This tiny living home made from wheatgrass, jute, and felt brings nature into our brutal cityscape

Getting close to nature through architecture comes in many forms. Some homes take to glass facades, dissolving the barrier between the outdoors and inside, then some homes feature blueprints that wrap around trees, incorporating their canopies and trunks into the lay of the house. Omri Cohen, a student designer at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, has a different idea. Cohen developed the Living Shell, an architectural shell built by growing jute, felt, and wheatgrass into a form of a textile that’s laid over a bamboo frame.

Turning to textile technology, Living Shell was born from Cohen’s quest to evolve layers of wheatgrass root systems into elastic, textile materials. Settling on the shell’s curvilinear structural shape, the wheatgrass textile wraps over its bamboo frame, forming layers of insulation and shade while it continues to grow. Cohen found durability in the inexpensive building material he developed from jute, felt, and wheatgrass. Layering the different roots together in a pattern that allows room for sustained growth periods, the textile’s thickness and durability increase over time as the roots continue to interlace and grow. While he has yet to build a life-size Living Shell, Cohen crafted 1:10 models to demonstrate the feasibility of introducing the Living Shell into rural and urban environments alike. Connecting the structure to an irrigation system, the textile overwrap would most likely receive nourishment from a programmed watering method.

While Living Shell functions like a house, it would more likely offer natural refuge hubs for small animals to gather nesting materials from and inhabit. Additionally, Cohen developed Living Shell so that urban dwellers and rural farmers have the opportunity to watch nature in action, for all of its natural growth, regenerative, and decay processes.

Designer: Omri Cohen

Layered around a bamboo frame, Cohen’s Living Shell is made from a textile developed from jute, felt, and wheatgrass.

Before building its life-size debut, Cohen created tiny 1:10 models of Living Shell.

Following tests to show how wheatgrass root systems grew through textile sheets, Cohen settled on some that could be woven together into a single textile sheet.

Cohen found a textile sheet that he could sew together and integrate the seeds of jute, felt, and wheatgrass.

Wheatgrass growing through the textile sheets.

The growth process of wheatgrass shows that the textile’s thickness would increase with continued irrigation.

Architectural Designs with green roofs that meet the needs of humans and nature alike!

Green roofs have been gaining a lot of popularity these days! They’re an eco-friendly alternative to conventional roofs as they provide natural insulation against heat and maintain a cool temperature. They also serve as efficient rainwater buffers and reduce energy usage! Not to mention they add an organic and natural touch to homes and help them effortlessly integrate with their surroundings. We’re major fans of green roofs, and we’ve curation a collection of architectural designs that truly showcase their beauty and utility. These structures will have you ditching traditional roofs, and opting for greener ones!

In the hills of Harriman State Park (New York), plans were made to build a beautiful, contemporary-style hobbit hole known as the Black Villa. The house is stunning inside and out, especially its most eye-catching feature: the luscious grass-covered roof. Green roofs have been growing slowly in popularity over the past decade, due to their economic and environmental advantages. They can reduce energy usage by 0.7% by providing natural insulation against heat and maintaining temperatures that are 30-40°F lower than conventional rooftops. (The Black Villa also decreases the need for electricity by using skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows.) Green roofs also reduce and slow down stormwater runoff, which helps immensely in areas with poor drainage systems (usually in urban areas).

KRADS, an architectural studio based in Denmark and Iceland recently finished work on a client’s very own holiday home nestled away somewhere in the mountains of southwestern Iceland, perched above Lake Þingvallavatn. Being the second-largest natural lake in Iceland, the views overlooking Lake Þingvallavatn are sweeping, especially from the vantage point of Tina Dickow’s and Helgi Jónsson’s holiday home. The pair of performing artists worked with KRADS to creatively integrate their holiday home into the lake’s surrounding mountainous terrain, forming intentional views of the natural, dense landscape and nearby Lake Þingvallavatn. To integrate the holiday home into this part of southwestern Iceland’s mountainous region, KRADS built concrete foundations in three staggered planes that follow the topography of the hilly landscape, building on the rest of the home’s frame from there.

The ambitious structure is called ‘Delta’ after the Pearl River Delta and is designed to rise seamlessly from the river with an accessible green rooftop for visitors to soak in the natural setting. The roof is a public park that showcases organic geometries in the form of architecture. The dynamic shape has been inspired by a river stream that has a new view, a new bend, a new discovery at every turn. Similarly, the museum too will have different views at every turn overlooking the surrounding park, hills, and lake from the winding terraces. A news article published in March reported that the total investment in the project was to be $496 million and that excludes the cost of acquiring a wide range of specimens—animals, plants, minerals, and fossils—that will be on display throughout over 365,000 square feet of exhibition-dedicated space.

