Category Archives: architectrical

Futuristic Living and Organic Architecture pt. 3: Living in a bubble

I recently went to an interesting exhibition with my man, entitled Cloud Cities and featuring bubbles hanging in the air, lying on the ground, overgrown or growing and some of them somewhat inhabitable. If you are in Berlin, you can still check out the exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, where it runs until January 15, 2012.

The bubbles were all designed by Tomás Saraceno, an Argentina-born artist, who currently resides – like me – in Frankfurt am Main. He originally studied architecture and draws inspiration from soap bubbles and spider webs, which are influences you can definitely see in the featured exhibition, which is apparently the largest single exhibition of his works to date. Cloud Cities attempts to present a vision for the future, as to how people might or could live, and how the conception of space and humankinds’ place in it transforms and changes.

The picture right above shows you the two bubbles you can actually enter (if you look hard enough you can make out a person in the bubble on the left). It’s a fun experience, somewhere in between a trampoline and walking on air, all the while being visible to other visitors who walk or sit below you.
Now, his ideas are not entirely original (but yeah, what is?). The idea of see-through bubbles as living spaces with a focus on relaxation and new perspectives on the environment that surrounds us has already been taken and transferred into the outside world by the likes of Archigram 40 years ago:

via, photo credit: Archigram

But there are also more recent and more elaborate versions of the idea that come very close to what we encountered in the exhibition. These are the relaxation bubbles that bubbletree came up with:

via, image credit: bubbletree
via, image credit: bubbletree

Bubbletree derive their name from one of their products: they produce bubble-shaped tree-homes and offer to build them into your tree of choice.


All of the above visions – from art in the museum to cozy home in a tree – share one problem though: they might give us glimpses on futuristic living concepts, but they don’t really hit us with the organic hammer. Their extensive use of vinyl and reliance on electric fans doesn’t qualify them as sustainable. Even more so, they don’t provide answers to fundamental questions of energy efficiency, of how to heat or cool the living space, on how to connect it with the infrastructure we desire – water, energy, sanitation.
Well, from bubbles in trees it is only a small step to UFOs in trees. And this particular UFO makes the extra step to sustainable materials and conception.


It is one of the rooms of the Treehotel in Harads near the Lule River in Sweden. The UFO room was prefabricated offsite and then transported via roads to its final  destination. It is cast in durable  composite material and super lightweight, but strong and  sustainable so it can easily be lofted in the trees. Hotel guests access it by a retractable  staircase and a hatch door, and in the 30 sq meter room there is a double  bed, couches on the perimeter, a composting toilet and a dining area.  Porthole windows look out on the surrounding forest scene. The Treehotel owners and staff commit to the surrounding environment and  tries to run their establishment in the most sustainable way possible by having all of  the rooms built by local companies to minimize impact on the site and hang them in a way that does not harm the trees. Environmentally safe materials are used in the rooms’ construction, which all feature insulation, underfloor  heating, LED lighting, water efficient fixtures, and composting  toilets. Treehotel sources its electricity from hydroelectric power and uses  only eco-friendly cleaning products.


Applying some of the same principles as the UFO room, there are the Free Spirit Spheres that also function as guest rooms on Vancouver Island in Canada. They bring more bubble and less outer space, however, they also bring less sustainability in that some of them are made of fibreglass, while those made of wood (following traditional sailboat-construction techniques) are sometimes covered in a layer of vinyl.


But of course bubbles don’t only have to hang on and in trees. There is a variety of settings to imagine them in. Keeping it real, Buckminster Fuller placed his Fly Eye Dome simply on the Ground.


Which brings us to a similar concept taken further – and presenting heaps of potential for organic approaches that focus on sustainable materials and maximum energy efficiency. Voilá, Pierre Cardin’s Palais Bulles (bubble house), located in Cannes, France. Just imagine that structure built with all natural materials, paying special attention to making it a passive house and install some solar-panels and the like. Dream come true.


All the concepts presented so far leave us with one question: Aren’t bubbles and water the combination one would naturally expect? Eriksson Architects LTD from Finland answer in the affirmative and present their vision for a new town built outside Beijing in the Mentougou Eco Valley, where they combine research institutes for modern science and innovation with environmentally friendly and eco-efficient urban living concepts in collaboration with Finnish ecological experts Eero Paloheimo Eco City Ltd.

With goals of carbon neutrality, respect for the environment, water and energy conservation, renewable energy, and housing and amenities for all employees and visitors, the project aims to reduce the environmental footprint of the city to one third of that of a typical city of similar size.  And most interesting for us here: their water institute comes in the shape of bubbles.


