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TINY URBAN FORESTS
The New Secret Weapon against Climate Change
The method is the brainchild of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. They grow 10x faster than natural forests. Have 100x more biodiversity. And store 40x more carbon!
DESIGNING FURNITURE INSPIRED BY NATURE
Another in our ARvlog series
The irrepressible Dirk Wynants, founder and "Big Boss" (his quote!) of Extremis, joined us in our Milan showroom to share his unique take on designing furniture with architects and designers who attended our "Nature!" seminar. Here he is interviewed by our founder and "Serial Misfit" (his quote!) Dr Pierre Wilter...
We have less than a decade left to fundamentally reshape the economy, halve carbon emissions and limit our global temperature increase to 1.5C. This is a seismic challenge that demands global co-operation. We have no room for failure. The climate crisis is worsening and, worryingly, international efforts to decarbonise are way off track.
We are facing a revolution. Even surpassing the Industrial and the Digital revolutions, this paradigm shift will affect everything and everyone on this planet. It will influence the way investment works, industries function, governments act, and businesses operate. It will bring about a time of intense instability as much as it produces unparalleled opportunities.
As pioneers in sustainability, green tech and biophilic design, we know it is critical to human health to include natural systems and processes in our buildings and constructed landscapes. We are here to start a green revolution. Join us!
Lanzarote - a dramatic landscape of lava and volcanoes surrounded by sea.
Here, ranged along the side of a volcano, are seven extra-ordinary dwellings, inspired by the terrestrial energy beneath.
moonscape of lava rock, sharp and uninviting, punctuated by volcanoes, in colours of red, brown and black, and
An inhospitable and unwelcoming landscape, softened by the work of the great architectural son of Lanzarote, Cesar Manrique. His work is characterised by a unique confection of organic white painted shapes, low-rise housing, also white painted with green shutters, quirky wind sculptures at every roundabout, and planted with lush green vegetation imported to the island. Forming familiar, welcoming, nurturing and organic spaces for humans to unwind and relax. Like the volcanoes, his unique architectural and artistic legacy remains dormant and carefully curated since his untimely death in 1992.
THE CANARY ISLAND OF LANZAROTE
underneath all this a sense of the energy of molten magma. For a period of six years, between 1730 and 1736, the volcanoes which erupted covered most of the fertile land of the island, and although a smaller eruption occurred in 1824, the volcanoes are now dormant. But visit Timanfaya National Park and you can feel the heat of the magma under the surface with your bare hands.
Offers a landscape which is dramatic and edgy.
rchitecture.Redefined. (AR) have set out to redefine and recreate Lanzarote’s typical architectural language. They have done so
Deeply rooted in the volcanic origins of the island, the apartments are formed from shards of concrete, thrusting upwards in dramatic form as if pushed by the energy below ground. As alien and other-wordly as the surrounding lava landscape, the concrete shards are uncompromising – sharp, angular and hard. The shards take on the rust-brown hue of the surrounding lava, which itself has been crushed into the concrete mix to give it its distinctive colour.
Despite this, the shards have a clear form all of their own – they might have been thrust up through the earth’s crust as the volcanoes, but they are undeniably concrete. Smooth surfaces, sharp geometric edges – all in contrast to the malpais (“bad lands”) around them.
A NEW VOLCANIC VERNACULAR
by designing designed seven stunning apartments on the side of a volcano to provide additional accommodation units to a new boutique hotel.
n closer look, the overlapping shards form internal spaces. Dramatic volumes, acute angles, all embedded in the surrounding
And through the glazing which forms the entire outward-facing façade, an extraordinary view down and across the volcanic landscape, studded with cones of differing colours.
In another nod to the island’s volcanic origins, each apartment is approached from above, down a staircase descending within a lava tube to a cool and refreshingly damp semi-subterranean antechamber, dramatically lit by shafts of sunlight during the day, and subtle lighting at night. From there, a large pivot-hung door allows access to the hidden inside and the stunning view beyond. terrain, the stark white rendered internal surfaces contrasting with the dark grey polished concrete floors.
s different as these dramatic structures are from Manrique’s smooth curves, the biophilic soul of each design is strikingly similar. The structures are of a
Both utilise the basics of biophilic design - natural light, connectedness with nature, long sight lines, natural shapes and forms. And both seek to create a dialog with the natural landscape.
