Category Archives: sustainability

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).

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).