I wanna stick to my own tradition and close this post with a ted-talk on architecture, this time by the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. He does not talk about designing bubbly homes or think about how to live in bubbles, but he gives a mind-blowing insight on the visionary powers (and stunning realities) of current architecture.


Futuristic Living and Organic Architecture Pt. 2

Dudes and dudettes, it’s been a while since the last instalment in the Futuristic Living and Organic Architecture series (you can find part 1 HERE). Futuristic Living Pt. 2 (here) doesn’t really count in, since there was no organic architecture part.
But today there is! We’ll have a look at some energy efficient, self-sustainable or carbon-neutral houses, so you can get an idea of where you wanna live in, say, 30 years from now? Or shall we make it 15? Whatever, the sooner the better, right?


First, I’d like to introduce you to the cube-project which “is an initiative of Dr Mike Page at the University of Hertfordshire who set out to build a compact home, no bigger than 3x3x3 metres on the inside, in which one person could live a comfortable, modern existence with a minimum impact on the environment.” To get a first impression you can watch a tour around and through the cube, which gives you a good idea of what it looks like and how it works.

“Within its 27 cubic metres it includes a lounge, with a table and two custom-made chairs, a small double bed (120cm wide), a full-size shower, a kitchen (with energy-efficient fridge, induction hob, re-circulating cooker hood, sink/drainer, combination microwave oven and storage cupboards), a washing machine, and a composting toilet. Lighting is achieved by ultra-efficient LED lights, and the Cube is heated using an Ecodan air-source heat pump, with heat being recovered from extracted air. It has cork flooring and there is two-metre head height throughout.” And of course, it is made from a variety of sustainable materials.


If you want to learn more about the cube, you can visit the homepage of the project by clicking HERE. There you’ll also find a lot of additional information, especially concerning the technologies used and the generating of energy.
But what if you think: “this is all nice and well, but way too clean and waaayyy to small for my liking?” Well, here is the answer: Simon Dale’s low impact woodland home!

Yep, it not only looks like a hobbit’s home, but it made of wood, straw and clay, making use of natural material found in the surroundings (and most importantly: harvesting them responsibly) with all additional materials gathered from the trash that people tend to throw away: windows, plumbing and wiring equipment, etc. Below you get an impression of the process it took to build this inspiring home.

Not only is it ridiculously beautiful and super-eco-friendly, but on his homepage Simon Dale gives valuable instructions if you wanna go for something similar yourself. And he claims that he doesn’t really know much about carpeting and the like, saying he’s just and able-bodied dude who gave it a try. And since he likes trying he decided to build another one to move into, which looks just as gorgeous (a good reason to visit South Wales, I guess…).

all of the above 7 pictures © Simon Dale at, you can visit his webpage by clicking HERE.

If you’re more of an enthusiast for minimalism in architecture rather than going for the cluttered green natura-all-over-the-place look, the following home in Tübingen, Germany planned by the architects Martenson and Nagel-Theissen of studio AMUNT might just be the one for you.

It’s a so-called passive house (meaning that it doesn’t require traditional heating systems since its construction makes maximum use of “passive” sources of heat, like sun, heat radiating of human bodies or electrical appliances, thereby requiring a minimum of energy) and provides space for two adults and four kids according to their webpage, but I guess you can get more creative with the number of adults vs. children when it comes to deciding if you wanna live in something like that. Which seems to be fairly easy, since it is easily produced and delivered to the construction site, where they only have to piece together the 136 pieces that it consists of. Which is mostly wood, really, making for pretty interiors.
Oh, and yes, I was talking about minimalism. Why? Have a look yourself:

all images (c) AMUNT, via, visit their page HERE

Jealous already?
These are just three different options for organic and/or low-energy living in future days. Some people obviously already do so now, I don’t (yet!), but there is really no reason why we all shouldn’t. Since I like ending posts like this one with more food for thought I give you a TED talk by the bright Catherine Mohr on Building Green (duration 6:13).

Going to church: Peterskirche am Plöck, Heidelberg

The church we are about to visit today in the fourth installment of this ongoing series is the Peterskirche am Plöck, the oldest church in the city of Heidelberg in southern Germany, that I visited in late October 2010. She served as University Chapel for the Uni of Heidelberg and officially became University Church in 1896.

via, cause I didn't take a full on picture...

The church is mentioned for the first time in 1196, therefore making it older than the city of Heidelberg itself. According to a contract with the University of Heidelberg, the church does not belong to any parish (although in terms of actual possession it is owned by a protestant foundation), but serves as the official University church.

