese neighbourhoods. The valleys are green open spaces accommodating the ‘living machine’ – a system treating wastewater and generating renewable energy.”
As urban spaces become more and more congested, architects are looking to unusual locations for green space – even bridges. Chetwood Architects proposed turning the London Bridge into a vertical farm with solar-powered spires topped with wind turbines. The concept includes vast platforms supporting a network of organic farms and a public organic market where the food grown on the bridge could be sold to the public. It also incorporates solar water heating, rainwater collection and greywater treatment.
The relatively new city of Modiin in Israel provides an opportunity to build a sustainable urban center from the ground up, and architect Zvika Tamari of TeaM Architects has envisioned a grass-roofed eco-dome featuring daylighting, active solar systems, natural ventilation and other green building features and techniques. The Globe Eco-Hub consists of a half-buried museum and a linear structure of open courts of various levels, along with a series of open spaces including a recreation park.
Another unusual concept for eco-housing – and one that is actually in the planning stages – is the Park Houses by Ushida-Finlay Architects. Set for construction in Preston, UK, the Park Houses are a series of five individual four-story homes covered by a single wave-like green roof that pulls them together into one complex. The homes will share common leisure space and will feature large windows to let in natural light. Solar panels will provide some of the power consumed by the homes, and locally sourced materials will be used for building.
When designing green buildings, many architects turn to biomimicry, studying nature’s best ideas and imitating those systems and designs to sustainably solve human problems. LA-based architecture firm Standard looked to the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi Indians to provide inspiration for Co-Op Canyon, a terraced sustainable city block that incorporates housing, gardens and community spaces. Designed for the Re:Vision Dallas competition, this concept could house up to 1,000 people yet produces net zero carbon emissions and wastes no water.
Songdo International Business District: South Korea Eco-City (images via: Songdo.com)
South Korea has become a popular location for master-planned eco-cities, with several multi-use sustainable urban centers planned. The city of Incheon will soon get a $30 billion complex called the Songdo International Business District that will accommodate 75,000 residents and 300,000 commuters. Designed by Kohn Petersen Fox, Songdo IBD will contain 1,500 acres of offices, hotels, residential and retail developments and a 100-acre Central Park reminiscent of New York City. This ambitious project will also feature a modern canal system inspired by Venice and 120 of its buildings will meet LEED standards.
Why waste valuable space on nothing but roads and railways? RAU Architects believe that such spaces can also support functions like recreation and business by building a web over the infrastructure. ‘Green Office 2015’ is a multifunctional building that offers offices and expanses of grassy green spaces replete with natural light and opportunities for on-site energy generation.
Instead of a stretch of concrete and steel, visitors see what looks like an extension of the natural environment – a man-made mountain that makes use of space that would otherwise go to waste.