Downtown Toronto and the city’s students just got a green upgrade in the form of a $65 million dollar project called Canoe Landing Campus! This structure is now a social nexus that acts as a community recreation center as well as an educational institute divided into public and Catholic elementary schools plus a childcare center – all of that under one gigantic green roof! ZAS Architects designed the campus to provide a much-needed social infrastructure to CityPlace which is one of the city’s most populated residential developments with over 20,000 residents. So a facility the size of Canoe Landing Campus was needed to cater to everyone while also being functional. Given the scale of the campus, it was important to make it energy-efficient and therefore the team added solar panels that generate 10% of the building’s total energy needs – a small start with the potential to grow a lot more!

Looking for an escape from your apartment and dive into nature? The Øyna Cultural Landscape Hotel in Norway is your destination. This hotel is wrapped in a lush green carpet and is hidden away on a hill with the sweeping views of the Trondheim fjord – a Nordic landscape with a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs formed by submergence of a glaciated valley. Øyna’s location is right out of an enchanted forest storybook. Designed by Green Advisers AS, the hotel’s unique layout maximizes the guests’ connection with nature. All 18 rooms are built inside an existing sloping terrain with a cantilevered design so every person staying gets an unobstructed view of the cultural landscape.

Studio Gang is known for being a super innovative company that produces some of the most unusual architectural designs and their latest concept is a mixed-use sustainable hotel called Populous! With solar panels, a green roof, and other carbon footprint-reducing features, Studio Gang aims to have the doors of this hotel open by 2023 which also seems like a feasible projection for all of us to resume traveling like non-pandemic times again. Populous will be built in Denver, Colorado, and will measure 135,000 sq ft (roughly 12,500 sq m) with over 13 floors. While most of the interior layout will be dedicated to the hotel and its amenities, Studio Gang also plans to include 40 “micro-apartments” to stay aligned with its mixed-use functionality.

Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), CopenHill is an intriguing mesh of a waste-to-energy power plant, a ski slope, hiking and running trail, and a section of lush greenery right in the middle of bustling Copenhagen. Home to 7000 bushes, 300 pine and willows trees, plus other varieties of nature, CopenHill bears a beautiful connection to nature. Measuring at 278 feet, CopenHill also showcases the world’s tallest climbing wall, plus a cross-fit area and trail for hiking and running. There’s a rooftop bar you can hit for some drinks and food!

Estudio Felipe Escudero designed ‘House Folds’, a low single-storey home in the valley of Nayón. The house displays a curved and playful form, but the highlight has to be its green roof! The green roof was built in an attempt to help the structure harmoniously integrate with its lush green surroundings. Although built from concrete, the home boasts a very free-flowing and organic form. It’s a flexible and open space accentuated with floor-to-ceiling windows, and intricate usage of concrete and timber to give it a warm aesthetic.

Architecture firm Coldefy will be creating a mixed-use building in Northern France. Named ‘Echo’, the structure will include an office space, and a catering and recreation program. The building will be accentuated by green terraces that will cascade one after the other, almost resembling a green river. Echo will be the ‘first bio-based building in Euralille’!

Giorgi Khmaladze Architects designed a coffee factory and offices in Tbilisi, Georgia. Built from concrete and boasting an intriguing geometric form, the structure has been equipped with a green roof! It features folded concrete facades, creating interesting edges, allowing the light to bounce off them, and resulting in a fun interplay of shadows and lights!

The winning design of Volvo’s New Garage Challenge features a green curved roof and integrated solar panels!

In honor of the debut of Volvo’s first pure-electric vehicle, the new XC40 Recharge, Volvo Cars Canada, and the Interior Design Show Toronto have chosen a winner for their New Garage Design Challenge. Canadian designers were told to rethink the function and design of the garage to then be judged based on criteria gathered by Maru/Blue. Reimagining the garage space as an interactive family space and biophilic greenway, Montreal designer Tiam Maeiyat’s Parking Parc was chosen as the winning concept for merging clean design with sustainability.

Parking Parc was inspired by the pun in its own name– Maeiyat reinterpreted the garage as both a space for parking the vehicle and as an actual greenway that resembles a children’s park. Shaped like a rolling hillside, Parking Parc provides a storage area for parked vehicles that rests beneath the garage’s grassy, recreational exterior. As currently conceptualized, photovoltaic panels punctuate the taller regions of the garage’s exterior, providing clean energy for Volvo’s XC40 Recharge to well, recharge, and enough energy to sustain the rest of the garage’s inside operations. Describing the design in his own words, Maeiyat notes,

“The garage may be the last place in a house one might consider for gathering or entertainment, which is exactly why my design celebrates light and transparency and links the inside and outside of the garage. By doing so, there are new possibilities around quality family time, regardless of time or season.”

