July 25, 2016
by juan
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Architecture is changing: paving the way towards sustainability

Architecture is changing, developing a greater awareness towards environment. It is becoming more sensitive to the impact produced on nature, impact that is trying to minimize. In this way, the new architecture looks forward to reducing energy consumption, to create low-carbon and if possible even carbon neutral resilient buildings , capable of producing at least as much resources as they consume.

In this article, we begin by analyzing a work of the renowned Argentine architect Emilio Ambasasz, one of the pioneers of sustainable architecture, to pass then, to refer to two other more recent projects.

Through the analysis of these three works, we seek to bring out the road that sustainable architecture has already crossed, and the fact that thanks to the latest technological advances, sustainable architecture today is projected into the future with possibilities unimagined a few years ago.  Enough to think that until not so much, sustainable constructions used to be associated with some rustic constructions: from the information provided here it comes out clearly that sustainable architecture in the 21st century may involve a lot of technique and technology.

Casa de Retiro Espiritual from Emilio Ambasz on Vimeo.

Emilio Ambasz and his “House of spiritual retreat”

The Argentine architect Emilio Ambasz (1943) initiated a debate on sustainability through his work with “green” buildings and spaces.

Always defining himself as inventor more than as an architect in fact, his activity transcends architecture; since as many of the most prestigious contemporary architects, he is also recognized as industrial designer, teacher, and artistic curator (has been Curator of  Design of the Department of Architecture and Design of the MoMA in New York).

*** el término “Curator of Design” lo tome de su biografía en inglés de Wikipedia.   Si el cliente no está de acuerdo se puede poner Commissioner of Design.

Since he was very young he knew he would become an architect; his vocation was clear to the point that at the age of 16 he got a job at an architecture firm so he had to attend school at night to be able to work with the architects during day time.

His“House of spiritual retreat” – designed in 1975 but finished in 2004 – is located in Cordoba, Spain, on a hill overlooking a lake and surrounded by a forest of olive trees.

Two tall, rough stuccoed, white walls meet at a right angle, creating an envelope for the house and defining its entrance. From this entrance, White Macael marble steps that remind of an auditorium because of its increasingly greater length, lead down to an open air courtyard to which the house opens up. Following the Andalusian Arabic tradition, the house is organized around this square courtyard.  This courtyard acts as an outside extension of the interior spaces. A second informal courtyard ensures cross-ventilation. Courtyards and floors are also covered in White Macael marble.

The walls outside meeting edge are oriented towards the North, so that the light that comes into the house is moderated by the solar reflection on the interior walls´ sides.  The perimeter walls are bathed by a soft and diffused light and their orientation shelter the house from the Northern winds.

The interior of the house consists simply, of a large continuous space of curvilinear walls, with different areas defined by smooth cavities excavated into the soil.

The balcony is another feature that is reminiscent of the Andalusian architecture and a remarkable example of regional crafts, made up of more than 3,000 pieces: provides a moving view of the lake and the surrounding landscape. To access the balcony, there are two metal stairs designed so that one invites to climb, and that the other favors the descent.

To keep the house cool in the hot, dry climate of the South of Spain, once built it was covered with earth compacted against its walls to isolate it through this method.  The walls of the house are of concrete and brick. A coating of fiberglass cast on seams wraps completely buried surfaces. This isolated earth covering was also used in the roof. In addition, the surrounding vegetation was integrated to the ceiling.



NAME: House of spiritual retreat

ARCHITECT: Emilio Ambasz

ARCHITECTURE STUDIO: Emilio Ambasz & Associates 

ASSOCIATED ARCHITECT: Felipe Palomino Gonzalez 
Nelusco Salvarani
MODEL 2Bradley Whitermore

ENGINEER: José Grande Caballero




BUILD AREA: 560 sq. mt. approx. (includying courtyard)

LOCACION: Córdoba , 40 kms. north of Seville, Spain.




