Buildings with breathing space
Suzanne Frost helps you imagine buildings that can breathe and sweat and think and grow and change; an earthquake-proof building inspired by the honeycomb or a massive stadium inspired by the wings of a dragonfly
WHILE taking inspiration from nature is nothing new, the level of design inspiration taken from it is different through modern science, technology and fresh thinking.
Architects and interior design professionals will yet again flock to Conversations on Architecture, the one-day seminar held alongside Decorex Cape Town on April 23. Convened by Les Aupiais and sponsored by CaesarStone, the discussion probes the theme “Building for a breath of fresh air: Imagine the difference”. International speakers John Sofio from Built Inc, Los Angeles, and Nina Maritz (Namibia) join Jo Noero (Noero Wolff), Derick Henstra (dhk Architects), Jeremy Stewart (Source Interior Brand Architects), as well as Andy Horn to share their vision and work.
“Mind blowing inventiveness energises the world of architecture like a breath of fresh air,” says Cairey Slater, general manager exhibition at Decorex, organisers of the seminar. “It’s no longer just about the ‘taller/bigger/grander/ weirder than yours’ skyscrapers. “In choosing the seminar theme based on a breath of fresh air, we were greatly inspired by the mindset of Japanese artist/potter Suiko Nagakura, whose literal take on a ‘living’ room was featured in the book ‘The Modern Japanese gar- den’,” according to Slater. Bringing the house into the garden is not a new concept, yet taking it to the extreme like Nagakura takes great dedication — and green fingers. In fact her dining room the garden, and a fairly wild one at that with ferns growing around the legs of the table.
Vegetation-bedecked urban buildings, vertical city gardens and oxygenated rooms will do more than only combat big-city smog. In addition to the physical benefits of “living buildings”, the emotional benefits should not be underestimated.
In the words of the Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, 2002 Pritzker laureate: “There are psychological benefits in feeling sun in winter, shade in summer — knowing seasons and feeling real air. In adjusting their shelter to the season or day or weather, people are coaxed into understanding and working with nature. It’s a relationship crucial to preservation of all species.”
Speaker Nina Maritz, an architect based in Windhoek, Namibia, knows all about designing buildings that need to breathe in harsh environments, including the Kalahari Desert. The focus of her practice is firmly on environmental sustainability and community projects. At the seminar Maritz will look at the seminar theme from a very literal perspective as well as a metaphorical one. “Not only do humans need fresh air, the earth also now needs some space to breathe. In my talk I will investigate the phrase ‘a breath of fresh air’ as an analogy for the new; why humans love the new and the different, and why it becomes fashion.”
Merely following the fresh and trendy, without a nod to the past, needs a warning. According to Jo Noero, of Noero Wolff Architects in Cape Town, it seems that contemporary architects have abandoned any interest in architectural history. “This is alarming to me since I do not believe that one can practice effectively without a deep and broad knowledge of architectural history.” His presentation will outline why knowledge of architectural history is vital for the practicing architect.
His practice has over 200 buildings under its belt, range in scale and complexity from individual houses to large museums and other institutional buildings such as law courts and schools. His achievements include first prize in a competition for the design of the Museum of Apartheid in Red Location, Port Elizabeth.
Enlightening new library at St Cyprians Girls School in Cape Town by architect Jo Noero.
START: With fresh thinking the shabby old barn was converted by the firm of Nina Maritz Architect into a home office in Namibia, using salvaged material. Lots of opening windows and an evaporative cooler bring in fresh air, without the need for air-conditioning.