While the functionality of garages cannot be argued, they’ve largely stayed the same in design and structure while the vehicles that remain parked inside of them have changed drastically over the years. The New Garage Design Challenge aimed to introduce a new way of looking at garages that fits the contemporary and energy-efficient nature of today’s vehicles. Tiam Maeiyat’s reinterpretation of the traditional garage turns to biophilic design and green roofing to help maintain the home’s natural landscape and grassy surroundings.

Designer: Tiam Maeiyat

Inspired by the rounded edges of Volvo’s XC40 Recharge, Parking Parc’s shapes into a rolling hillside.

Parking Parc’s green roof collects rainwater, purifies the air, reduces the ambient temperature, and saves energy.

“My design upcycles the garage space into a new form of the family room,” notes Tiam Maeiyat.

 

Flexible solar panels line the top of Parking Parc, providing the garage’s inhabitants with energy.

This $65 million dollar campus in Toronto is a community space with a green roof & solar panels!

Downtown Toronto and the city’s students just got a green upgrade in the form of a $65 million dollar project called Canoe Landing Campus! This structure is now a social nexus that acts as a community recreation center as well as an educational institute divided into public and Catholic elementary schools plus a childcare center – all of that under one gigantic green roof! ZAS Architects designed the campus to provide a much-needed social infrastructure to CityPlace which is one of the city’s most populated residential developments with over 20,000 residents. So a facility the size of Canoe Landing Campus was needed to cater to everyone while also being functional. Given the scale of the campus, it was important to make it energy-efficient and therefore the team added solar panels that generate 10% of the building’s total energy needs – a small start with the potential to grow a lot more!

The 58,000-square-foot facility was completed last year and maximizes open space while seamlessly blending with the existing Canoe Landing Park. It is a place for people of all ages and includes sports facilities, a community kitchen, gardening plots, and more amenities to foster a strong community. The two-story common center is separated from the three-story schools on the ground level by a pedestrian corridor and an overhead east-west bridge connects the buildings above. The schools are organized with the younger students on the lower level and the older students on the upper two floors. They also share common areas, imaginative indoor play spaces, a climbing wall zone, and a roller coaster track to encourage intermingling.

“The building’s design welcomes neighbors to take part in community activities allowing for a synergistic sharing of spaces between the community center, schools, and childcare. Ultimately, the way the world approaches community space is forever changed. Now, more than ever, physical space must foster meaningful human connection while also remaining flexible to support communities with evolving hybrid and virtual needs for years to come,” said Peter Duckworth-Pilkington, Principal, ZAS Architects.

Canoe Landing Campus’s main attraction is its active rooftop that has a running track, sheltered outdoor space for yoga, and a full-sized basketball court. A series of passive zones and gardening plots surround the “active roof” to make most of the outdoor space without expanding the campus horizontally further into the city. The project also commissioned Anishinaabe artist Que Rock and artist Alexander Bacon to create a 90-meter-long mural on the south walls of the schools to celebrate the land’s Indigenous culture. This campus is truly a place that will build a stronger community in this bustling city by giving people from all walks of life a place to bond, stay stimulated via activities, learn and relax.

Designer: Zas Architects

The green roof of this holiday home was designed to blend in seamlessly with its surrounding landscape!

Passing by those homes that are sculpted into natural mountainsides, I can’t help but imagine what it must feel like waking up there, with miles of views and endless sky. Mountain homes really are marvels to look at and inside, they’re as cozy as it gets– the ideal holiday home. KRADS, an architectural studio based in Denmark and Iceland recently finished work on a client’s very own holiday home nestled away somewhere in the mountains of southwestern Iceland, perched above Lake Þingvallavatn.

Being the second-largest natural lake in Iceland, the views overlooking Lake Þingvallavatn are sweeping, especially from the vantage point of Tina Dickow’s and Helgi Jónsson’s holiday home. The pair of performing artists worked with KRADS to creatively integrate their holiday home into the lake’s surrounding mountainous terrain, forming intentional views of the natural, dense landscape and nearby Lake Þingvallavatn. To integrate the holiday home into this part of southwestern Iceland’s mountainous region, KRADS built concrete foundations in three staggered planes that follow the topography of the hilly landscape, building on the rest of the home’s frame from there.

Following the movement of the natural landform, KRADS planned the holiday home’s location and structure according to the changing slopes and leafy wooded area that surrounds it. By adapting to the natural landform, the holiday home’s views are endless when taken in from the accessible rooftop. Further embedding the holiday home into its encompassing woodland, the rooftops of each staggered plane are overgrown with moss, shrubbery, and local grasses, sloping partly towards and partly with the bordering hillside. Preserving the natural landscape was a top priority for KRADS and the home’s residents, exhibited through the home’s boundless green rooftop and KRADS’s seamless staggered approach to the home’s construction.