The differences between them come down to the use of a single preposition – Manrique’s structures are “on” the island, AR’s are “of” the island. Other than that, they have the same heart, the same soul.
“When we were creating the lexicon of this design” says Pierre Wilter, ARs lead designer, “we realised we did not want to compete with Manrique, nor did we want to emulate his genius. What we wanted was to have a dialog, a conversation, maybe even a debate – but definitely not an argument!”
human scale, manageable and familiar. Both provide a refuge from the malpais outside, creating nurturing spaces from which to take in the views.
With bio-architecture at its heart, conscious luxury strives for sustainability, carbon neutrality and being plastic and toxin-free as part of its core ethos.
But this does not mean compromising quality or luxury. The floor to ceiling glass expanses slide seamlessly into channels in the concrete, opening up to an amazing infinity pool with the gorgeous views beyond.
The pool uses rain-harvested and recycled water, and is heated by using the concrete shards as huge solar collectors. In fact, the pool is used as a heat store and releases heat to the apartment during cooler evenings, only to be recharged by the sun the following day. The seven apartments form the core accommodation for the associated boutique hotel, also designed by AR, and follow the 2020 Luxury Travel Trends
Report by the Small Luxury Hotels of The World group – one of which is conscious luxury: understated, conscientious and environmentally sensitive luxury.
he apartments comprise studio, one bed and two bed, ranging in size from 45 to 115m2, each with a fully fitted kitchenette
Built-in furniture is bespoke made from sustainable African-sourced Jatoba mahogany- the light reddish brown colour contrasting with the white rendered shards and dark grey floor.
Furnishings have been curated specifically for this project by Tatyana von Boettinger, AR’s Interior Furnishings Specialist: “I’ve chosen a purposefully eclectic approach both in form and colour, and have sourced most furnishings from local artisans on the islands.
The very minimalist interior surfaces have provided the perfect foil for such an approach.”
and en-suite bathrooms featuring indoor/outdoor showering experiences together with large, two-person freestanding stone tubs.
No article about Lanzarote, even an article about these stunning apartments, can be complete without mentioning viticulture on the island - a practice fittingly other-worldly
When the volcanic eruptions destroyed virtually all the arable land it was discovered that this suited vine growing – the lava being intensely mineral rich and the ash (“picon”) moisture absorbing.
Each vine is protected from the wind by a semi-circular wind break, and despite there being little rainfall on the island, the morning mists from the Atlantic ocean provide moisture which is absorbed by the picon. The effect is extra-ordinary. Despite the adversity, the inhospitable terrain, and the lack of rainfall, the vines thrive.
In a similar way, so do these apartments appear to thrive. Despite seemingly thrust from the ground and pushed into a moonscape of lava and malpais, they look rooted in the landscape, part of it, energised by it – and every bit as exciting as the wines produced by those vines! LANZAROTE VITICULTURE
as the very landscape nurturing it!
Offering a new outlook at urban living, these intimately crafted residences respect, embrace, and foster the natural environment, and provide home to those who wish to reconnect with nature while enjoying the London’s buzzing city centre.
London is the greenest major city in Europe and the third greenest city of its size in the world, yet the detached relation of its residents with nature within their habitat became evident during the recent pandemic, when most of us were confined within the walls of our homes which became, for months, our urban solitary enclosures. With limited access to the outdoors, private amenity seemed a precious luxury and many started greening up their interiors during lockdown in an impromptu attempt to keep their spirits up.
Numerous studies have proven that ornamental plants and flowers in the house help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression whilst increasing energy levels and positivity. At work, the calming influence of natural environments is conducive to increased productivity. The presence of plants in hospital recovery rooms, and views of aesthetically pleasing gardens help patients to heal faster.
NEED FOR GREEN
As our cities grow ever larger and the green spaces within ever smaller, the trick is in achieving a balance between city dwellers and personal green spaces.
Even more importantly, direct contact with nature and hands-on involvement in plants’ care and nurturing stimulates positivity, and improves stamina.
Access to beautifully curated green spaces nearby our homes is associated with tighter community bonds, safer neighbourhoods and happier residents who are more physically active.
reenery in our living environment benefits more than just our health and well-being. It also facilitates water management and promotes
Plants soak up rainwater and regulate runoff from roofs; by harvesting and redirecting storm water, building surfaces with permeable materials can limit and control overflow. Plants also absorb and destroy harmful toxins, bacteria and other air- and water-born pollutants.
