The plan documentation for the seventh issue of DASH presents a series of exemplary ecological houses. The majority of them are detached or situated in rural areas or suburbs; two are townhouses, one of which is even an example of stacked individual dwellings. Together they demonstrate how architectural design can contribute to solving the problem of sustainability.
Although sustainability is a relatively new issue within architecture, one can find various historical examples that reveal an especial awareness about climate solutions in regard to creating a comfortable living environment, like the Jacobs House 2 by Frank Lloyd Wright, or the entire oeuvre of a pioneer like Ralph Erskine. When environmental awareness began to penetrate to politics and the general public in the late 1960s and early 1970s, we also see the first answers appearing in architecture – for instance, the well-known domes in North America, of which the Zome House by Steve Baer is a special exponent. Later examples of sustainable architecture coupled with an aware manner of living focused on ecological and social values instead of consumption are mainly found in Germany, which has been a trendsetter in this regard since the 1980s. Of these, the Baumhäuser designed by Frei Otto, Hermann Kendel and collaborating architects is a radical experiment that holds many lessons for the future. The Solarhaus in Switzerland by Otto Kolb, also from the 1980s, combines a holistic, psycho-ecological approach with a generous, almost glossy interior design that we recognize from lifestyle magazines. As of the 1990s, residential architecture has become almost inseparably connected with lifestyle and sustainability, something which, by the way, already happened in the USA in the 1940s in the pages of the Ladies’ Home Journal, which presented the first experiments with solar houses, including designs by Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson.
The most recent houses in this series each demonstrate an idiosyncratic solution to this combination of lifestyle, the home and sustainable architecture. In the Latapie House by Lacaton & Vassal, a generous living space was realized on an extremely limited budget through the creation of a two-storey high conservatory in a rough-and-ready architectural idiom. The Hoogland Living-Working House and Casa Weeber are examples of owner/builders and of an owner/architect, situations which made it possible to realize extremely expressive and powerful architecture. The three final houses, Villa Welpeloo by 2012Architecten, the Loblolly House by KieranTimberlake Associates and Casa Muro by FAR Frohn & Rojas, are examples of contemporary dwellings that combine a modernistic design idiom with an remarkably inventive use of materials to reveal new, unexpected qualities.
All of the selected houses were realized under special commissioning circumstances: four houses were built by the architects for themselves (Zome House, Solarhaus, Casa Weeber, Loblolly House), three are real do-it-yourself houses built or developed by the owners/residents (Zome House, the Baumhäuser, Hoogland Living-Working House), while the rest of the houses were commissioned by someone who is either a direct family member of the architect or who maintained a special tie with the architect. This was not a criterion for including them in this series, but an observation after the fact. It does, however, go a long way in explaining the freedom that the architects were given (or took them-selves) to radically implement all sorts of experiments and build exceptional architecture far beyond the conventional in order to test and demonstrate new possibilities.
To make the plans easily decipherable and comparable, the projects were redrawn in a uniform style. The floor plan and cross section are the two most important drawings for demonstrating the connection between the architecture, layout and sustainability. A series of diagrams summarizes the ecological principles of the design of each house. Photo reportages compiled from historical and new visual material show the qualities of the living spaces in relation to climate zones, orientation and materials, among other things. Where relevant, other sustainability aspects of a project are also explained, such as the ‘harvest map’ for Villa Welpeloo, or the geometry of the Zome House.
The project data include the following general ecological principles and climate aspects, depending on the dwelling design:
1. design principles (including collective commission, autarky, superuse)
2. landscape principles (such as earth shelter principle)
3. general form and insulation
4. passive solar energy, natural ventilation and natural light measures
5. active solar energy and heat storage
6. conventional energy (only if innovative, efficient or smart)
8. materials used
Points 3 to 6 concern energy (subdivided according to the trias energetica):
step 1: prevention (3)
step 2: use of sustainable energy sources, divided into passive and active (4 and 5)
step 3: use of efficient conventional (fossil fuel) systems (6)
The drawings for the Zome House, Latapie House, Hoogland Living-Working House, Casa Weeber, Loblolly House, Casa Muro and Villa Welpeloo are based on documentation made available by the architects, for which we are very grateful. The houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Ralph Erskine and the Solarhaus by Otto Kolb are based on archival material placed at our disposal by, among others, the Swedish Architecture Museum and researcher Rahel Hartmann-Schweizer, who devoted her thesis, Otto Kolb (1921-1996): Architekt und Designer, to this architect. The documentation for Frei Otto’s Baumhäuser was acquired with the generous help of Günther Ludewig, one of the participating architects, and Beate Lendt, who made the documentary Traum vom Baumhaus in 2011.
Drawings by: Guido Greijdanus, Cederick Ingen-Housz & Imke van Leuken