Sanzpont and their GSI Tower: an example of sustainable architecture in Cancun

The architecture studio of Catalan origin Sanzpont, is formed by the architects Sergio Sanz Pont (Master in architecture and sustainability, Master in building technologies and specialist BIM), Victor Sanz Pont (Master in architectural structures, Master specialist in structures CYPE, specialist BIM) and Alvaro Licona Ricardez. Sergio heads the office in Barcelona, Victor the office in Cancun, Mexico, and Álvaro is in charge of the Glencoe office in United States.
Sanzpont specializes in creating bioclimatic and sustainable architecture through innovative and cutting edge design. Specially attracted by large-scale projects, they are very respectful environment and look forward to generate strong connections between architectural spaces and the users to which they are adressed. Their work is based on cutting edge BIM technology (Building Information Modeling) that allows them to create integrated information projects with the highest quality and reliability.

The working methodology in Sanzpont is fully three-dimensional: they do not create drawings that represent a design, they create intelligent digital models of the design itself.  These models contain a digital constructive database capable of generating any kind of digital information depending on in which phase the project is. In this way, to make progress in the development of a project means to advance in the level of detail in the model.

Their GSI Tower in Cancun, Mexico, is not just a current example of sustainable architecture: is also a sample of some other of the latest tendencies since it combines sustainability with typical aspects of the high tech and multifunctional architecture.

GSI building is a tower of 20 levels aimed at offices, shops and a hotel. The building consists of two vertical bodies joined at the top by two habitable bridges with an interior garden.

On its western façade the building is protected from the sun with a ventilated face in the form of fish scales allowing indirect natural light to infiltrate into the interior. On the Eastern façade, the building is covered by a skin of transparent glass allowing the natural view over the golf course and the Caribbean Sea.

A restaurant which is open to the general public also is located at the top level. As added value, the project addresses at creating public space of quality with an elevated public courtyard that generates a green urban balcony.


NAME:  GSI Tower



LOCATION: Avda. Bonampak, Puerto Cancún, México.

BUILT AREA: 36.289 sq. mt.

USE: hotel, offices, retail space

DESIGN DATE: mayo 2011

STATUS:  work in progress


Vincent Callebaut  and his eco villa in China: Flavors Orchard

Vincent Callebaut (1979) is a young Belgian architect, who defines himself as an eco-friendly architect and from 2013 officially integrates the list of Green Planet Architects as one of the 50 top architects in the world in what comes to ecological architecture. Winner of numerous international awards, Callebaut specializes in the design of eco-districts of futuristic looking that take into account several aspects of sustainability.

His projects have also much to do with multifunctional architecture and his futuristic aesthetic makes us think of an updated version of the metabolism of the 60´s with less concrete and more wood.  His projects integrate more smoothly to the environment in which they are located, and even approach to the concept of invisibility also present in contemporary architecture.

Flavors Orchard is a sustainable city project, developed for Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, and composed of 45 villas, in what we might call an urban garden.   Kunming, also known as “spring city” for its mild climate, has just over four million inhabitants and is the capital of Yunnan province, in the South of China.

The project is part of wider project which has to do with the search for a way to stop the rural exodus that has been suffering China for years.  The proposal is basically to recover many of the advantages of living in the countryside.   As in the case of the GSI Tower, we are in the presence not only of a sustainable project, but at the time, of an example of multifunctional architecture.

All the villas have a passive solar design so efficient that it is expected to produce more energy than needed.   They are connected to a smart power grid that distributes the harvested clean energy. Electric cars are used as extra storage of energy (even if this decreases their battery life).

In the complex there are three types of buildings: “Mobius”, which has the form of an “8″ and a green roof. It contains bedrooms, bathrooms, offices, libraries, and game rooms.

“Mountain”, which looks like a large Chinese fan, and allows sun rays to softly infiltrate inside. It includes an interesting system of glass panels full of algae that produce bio-hydrogen, and a second skin of laminated wood that gives shade.

Last but not least we have “Shell”, which is a more slender structure, with a central support ending in a giant wind turbine. The curved surface of the base is reminiscent of a Chinese hat.




NAME:  Flavors Orchard Eco Villas

ARCHITECT: Vincent Callebaut

ARCHITECTURE STUDIO: Vincent Callebaut Architectures

CUSTOMER : Kunming Private Developer

LOCATION: Kunming, China

SURFACE: 90.000 sq. mts.

USE: housing, hotel, culture, retail space





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