The most striking thing about the Peterskirche for me was the amount of commemorative plaques attached to its outer and inner walls. These are the tombstones reminding visitors of the numerous university professors and nobles that were entombed in the church. They come in a variety of shapes and colors, featuring sphinxes and faded knights, all of them beautiful. Part of the now small ground surrounding the church has been a cemetery in former times, lying outside the city walls actually.

Between 1485 and 1496 the church was remodeled after gothic designs, but that was changed up later on, when towards the end of the 17th century the church (as much of the city) were destroyed and became a ruin. It was re-erected as a baroque church, but then again redesigned around 1870, following neo-gothic designs. Since 2006 some of the windows have been replaced with new ones by glass artist Johannes Schreiter, opting for a more modern, read: abstract, interpretation of classical motifs.

two of the windows designed by Schreiter, via

Going to church: St. Bonifatiuskirche Heidelberg

Yup folks, it is that time again: We go to church. You may just enjoy the view, just be interested in the architectural features or you might wanna sit down and pray, anyhow, you are very welcome. No need to convert though, I am not a Christian, nor am I religious, but I sure like them churches, so let’s take a peek.

For a long time the previously featured Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit Church) had been the only Catholic church in all of Heidelberg. But around the end of the 19th century the western part of the city as we know it today came to be built and from the beginning they had plans to erect both a Catholic and a Protestant church. The St. Bonifatius was thus built from 1899 to 1903 after Ludwig Maier’s plans and is of neo-Romanesque style, signified by the double-towers. The church was renovated in 1976 (interior) and then again from 2005 to 2009 (this time the exterior). You’ll find it in the (quite long, so google the exact position) Kaiserstraße in Heidelberg.

The interior of the church is quite beautiful and very unlike what many of us Germans are used to, due to seeing a lot of Baroque, neo-Baroque or Rococo interiors. There is a large wooden ceiling with paintings on it. Those look pretty medieval to my unqualified eye, so that came as a surprise, especially since the whole interior of the church is somewhat dark and gloomy while it looks so shiny and bright from the outside. That made for a nice contrast in atmosphere.

When I entered the church and took all the photos, there was actually just one other person there. This woman was obviously in prayer, sitting on one of the benches. Do I have to spell it out? I felt like the most offensive intruder ever, coming in all touristy and stuff, taking random pictures while she might be sitting there contemplating life and destiny and all the like. I toyed with the idea of just asking her if it’s ok for me to take pictures while she is there, until I finally came to the conclusion that I was too afraid to ask. However, the two times I passed her, we looked each other in the eye, smiled and nodded a friendly hello. So I totally felt accepted. And actually really happy. That was the nicest smile I had gotten that day, and the intimacy of the whole situation added a lot of emotional weight to it. So, dear woman in the St. Bonifatiuskirche in Heidelberg: thank you, and: you’re awesome!

If you happen to be in Heidelberg, take a walk out to the western part of the city and have a look at the St. Bonifatiuskirche, it is totally worth it!

Going to church: Jesuitenkirche Heidelberg

Since it is Sunday, this is a good time for another “Going to church” blogpost. It’s been a while since the first one (which you can find here), but I’ve seen some nice churches recently, so yay, new material! As per usual, keep in mind: I am not a Christian, nor a religious person, I just happen to enjoy churches a lot, so here we go:

Let us first take a tour around the building. The curious thing about the Jesuitenkirche is, that it is one of the two major churches in Heidelberg in terms of sheer size. Yet, while the other one, the Heiliggeistkirche is easily visible within the historic city, the Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit church) is kinda hidden away and springs up rather surprisingly once you stand in front of it. It’s massive, but all the buildings around are so close that you only really see it from up above or if you stand right in front of it. Since I lack a good camera and there was no way to stand back far enough, there is not picture of the whole church, except for the one at the bottom of this post.

The Jesuitenkirche is at the heart of the Jesuit Quarter in Heidelberg and main church of the Roman-Catholic Heilig-Geist-parish of Heidelberg. It has been built from 1712 to 1759 in the style of the Baroque, but the church tower is a more recent building, having been completed in 1872. Instead of being oriented towards the east, as churches usually are, this one is oriented towards the south, for whatever reason (but makes for a little curiosity, right?). The pieta is by the sculptor Julius Seitz, created in 1905. The organ is the most recent addition, dating back to only 2009, when the old organ was given to a private museum.