Designer: KRADS

From all sides, this holiday home is harmonious with the surrounding landscape.

Natural wood accents subdue and warm-up the brightness of the home’s optic white interior.

Throughout the home, separate rooms are delineated through the integration of furniture and natural sunlight.

“Towards North, the house rises above the low scrub to give an unobstructed view over Þingvallavatn and the mountain Skjaldbreið from the main room of the house.”

Expansive windows punctuate most corners of the holiday home to offer unobstructed views of Iceland’s second-largest natural lake.

A sunken living area enhances the holiday home’s coziness and brings the view of nearby Þingvallavatn feel even closer.

Outside, the holiday home is coated with a stealthy black exterior that fully dissolves into the mountainside come dark.

The holiday home was built on three staggered concrete planes.

“In the opposite direction [of the lake], the main room opens onto a south-west-facing terrace that is closely surrounded by trees.”

From an aerial viewpoint, the holiday home melds with the forest that surrounds it.

“Apart from the terrace, the immediate surroundings of the building are so densely vegetated that they are close to impenetrable.”

Architectural designs that focus on humans and nature alike: Part 5

If there’s one thing that COVID-19 has done for sure, it’s waking us up to the fact that we need to live more sustainably and consciously…ASAP. In an initiative to encourage us to lead greener lives, architects have been incorporating sustainability into their designs. They have been opting for green roofs, and are attempting to create homes and workspaces that allow us to stay connected with nature. And not to mention these sustainable homes are extremely beautiful! I would sure love to make one of these green structures my home.

Green roofs have been growing slowly in popularity over the past decade, due to their economic and environmental advantages. They can reduce energy usage by 0.7% by providing natural insulation against heat and maintaining temperatures that are 30-40°F lower than conventional rooftops. The Black Villa also decreases the need for electricity by using skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Designed by Chang Architects, Cornwall Gardens is an open, green, and environment-friendly home for you and your family. Thick vegetation has been seamlessly integrated into the structure, creating a home that is always connected with nature. The architect describes it as a “cool tropical paradise”, and we wholeheartedly agree!

Located in Iran, the RAD facade design is another example of architecture meets nature! Designed by Ali Goshtasbi Rad, each window facade has been provided with ample space to accommodate some beautiful greenery. The end result? A quaint red brick building brimming with plants and lush greenery!

Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), CopenHill is an intriguing mesh of a waste-to-energy power plant, a ski slope, hiking and running trail, and a section of lush greenery right in the middle of bustling Copenhagen. Home to 7000 bushes, 300 pine and willows trees, plus other varieties of nature, CopenHill bears a beautiful connection to nature.

Designed by Studio precht, Bert looks exactly like a tree! The various homes branch out like a tree, creating a system of modular homes with spherical windows. The rooftop is also gushing with mini trees and shrubs, creating a green haven of sorts.

The Forest School was designed for Pune which is a popular student city that has seen dramatic urban growth in the last decade. Due to this boom, the air pollution in Pune was four times higher than the safe standard set by the World Health Organisation. The architect wanted to create a structure that served a purpose complemented by design – a healthy school environment, with opportunities for hands-on learning about the environment and climate change. The ‘green living skin’ serves to purify the air from pollutants and related challenges affecting the health of the inhabitants of a city.

In the Bosland forest of Limburg, Belgium, Burol and Schap designed a stilted 10-meter high cycling path, surrounded and weaving through trees and the lush forest. Giving you the feeling of flying, this path goes across the treetops and it would surely make for a great cycling adventure. I wonder if I ride fast enough, would I feel like Harry Potter, skimming the branches of the Forbidden Forest on a balmy summer evening!

The ambitious structure is called Delta after the Pearl River Delta and is designed to rise seamlessly from the river with an accessible green rooftop for visitors to soak in the natural setting. The roof is a public park that showcases organic geometries in the form of architecture. The dynamic shape has been inspired by a river stream that has a new view, a new bend, a new discovery at every turn. Similarly, the museum too will have different views at every turn overlooking the surrounding park, hills, and lake from the winding terraces.

This triangular cabin by Jacob Witzling and Sara Underwood has a very green roof! It makes for the perfect little getaway. You will be surrounded by nature and sheltered by a roof brimming with plants and shrubs. It could also work as a beautiful permanent residence if you’re okay with living in partial isolation!

PARK ROYAL on Pickering Hotel by Woha Architects is an explosion of green from whichever direction you approach it. Each curve of the building features gardens layered with reflecting pools, waterfalls, green walls, and sky gardens that are sure to relax you while helping promote the biodiversity in the city. Challenging the traditional boxy structure of hotels, this design is almost organic using the greenery to balance the electricity requirements of running a huge space like this.