Green buildings are less energy demanding and more self-sufficient, reducing our carbon footprint. Surrounding a building with trees and landscaping is an effective way to protect it from the elements and reduce heating and cooling costs as well as maintenance costs. MORE THAN
biodiversity in built-up areas, it reduces air and noise pollution and significantly cools local temperatures by reducing heat islands.
Our concept can be summarised as “Urban dwelling in conversation with nature” and there are three elements central to our design process: People, nature and environment
A NEW HOUSING REALITY
The project is sited in the metropolitan centre of Ealing Broadway, west London. The neighbourhood is a conservation area, characterised by two-storey Victorian houses. The site is a derelict backland, tucked behind a streetfront of semi-detached houses and accessed via a mews driveway. Covered with decaying storage and ancillary units, strewn with building materials and debris, the land has been completely cleared and replaced by a curated, rich micro-forest and houses which are biophilic to their essence.
The concept can be summarised as “Urban dwelling in conversation with nature” and there are three elements central to the design process: People, nature and environment. AR have designed modern buildings with sensitivity towards the architectural character of the area, of a scale which is intimately human and accessible. Green wraps around, above, and impinges within, blurring boundaries between the built and the natural. Sustainable, innovative and highly ecological construction methods and technologies of light environmental footprint are employed throughout. In response to the rapidly changing urban housing reality of today, Architecture.Redefined. have designed a highly sustainable, innovative piece of architecture. A small development of six low rise dwellings, set within an extraordinary urban micro-forest. Reconnecting people to nature. Rejuvenating. Recharging.
esidents walk or cycle through this car-free “urban stress decompression zone” – seeing, smelling, touching, hearing and perhaps even tasting the forest as they pass – to reach their home. The properties are stacked
To the core of each dwelling is a central three storey atrium planted green along the entire flank wall - an oxygenating unit, a carbon-dioxide scrubber, and an air-filtration system. The atrium’s retractable glass roof – complete with PV glass - allows intimate connection with light, air and weather at all levels. This has been purposefully studied to provide well-aerated and well-lit living spaces even on the lower ground floor, facilitating natural circadian rhythms and benefiting physical health.
The vertical green core of each home connects with a horizontal and planted roof top amenity space which offers canopy views over the urban forest. Green views are afforded from every room as the relation of the individual to nature becomes key.
A staircase forms counterpart to this atrium and facilitates transition through the three storeys, which have been vertically divided into sleeping, living and working/amenity areas.
next to each other, their white-rendered elevation outlines reminiscent of typical houses with double-pitched roofs. Behind the detached facades lie ultra-modern cubes made of high-performance concrete and glass.
Planting is woven directly into the fabric of the buildings – trees are located between the detached façade and the front elevation, green roof on top, and massed organic planting to the rear. The plants are used as a device to cool and insulate the buildings and as a separation element, but always maintaining a shielded and contained environment for the resident. Large thick south-facing walls act as thermal masses releasing heat into the homes. The buildings comprise airtight envelopes with air circulation, filtration, heat-recovery systems and extremely high performance triple-glazing - coupled with light and warmth from the south reflecting off the inner surface of the separated façade.
A development like no other; a regenerated micro-forest and residences responding to the human scale and to contemporary living needs. This project challenges standard practice and poses, as well as attempts to answer, questions with regards to urban living: what does the future hold? BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
A variety of green and smart technologies have been combined to produce a groundbreaking response to traditional design and building practice. Without slavishly conforming to the strict box-ticking rules of the established sustainable building methods, in this case innovation has been eclectically approached and utilised to improve the performance of buildings and benefit their users.
THE MIYAWAKI EFFECT
The Japanese botanist specialised in natural forests and restoration of degraded land, and during the 70s he established a methodology of rapidly growing native trees and vegetation on land that had been preciously deprived of green, dramatically reducing the succession time into a fully grown forest and ecosystem from hundreds of years to just 20 years on average.