The two pictures right above and below depict two sculptures, that are part of a larger exhibition going on primarily in the church-adjacent Museum for sacral art and liturgy (in the church’s crypt apparently) titled “Gott – weiblich” (God – female) tracing back stories and histories of female depictions of God and asking for the female side of the Christian god. As a feminist I was very pleased to see that, escpecially since it is being made visible within the church itself.

Another really interesting project going on within the church itself are these two red towers in the image above. They are made of little clay bricks and serve to remember the dead. People close to one’s heart, who recently passed away, can be immortalized by writing their name in the wet clay, have the bricks be burnt and then added to these towers (representing church towers, if I remember correctly). I thought this was an incredibly awesome idea and love the fact that it is openly featured within the church nave. Cool things happen in churches, who’da thunk it?
And below one last glimpse on the church exterior, from afar, to be more precise: from on top of the hill where the Heidelberg Castle ruins are located. Go have a look, if you’re there!

Random Impressions of Heidelberg

I’ve been on somewhat of a tour-de-Germany this past week. Went from Berlin to Heidelberg to Mainz and then to the tiny villiage I grew up in south of Stuttgart. That explains why I post very irregularly and why my posts are particularly photo-heavy. Like this one. It’s been the third time I visited Heidelberg last week, but the first time that I stayed a little longer than just overnight, so I had the opportunitiy to have a closer look. Thank you Tobi and Sarah for giving me shelter, and for the awesome week I was able to spend there!

The image right above shows you the shop entrance to Käthe Wohlfahrt. There you can buy everything you ever wanted for Christmas (all year long) and more. Nothing is too cheesy, tacky or kitschy to not be featured here. So if you have a serious Christmas addiction, this is your place to be.

Obviously there is no posting about Heidelberg without mentioning the Heidelberg Palace. It towers over the city and is quite beautiful to behold. And lucky me I went up there with Tobi on a wonderful autumn afternoon, enjoying the view on the massive ruins.
The palace was built in the 13th century where previously there had been a smaller type of castle. A string of electors attached new buildings to the original construction and over time the Heidelberg Palace came to be one of the most beautiful Renaissance castles in Germany. It was destroyed during the War of Palatine Succession around 1690 and never really re-built. From the 19th century onwards it then became one of the most famous castle ruins throughout Europe.

For all of those who’ve never been to Heidelberg, I would definitely recommend to go there and have a thorough look around. The architecture alone is totally worth a visit!

Futuristic Living pt. 2: Moving to Realstadt

After my first post on planning dwellings and cities for the future here, I wanted to revisit the topic by giving you some impressions of an exhibition called “Realstadt” that is still going on in Berlin, where you can visit it until November 28th, in the Kraftwerk Mitte. Right below you can see Berlin two times: the first is an re-imagination of the area around Alexanderplatz, and below that is model of the city, carved out of wood (and though coming close to reality, this too contains buildings that have only been planned but not realized).

Let’s enter the rest of the Realstadt exhibition through a subway model, shall we? Okay.

While the building in the picture above was a design for some youth convention center for the youth organisation of the former GDR, it totally looks like “Darth Vader’s school for stormtrooping children,” right? Hilarious, but even more so if you think about all the potential connections between Strom Troopers and GDR youth organizations. As Daniel Liebeskind mentions here, architecture tells a lot of stories and a lot about the people who designed and built a building.

The exhibition is interesting for the models and designs alone, however, I was slightly underwhelmed. By seeing the ads and reading about the aims of this exhibition, I thought I’d encounter many more models of the type right above or in the three pictures below: Cities and buildings that are not, and probably aren’t to be in the next 100 years, but that represent intersting experiments of thought and imagination, where the wish is the architect, rather than the math. Fair enough, many of the models featured are still amazing to look at, but what bugs me about that, is the lack of information given with the individual pieces and designs. Because obviously basically all designs are unrealized (or at least not yet – or not anymore), but from the texts coming with the pieces it’s often hard to find out, especially if you want to dig a little deeper and see where the model deviates from reality – and why. I feel it wouldn’t have taken too much effort to provide that, and it was noticeably missing in my perception.

In autumn 2010 Berlin is playing host to «REALSTADT.Wünsche als Wirklichkeit» [Realstadt.Wishes Knocking on Reality’s Doors]. The focal point in this exhibition will be not only the concept of the City but also the way we deal with the City. It is the wishes of very many different actors playing an active part in shaping the City that are central to the exhibition: mundane wishes and spectacular ones, idealistic and economic ones, local and global ones. Cities, after all, are built from wishes, animated by wishes and pulsing with wishes.

