Magazine
MAGAZIN
Time for a new Bauhaus
#greenbuilding

Time for a new Bauhaus

EU President Ursula von der Leyen wants to put climate neutrality centre stage. The first official related project is called Sunflower House and is based on the internal workings of sunflowers.

Exactly 102 years ago – in 1919 – architect Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus movement in Weimar. It was arguably the most influential school of modernist thought on architecture, art and design.

“Bauhaus literally helped shape the social and economic transition to an industrial society and the 20th century,” wrote EU President Ursula von der Leyen in a highly regarded guest article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “A hundred years later, we are facing new global challenges: climate change, pollution, digitalization and a demographic explosion predicted to increase the world’s population to up to 10 billion by mid-century.”

A new Bauhaus is needed

However, she believes action needs to go well beyond merely cutting emissions: “The Green Deal must also be a new cultural project for Europe. [We need] to combine sustainability with good design.” This means that architects, artists, students, systems scientists, engineers and designers all need to work together.

We will launch a new European Bauhaus. The goal is to achieve climate-neutral cities that are more liveable.

Ursula von der Leyen, EU President

Specifically, von der Leyen aims to launch a “new European Bauhaus”. One that should “stimulate debate on new construction methods and design forms”. And seeks “practical answers” to the “question of what modern life in harmony with nature can look like”.

Needless to say, it should also make full use of digitalization: “The goal is to achieve climate-neutral cities that are more liveable.” Von der Leyen announced plans for five projects in different EU countries in the coming two years.

Sunflower House unveiled

The first of these projects has now been presented to the general public. The architect Koichi Takada, renowned for his ecological concepts, has published his intrepid vision of a Sunflower House.

This settlement concept is based not only on how real sunflowers look but also on the way they function as a whole. On behalf of the European Union, Takada was briefed by Bloomberg Green to design a dream house symbolizing Europe’s green future. The aim was to help create a new joint aesthetic arising from the urgent need to tackle climate change.

Umbria: ecological hotspot

And so the eco-revolutionary designer set about finding a suitable plot of land. It needed to be a location in which a “carbon positive single-family dwelling” makes sense even beyond the structure itself.

The star architect ultimately decided to locate his Sunflower House in the Italian region of Umbria, which is “renowned for its rolling farmland and yellow fields of sunflowers”. However, the severe heatwaves that this region has been experiencing more and more regularly in recent years have taken their toll on its gigantic sunflower fields.

Sunflower House

Takada is now planting a “sunflower settlement” of his own in this problematic area. His goal is firstly to draw attention to the situation and secondly to demonstrate just how much we can learn from sunflowers.

Following the sun

Above all, their capacity to move constantly with the sun was taken on board in the design and mimicked in the technology. Through its circular structure, the Sunflower House rotates with the sun around a central “stem” (just like the internationally hyped Smartflower solar power system).

As the solar panels always capture as much sunlight as possible, they produce 40% more electricity than static modules. This not only covers the energy requirements of the Sunflower House itself but even generates surplus power on especially sunny days.

Sun or water?

The operators can either feed this surplus energy back into the grid (and earn money in the process) or store it in integrated accumulators: Takada calls them “battery seeds”. The rotary motion of the solar collectors is designed to provide windows underneath with shade at all times as well. This prevents the rooms inside from heating up as quickly, which in turn means that less energy is needed to cool them.

Retaining biodiversity

Each structure is also designed to collect rainwater instead of sunlight when the weather is bad. As the planners point out, this is to be used for flushing toilets and irrigating the surrounding sunflower fields. In addition, Koichi Takada explains that the Sunflower House is “elevated from the ground to minimize interference with the biodiversity of its surroundings”.

How it works: Sunflower House

However, there is still plenty of room for residents. Each floor of the Sunflower House contains an apartment with three (bed)rooms. And because each building can be up to three storeys high, the same number of families can be accommodated easily within a cosy sunflower.

The system is set up in such a way that it will only be truly climate-positive once a kind of settlement has been formed. Sunflowers grow in a kind of zigzag pattern to make full use of the interplay between shade and sunlight. The architects found inspiration in this structure too, reproducing it on a larger scale. (Very similar to what the Spacegroup is planning for its Movikheien Cabins in Norway.)

An architect speaks

As Takada himself explains: “It’s not just about making a building look natural, it’s about creating positive environmental change in the homes we live in, the neighbourhoods we work and play in, and ultimately the planet we are privileged to inhabit. We need a kinetic, living architecture that respects the environment while enhancing the wellbeing of the humans who inhabit it.”

Sunflower House

It is difficult to say when the first Sunflower House will actually be built. But given that the project is clearly close to the EU President’s heart, there is every chance that it will be brought to fruition. Whether this will lead to an architectural revolution à la Bauhaus remains to be seen. But there is no denying that the outlook is sunny.

Text: Johannes Stühlinger
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Images: Koichi Takada Architects

Other articles
that might interest you

New centrepiece for Eindhoven
#city planning
New centrepiece for Eindhoven

What used to be a single-purpose neighbourhood is being transformed into a versatile motor of urban progress: Eindhoven is turning its railway station district in Fellenoord into a buzzing new area where all kinds of innovations are set to flourish.

Back to the roots
#living
Back to the roots

The eco-friendly residential project Roots will be the new landmark of Hamburg’s HafenCity and the tallest timber high-rise in Germany. Architect Jan Störmer reveals what its future residents will have in common.

Timber with talent and technology
#greenbuilding
Timber with talent and technology

The Danish office 3XN is planning to build North America’s tallest timber office building in Toronto. Called T3 Bayside, the complex will offer more than 500,000 sq. ft. of next-generation office space when completed.