According to Earthwatch Europe, tiny forests are truly amazing: Tens of trees and indigenous plants are planted per square metre, maximising potential of small plots of land. Due to the planting methods and selection of seeds, the forest development is accelerated without the use of chemicals. The forests have low maintenance and management requirements after their first two years. In turn, they are richly biodiverse and capable of attracting 500 animal and plant species within the first three years of the forest being set up, a great boost to the decreasing wildlife populations of urban centres. The dwellings are set entirely within a dense urban forest of mixed varieties and species of trees and underplanting, following the principles of “Tiny Urban Forests” by Akira Miyawaki.
An iconic ancient monument inspires an eco-lodge comprising boutique accommodation units, associated with celebrated sculptor Constantino Nivola’s landmark museum in Orani, Sardinia.
An iconic ancient monument inspires an eco-lodge comprising boutique accommodation units, associated with celebrated sculptor Constantino Nivola’s landmark museum in Orani, Sardinia.
At the heart of each unit lies a modern nuraghe, a truncated cone made of recycled concrete, hosting a bed and lounge area, and niches sculpted out of the wall to form bedside tables and a mini-bar.
The ceiling features a circular glass strip which brings in sunlight, shadows and allows visitors to closely experience natural elements, such as rain drops falling on the glass, or the starry sky on a clear night. The roof contains a rainwater harvesting system and is covered in solar panels providing most of the electrical power needed to run the unit. nspired by the ancient and iconic ardinian Nuraghi, Architecture.Redefined. (AR) aspired to offer visitors a primal, intimate experience space.
A SOURCE OF
The accommodation offer comprises four units, set amongst the land’s natural vegetation, partly carved into the hill which forms the side of a former mining ravine.
ivola (1911-1988) was an Italian sculptor, muralist, designer, and teacher who has been dubbed a ‘’Picasso for the people’’.
THE NIVOLA MUSEUM
He rose to fame in the US - with work erected in and on American buildings between the late 1950s and early 1970s - and taught at several renowned design schools.
In the 1940s Nivola shared a studio with Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect who became a mentor to him, guiding Nivola toward forming his unique sand-casting technique of sculpting, which involved pouring plaster or concrete into molds of wet sand.
Nivola’s major sculptural works are abstract, large-scale architectural reliefs in concrete. His art was characterised by a natural, fluid rhythm, often incorporating natural elements such as shells or a handprint and a diversity of symbols and humanoid figures.
While being very creative outside his home country, Nivola also remained active in Italy. The Nivola Museum in Orani, Sardinia is dedicated to his life and sculpture, and hosts the largest collection of his smaller scale work.
he heart of the beautiful Italian island, which sees millions of incoming tourists every year, is a little-discovered treasure combining tradition, culture and gastronomy.
Featuring a varying landscape of mountains, hills and rivers that make up a very well-preserved natural scenery, the island is rich in endemic species of flora and fauna.
The mild climate and exceptional soil quality make for excellent grape varieties, some of which date thousands of years back. Main activities for locals in the past included mining, animal breeding, farming and fishing, but today, mass tourism has taken over as the main source of income for coastal town residents.
Things are different in the hinterland, which is often neglected by tourists, but has a unique offering for visitors: unspoilt, original places waiting to be explored. THE SARDINIAN
This development celebrates the concept of terroir. Understanding and drawing upon the unique environmental contexts to form the character of the built environment. Embedding the result within, forming part of, and enveloped by the natural environment. And providing a place to contemplate the future. The future of the natural environment. The future of the built environment. And the future of our role in all of this.
This is a place which reaches deep down to the soul, bringing 4,000 years of history into a new context, and helping us shape a future which is better for us, better for nature and better for the world.
This is The Living Nuraghe!
he external shell is a modern geometric envelope, visually linked to the landscape and the museum, and referencing another
Recalling Nivola’s work, whereby a rough block gets sculpted into a sensitive silhouette; in our design, an angular exterior encases a sculpted interior.
The ‘broken’ hexagon elevates towards the sky in various heights, each monolith also made of recycled concrete, then clad in a mesh of recycled scrap metal sourced locally and composed into upcycled pieces of art by local artists.
This mesh allows for creepers to establish themselves and seasonally cover the structures, further integrating the units into the landscape.
Storage and bathroom are located in the interior-exterior interspace.
Two large glass panels keep the hexagon together and in materiality terms, become a link between the old and new. They form the main entrance and the exit towards the private terrace, allowing natural airflow and framed external views.
Sardinian landmark: I tombe dei giganti.