The image above shows you one of my favorite models, that of a church. I like it so much, because it does a good job at representing what these models and these exhibitions are all about: Giving you a clear sense of what could be, what it would look like and coming up with ideas that take shape in a more concrete way than just some random thought in somebody’s head. Plus, the model reminds me to give you a “Going to Church” post again. Models like the one pictured right below are also interesting in that they bring maps to life and give you a clearer sense of how where you live is situated in the greater scheme of things. Which sounds way more esoteric than it’s really ment to sound.

A vast array of around 300 architectural and planning models and 80 exemplary projects from all over Germany testify to the wish for change and the energy needed to make it happen. In response to a nationwide call, these models were submitted by local authorities, town planning offices, universities, planning initiatives and individuals. The prize-winning projects of the competition “National Prize for Integrated Urban Development and Baukultur”, which was organised in 2009 by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development represented important points of reference. They include blueprints for extensive urban redevelopments and pinpoint interventions, realized concepts and shelved competition entries, participatory processes and bold individual statements.

Due to my lack of originality I decided to not bother you with any interesting information here whatsoever. Instead, I’m just gonna say that I love color coordinated things, so let’s just look at some  more things in good old white.

The exhibition is open from 10 to 8 every day, and as a special treat for you, if you’re a student, it’s free. Despite my critique, I highly recommend you to visit the exhibition, if not only for the exhibition building itself, the Kraftwerk Mitte. The bar, cashier and lighting is done nicely and the whole building makes for an interesting background to the designs featured.


Futuristic Living and Organic Architecture Pt. 1

For my workouts I started to watch videos on Coz I wanna gets smartz, y’all. That’s why. Some of the speeches are very good, and practically all of them are very informative, catering to whatever you just happen to like at that moment. I stumbled upon two videos in specific that caught my attention, both of them being about the future of architecture. They deal with questions of sustainability, eco-friendliness and the incorporation of nature and living matter into architectural processes. The first (and short, only 2:57 ) video features Mitchell Joachim, where he talks in “Don’t build your home, grow it!” about using plants and chemically engineered tissue for building homes. Enjoy below.

Some of the ideas he presents in his speech are already being used by other people over the world, who try to grow homes. Below you find structures grown of trees who were “woven” together, using the incredible feature of tree-trunks that, well, they grow together if you force them long enough at a tender age. The structures are “designed” by (1) Konstantin Kirsch and Richard Reames (via, (2) Hermann Block (via, (3+4) a bunch of people in northeastern India (sorry for not being able in this case to be more specific [and yes, I blame western arrogance], copyright held by Vanlal Tochhawng, via 


But combining nature and architecture can go in a very different direction, too. There’s tons of examples where organic architecture focuses more on the aesthetiques of organisms and tries to incorporate buildings into landscapes, nevertheless trying to make living things integral parts of the construction. One example is the “Urban Forest” by Chinese architecture studio MAD Ltd. (they hold copyright to the pictures below, by clicking them you get to their website)

Of course these MAD Ltd. designs totally remind me (and probably you, too) of science-fiction paintings and renderings that make the future seem a pretty sweet place to live in (or time, that is). Take for example the picture “Futuristic City Complex” below by artist Staszek Marek (who holds copyright, via

Or to take it even further, the below image by Mark Goerner (holding copyright, via where the city structure is not built into the natural setting, but the nature is rather built into the city itself:


The Urban Free Habitat System by Danish studio N55 pursues another architectural approach and does not create a static space for human beings, but lets the human being decide where to create his_her resident space. By using a simple steel construction seemingly public and open spaces can be transformed into private settings and zones of personal comfort.

Copyright of the above pictures with N55. You can visit their website by clicking here or any of the photos above.
Obviously, questions about sustainability and nature conservation arise, but more pressing for most would probably be to hear about plans for bad weather, unwelcome observers and the like (to be fair: they do address these issues in the according manual on their site).

The following pictures by Ilkka Halso take a different approach to nature and its relation to architecture by visually wondering what happens when we build around nature. Or specifically for nature, since we might be in need of preserving the little residue that is still left to us. And thus, what we often take as a given, becomes a museum object: 

Copyright to all of these gorgeous pictures by Ilkka Halso. You can get to the website either by clicking here or one of the above pictures.

And I’ll just close this post (there’ll be more though, that’s why it is entitled Pt. 1) with the second ted-talk I watched on the issue: Rachel Armstrong talks in “Architecture that repairs itself?” about her research into metabolic materials for architecture, imagining a way to restore the foundation of Venice and more (video duration 7:32).