Back to the future
#city planning
Back to the future

Oslo was once built entirely of wood. The project chosen to redesign the area around its railway station heralds the return of this traditional building material to the Scandinavian metropolis. A spectacular office tower with an innovative hub is being developed, named Fjordporten.

Forest bathing on your doorstep
#greenbuilding
Forest bathing on your doorstep

Dutch architectural firm Gaaga has designed a residential building in Eindhoven that is distinctly people- and environment-friendly. Surrounded by trees, it is situated in the middle of a park.

From hamster wheel to perpetual motion
#greenbuilding
From hamster wheel to perpetual motion

An office building is being constructed in Madrid that even does some work itself: generating solar power. More power than it actually needs.

A floral cyborg
#city planning
A floral cyborg

A woodland of man-made and native trees has sprung up in Shanghai, named Solar Trees Marketplace. It even generates its own solar power.

The tessellated pavilion
#greenbuilding
The tessellated pavilion

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and Australian artist Geoff Nees teamed up to design the Botanical Pavilion – a wooden pavilion that is constructed like a 3D puzzle – without using any kind of glue or screws.

Origami in wood
#greenbuilding
Origami in wood

Japanese architectural firm UENOA has created a wooden office that has no need for bearing walls. Folded origami-style, the ceiling construction gives a whole new lightness to cross-laminated timber.

Climate protection via furniture store
#greenbuilding
Climate protection via furniture store

In 2021, IKEA will open its most innovative furniture store to date in Vienna. Designed by querkraft architects, the city store will bring cooling greenery to the Westbahnhof neighbourhood. For climate protection, against climate change – and GREENPASS Platinum-certified.

The healthy Ochsner Center
#greenbuilding
The healthy Ochsner Center

There is a new building taking shape in New Orleans that fits perfectly with two very pressing issues: the new Ochsner Center for Innovation will be devoted to developing modern healthcare solutions. The project, which has already won numerous awards, is geared wholly towards sustainability.

Paris reinvents itself with Mille Arbres
#greenbuilding
Paris reinvents itself with Mille Arbres

A good four years ago, OXO Architectes and Sou Fujimoto embarked on an adventure called Mille Arbres – a mega-project with a plant biotope over Paris’s famous Périphérique ring road.

“Climate change changes everything”
#greenbuilding
“Climate change changes everything”

Sustainability is a top priority for the Powerhouse Company. In an interview, partner Stefan Prins explains why this means more than just a careful choice of materials and energy efficiency, and how essential it is to consider all the changes brought about by climate change when building.

A timber high-rise goes into production
#greenbuilding
A timber high-rise goes into production

The Life Cycle Tower One was the first timber high-rise in Austria and the prototype for a new type of serial construction. CREE founder Hubert Rhomberg explains the green building concept and why we have to learn to think in lifecycles.

Wood on London’s skyline
#greenbuilding
Wood on London’s skyline

Researchers at Cambridge University are helping to turn London’s spectacular vision of a wooden skyscraper into reality. The Oakwood Timber Tower is to rise 300 metres into the sky, almost level with the tallest building in the city.

Pirelli calendar for architects
#greenbuilding
Pirelli calendar for architects

Milan’s iconic but disused Pirellino office building is to be renovated in spectacular style and renamed Pirelli 39. Its special greenery will even adapt its colours to the passing seasons…

Timber housing on a modest budget
#greenbuilding
Timber housing on a modest budget

Most people looking for a new home with a sustainable design need to have deep pockets. Rotterdam’s Pendrecht district aims to buck this trend courtesy of timber building Valckensteyn, the brainchild of the architects at Powerhouse Company.

All in the name
#greenbuilding
All in the name

In Düsseldorf, The Cradle is gradually taking shape. The timber hybrid office building is being constructed according to circular economy principles, and these will also govern its future use.

Twin peaks for the Netherlands
#greenbuilding
Twin peaks for the Netherlands

The Dutch city of Eindhoven will soon be home to the world’s highest “plyscraper”. The two towers – 100 and 130 metres high and known as the Dutch Mountains – are to set new standards in high-rise timber construction.

A floating office made of wood
#smart office
A floating office made of wood

Workplace ahoy! Architecture studio Powerhouse Company has designed a concept for a floating office building. Sustainable, energy-neutral and made of wood, it will serve as the headquarters for the Global Center on Adaptation in Rotterdam as of autumn 2020.

Crowned with timber
#greenbuilding
Crowned with timber

A mixed-use project in Sweden’s Gothenburg is being crowned by star architect Dorte Mandrup. The jewel in this crown is its use of timber. The new eco construction is intended to become an icon in sustainable urban architecture.

A timber first
#greenbuilding
A timber first

Following an initial defeat by the authorities, in the second leg Zaha Hadid Architects managed to gain planning permission for the world’s first timber football stadium.

Aix-les-Bains: antiquity in green
#greenbuilding
Aix-les-Bains: antiquity in green

The ancient Romans used to bathe in healing waters here, and aristocrats from all over the world came to socialize during the Belle Époque. The historic baths in France’s thermal spa resort Aix-les-Bains are now on course for new fame: eco-architect Vincent Callebaut is turning them into a green paradise.

Gare Maritime restored in timber splendour
#greenbuilding
Gare Maritime restored in timber splendour

Once Europe’s largest freight station, Brussels’ monumental Gare Maritime is now the largest European CLT project. Neutelings Riedijk Architects have transformed the historic structure into a covered district, giving it a sustainable new lease of life using cross-laminated timber.