However, there is one particular feature that highlights it from the rest of the villages, the Nivola Museum.
The Museum is set within an old, reconstructed wash-house, on a panoramic hill that was loved by Nivola. Aside from the existing formal gardens, the complex includes over 20 hectares of land covered by olive trees and wild Mediterranean vegetation.
In an attempt to attract tourists and keep them engaged into exploring the surrounding region, Nivola Museum in collaboration with Terraviva Competitions called for creative proposals for a few small accommodation pavilions immersed in the local landscape: a sustainable, small-scale boutique facility.
ust one hour away from the magnificent Sardinian coast, Orani may seem just one more of a large number of “lost towns” in the middle of the island.
discovered in the 1930s, and are to be found nowhere else in the world.
These circular towers-fortresses in the form of truncated cones (some reaching 22 metres in height) were built on high ground, near the villages, and had defensive and military functions.
The nuraghi have become a landmark for the island and a must-visit monument for the first-time visitor.
THE MYSTERIOUS NURAGHE
THE MYSTERIOUS NURAGHE
designated UNESCO world heritage site, these 8,000 ancient megalithic buildings dotting the Sardinian landscape were
he units are specifically sited on steeper terrain to closely converse with the rocky ravine, and offer views towards the olive grove, valley and village.
Connection to the museum is achieved via a ‘sculptural walk’ which aspires to extend the exhibition galleries out into the surrounding grounds, prompting visitors to explore the landscape and spot pieces of art amongst the trees and rocks.
CONNECTED TO THE MUSEUM
Walking down one side, the path unwinds along the dry stone wall with individual openings through the wall leading to each accommodation unit. By taking a turn to follow the path through the olive grove, one is guided to a communal gathering space amongst the tree canopies; this space can be used for picnics, expositions, and intimate events.
The proposal aspires to not only entice museum visitors into spending ‘a night at the museum’, but also to host creative teams and artists in residence who might get invited to participate in the museum’s curriculum. Each new accommodation unit attempts to become a living art installation, with interior walls having purposely been left a blank canvas for visiting artists to dress changeably with art.
he architecture cherishes the concept of terroir in the most subtle way – melting within the surrounding landscape, becoming one with the background and ‘disappearing’ in the land.
The architecture cherishes the concept of terroir in the most subtle way – melting within the surrounding landscape, becoming one with the background and ‘disappearing’ in the land.
All but one element of this proposal are designed to integrate into the surroun¬dings and constantly change as the landscape shifts – through day and night, summer and winter.
The horizontality of the building echoes the horizontality of the lava plains, while the verticality of the tunnel is a tribute to the volcanic volumes punching through the ground and the verticality of the climb to reach the top. ICELAND VOLCANO COFFEE SHOP
The building intends to emphasize the landscape and its uniqueness, conversing with its surroundings at all times. A thin metal structural frame is transported and assembled on site, internally clad with pre-cast concrete slabs ensuring thermal comfort. Minimal column and beam sizes allow for expansive and uninterrupted interiors that can serve multiple functions.
The two monoliths forming the tunnel reference the Eurasian-North American tectonic plate schism. Its burnt orange colour a mention to hot melting lava, a strong contrast to the colours found naturallyon site. We often find these intense colours in Icelandic towns, but in the dark lava fields it becomes a location marker seen from the distance. Upon parking and following the compressed earth path to the front of the building, visitors see no option to access, but walk through the tunnel which is oriented to shelter from prevailing eastern winds, its sides lifting towards the sky in an elevating experience.
Halfway through the tunnel, they get faced with a decision: Choose between two doors leading to the café (right) or the exhibition/function room (left), or continue walking through to the other end where the volcanic climb awaits. This way the visitors are guided through a designated semi-open walking area, showing the way both to the trekking path as well as the sheltered interior. In a vast and unprotected landscape such as this, the Wayfinder offers a sense of containment and guidance.
Our latest project in Las Palmas - the city of eternal spring on the island of Gran Canaria. A building capturing the energy of the terrain below, the waves in front, and the Atlantic breezes above. A building designed to excite, enthuse and energize all who pass through it!
Who we are
Being a team of problem solvers means that one single label doesn’t cover what we do.
We're lifelong learners and open‑minded collaborators who are ready to move mountains on our clients' behalf.