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Living in a wellness architecture

Being in harmony with the environment around us also contributes to our wellness. A lifestyle that starts with design, from imagining how to insert a building in a natural or urban context before building it. It's called organic architecture and it's the basis of the well-being that we live and experience every day.

Design, nature and well-being

Thinking, designing, building, living in symbiosis with the surrounding environment. It is the way in which design takes us to what we know as organic architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect behind one of the masterpieces that best integrates a building into its natural context, taught us this well. With Fallingwater, in 1939 he built a villa in the mountains of Pennsylvania for the wealthy merchant Edgar Kaufmann, in love with a small waterfall on the Bear Run stream.
Imagining three superimposed cantilevered terraces that create a balance with the stratification of the rocks and the water that flows into the stream below. A connection between the available elements and the space that merge into a single organism and that 23 years later made his own designer say: I don't think that anything has yet matched the coordination, the expressive harmony of a great principle of harmony where the forest, the stream, the rock and all the structural elements are so quietly combined, so much so that you can really listen to noises other than the music of the stream that flows. So environment and building are one, the place (the construction, the furniture) and also the decoration, and also the trees, everything becomes one in organic architecture, a synthesis in which all aspects of living converge and work in harmony with the environment."

Sustainability treehouse, wellness and the sound of wood

Following Wright's ideas and constructive thinking, spaces in which people can live and grow in tune with their surroundings, the choice of materials such as wood becomes the supporting layout linked to sustainability in the case of the Sustainability Treehouse. Built in 2014 by Studio Mithun for the Boy Scouts of America, it is located inside the Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia with a functional design for its use: a centre for documentation and observation of the forest from inside and outside. The architects have minimised the impact on the ground and reduced the internal structures to 310 square metres, giving value to stairs, terraces and platforms that wind along the height of the trees with geometries and vertical elements that integrate with the environment.
A sustainable tree house that, by definition, respects the environment by following all standards. The lighting is almost exclusively natural, the artificial one is produced by photovoltaic panels and two wind turbines of 4 kW. The water requirement is guaranteed by technology for collecting and treating rainwater, while the composting of toilets and other waste takes place on site. A project with zero energy and zero impact.

Eyustur town hall, the town hall bridge

Where possible, the objective of contemporary design philosophy and aesthetics follows the path of creating an extension of nature. And sometimes even a bridge, as in the case of the municipality of Eysturkommuna on the Faroe Islands, built in 2018. Located in the small village of Norðragøta, the building looks like an extension of the mountain above it, smoothed by the wind and volcanic forces that characterise the archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean. A single horizontal floor of 750 square metres full of windows (also on the roof and the floor) that acts as a bridge for crossing a stream, with a green rooftop to enjoy the view or have a picnic. "The main idea behind the town hall project is guided by the concept of a fleeting line between landscape and building - explains architect Ósbjørn Jacobsen of Henning Larsen studio in Copenhagen - by a confused line between nature and construction, by the fact that the viewer has difficulty distinguishing where the natural landscape ends and the structure begins".

ReGen villages, living in a greenhouse

The ReGen Villages, a project under construction in Almere, the Netherlands, is also off-the-grid. A village that has the ambition to become self-sufficient in terms of energy and food, inheriting the architecture from the greenhouse (the greenhouses are very widespread throughout the country and they are the world leader in the production of flowers and vegetables) that will have the dual function of insulating the houses and give residents the opportunity to grow products to zero distance.
Here, nature, in a country that, due to its geographical characteristics, has no hills or mountains at its disposal, is considered the ideal partner that grafts itself onto the chain made up of human beings, production and consumption. With the aim of reaching the highest point of the wellness philosophy, obtaining the ingredients for healthy cooking from the earth and drastically reducing the impact of waste (waste will be used as fertilizers and energy source) thanks to an architectural choice based on the circular economy.

Frederiskvej Kindergarten, at kindergarten and at home

But Wright's principles leave room for a modernist interpretation of architecture. A project, a building, does not have to be linked to the idea of nature that we all know, made of hills, mountains, trees and water. Organic means harmony and serenity of forms applied to any environmental context. One example is the Frederiksvej Kindergarten (Denmark) built in 2015 by COBE. On the ashes of a small kindergarten that housed 30 children, a new one was built to accommodate 182 children. And it is precisely the concept of "one" that has been revisited: not a single structure, typical representation of a state structure, but a set of small houses (with pointed roofs, just as a child would draw them) that are connected to the architecture of the nearby residential district of family houses. As if to say: at school as at home, and vice versa. The result is a series of buildings that do have the educational function but connected to each other. Surrounded by halls and gardens that, on the one hand, favour the children's moments of play and, on the other hand, become spaces of aggregation for the families.

Solo house, a (reversed) pyramid in Spain

Some people have gone further and defined a resort holiday home still under construction as "a building halfway between nature and architecture". This is what Takei Nabeshina Architects' designer Makoto Takei from Tokyo thinks about it: in the Spanish region of Matarrana, he designed an upside-down pyramid in a rural setting, a classic but upside-down shape to create a sense of weightlessness and give the structure the function of a "tree" to provide plenty of shade in the warm Mediterranean climate.
The large rectangular openings will provide natural light and ventilation, while the swimming pool (initially conceived as a second pyramid next to the house) will be housed on the roof. Naturally people have been vocal about their thoughts on this, while remaining fascinated by the idea, wondering if it made sense for a “spaceship” to land in an area populated by medieval villages, centuries-old olive trees, and renowned vineyards. Yet, this too is the challenge of contemporary architecture, seeking coexistence with all that is past, present and future.

Kunsthaus graz and pathé: two aliens in the city

Yet, the concept of organicity also finds its application through forms that are decidedly less rigid and more flexible, always finding fluidity with the surrounding environments. Two examples above all describe well the idea of ultra-organic architecture. The first, in Paris, is the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation (historical archive of the Pathé production company) designed by Renzo Piano and inaugurated in 2014, a building in the shape of a snail that stands above the traditional neoclassical façade of the entrance: "Inserting an architecture into a historic block obliges a close, physical dialogue with the pre-existing ones. Building on the building can be an opportunity for widespread redevelopment, for the reconquest of space," explains the architect.

And the result should not frighten, just as the famous pyramid of the Louvre has never horrified anyone. The second example is in Graz, Austria, where the Kunsthaus Graz, the 2003 museum of modern art, is located. It looks like something that comes from another planet (its nickname is The Friendly Alien) and that hides among the buildings around it. But the point is right here, it does not hide, but rather integrates with its blue iridescent acrylic panels in the middle of the red clay tiles of the baroque roofs of the mid-nineteenth century.

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