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    INTERNATIONAL SNAPSHOT: Ultra-sustainable US retreat; Chinese design reaches new peaks; Indian architect wins Pritzker Prize

    Stephanie Stefanovic

    Let's take a look at some of the world's latest innovations in architecture and design.

    ‘Triple-zero living’: Zero energy, zero waste and zero water

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    Image: Coulson

    US architecture firm Coulson is constructing the prototype for its Disappearing Retreat – a “transparent, stargazing, triple-zero building, dissolving the impact on the environment physically and aesthetically”. Modelled around the concept of ‘triple-zero living’, this building seeks to use zero energy and water, and produce zero waste.

    “Disappear Retreat integrates low-tech components widely available today into a factory-assembled enclosure that uses the passive design approach of super-insulation, air tightness, thermal bridge-free details, compact form, winter passive solar, and summer shading to achieve deep energy reductions.

    “Scattered amongst the boreal forest near Grand Marais, Minnesota like a family of spotted mushrooms, the first prototype buildings will form a Retreat Center offering a non-profit residency program to artistic and scientific professionals, public outreach on sustainable building and climate change, and overnight stays for those interested in test-driving the design. Visitors will become attune to resource use and the naturally integrated sustenance from the earth and sun and gain creative rejuvenation and inspiration from the landscape.” – Coulson  

    New peaks in Chinese design

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    Image: MAD Architecture

    MAD Architects, led by Ma Yansong, have completed “Chaoyang Park Plaza”, a 220,000sqm complex which includes 10 buildings that “unfold like a classic Shanshui painting on an urban scale”. Inspired by Eastern philosophies, the aim of this project is to blur the line between nature and the artificial, allowing humans and nature to co-exist.

    “Having a similar position and function as Central Park in Manhattan, but unlike the modern box-like buildings that only create a separation between the park and the city, “Chaoyang Park Plaza” instead is an expansion of nature. It is an extension of the park into the city, naturalizing the CBD’s strong artificial skyline, borrowing scenery from a distant landscape ─ a classical approach to Chinese garden architecture, where nature and architecture blend into one another.

    “The project has been awarded the LEED Gold Certification by the US Green Building Council, as the ideal of “nature” is not only embodied in the design concept, but in the innovation and integration of green technology as well. The vertical fins seen on the exterior glass façade emphasise the smoothness and verticality of the towers. They also function as the energy-efficient ventilation and filtration system, drawing fresh air indoors. At the base of the towers, there is a pond that while making them appear as if they are going into infinity, works as an air cooling system in the summer, decreasing the overall temperature of the interior.” – MAD Architects  

    Indian architect wins Pritzker Architecture Prize

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    Image: Wikimedia Commons

    Balkrishna Doshi has become the first Indian architect to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize,  considered to be the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for architecture. The 90-year-old has worked as an architect, city planner and educator for 70 years, and is best-known for his work in designing low-cost housing.

    Doshi was the architect behind the Aranya project in Indore, which accommodates over 80,000 people through a system of houses, courtyards and internal pathways. According to Doshi, his life’s work has been to help “the have-nots, the people who have nothing”.

    Doshi studied architecture in Mumbai and later worked under Le Corbusier before founding his own company, Vatsu Shiipa (Environmental Design). The architect says he owes his prize to Le Corbusier, whose teachings inspired him to question identity and “discover new regionally-adopted contemporary expression for a sustainable holistic habitat”. 

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