Posted by: ahallatt | July 24, 2009

Inspiring Architecture

Small part of the water cube aquatic centre used in the Beijing Olympics

I watched another great episode of Sunday Arts. The standout interview was with Chris Bosse of PTW architects. PTW designed the water cube Olympic National Swimming Centre in Beijing. Chris said:

The idea of nature in art and architecture I think is centuries old. Leonardo da Vinci was drawing inspiration from nature, Borromini’s churches in Rome are based on nature, Frank Lloyd Wright started organic architecture in the ’60s and before. And in 1970, Frei Otto in Germany designed a stadium, which is the Olympic Stadium 1972 in Munich based on the theory of soap films. So the idea that a building is form found rather than designed, he would experiment with surface tension within soap films, pulling up wires, dipping them into soap films and the shapes in between would become the roof for the stadium.

Being inspired by nature is one thing, but PTW wants to go a step further by designing buildings with environmental principles to make them sustainable.

We want to design cities and buildings fundamentally green from the bottom up. Interestingly, the newer cities, which should be like the 21st-century cities, emerging countries, emerging societies, booming societies should be the most environmental and the most inhabitable cities in the world but they turn out to be the worst cities with traffic, pollution, industry, the population explosion sort of fazes these problems, which we want to respond with fundamental changes in planning from the start.

FENELLA KERNEBONE: And is that in some ways why you’re so excited about this potential project at Masdar City in Abu Dhabi?

CHRIS BOSSE: Yeah, Masdar City is a project, a government initiative in Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi, out of all countries is now the frontrunners of sustainable technologies, in solar technologies and wind technologies and they’re building an entire city based on sustainable principles. When you think of Sydney as a city that has introduced free shuttle bus between Chinatown and the CBD as a green sort of initiative, the city of Masdar has a public transport system throughout the entire city, which is a free network of magnetic driverless cars. So it’s a car-free city, and a carbon-neutral city. The entire city is driven by solar photovoltaic cells and solar fields on the outside of the city. So the entire city exists but it has zero footprint.

A refreshing change from Melbourne (and most other developed cities), which is
1. building a desalination plant powered by coal,
2. planning to sprawl low rise building into its green belt and
3. has some of the most evil ticket inspectors witnessed since I left London.

If only it would look to water conservation, recycling and catchment (I’ve watched most of the last few days of rain disappear down the storm drains into the canal, to go out to sea), solar power, urban regeneration with quality high-density housing and SUBSIDISED PUBLIC TRANSPORT.


  1. Amazing stuff!

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