FOCUS ON GOING LOCAL
Photo: Sergio Ghetti
UNTIL RECENTLY, GLOBALIZATION WAS EMBRACED WITH GUSTO. IT WAS NOT ONLY DUE TO THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF EXPANSION AND THE FREE TRAFFIC OF CAPITAL, SERVICES AND INDIVIDUALS. THE IDEA OF ELIMINATING FRONTIERS, OF ENJOYING A CONFLICT-FREE WORLD WHERE EVERYONE COULD UNHESITATINGLY ASSOCIATE WITH ONE ANOTHER, WAS ALSO AN ALLURING PERSPECTIVE.
Since then, however, we have become mired in the immense costs of that utopia: global warming, degrading environments, declining biodiversity and – last but not least – the loss of local identity.
A revaluation has hence arisen in many areas, in favour of downscaling and resources near at hand. From an architectural viewpoint, that entails a growing interest in local building materials, styles and typologies, and a greater concern for the knowledge and skills of local specialist workers. Ecological considerations, not to be ignored, play a decisive role here. In a broader sense, the revival of localism is associated with a changing mentality, a different attitude towards building. Materials produced on a large scale and imported from the other side of the world can no longer be taken for granted at all.
The focus on local issues shows a growing awareness that every decision of the architect and the client has an impact on the environment and the atmosphere – in other words, on our planet.
It was the renowned architectural architecture historian Kenneth Frampton, who, along with Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre, already recognized the potential of local building styles to counteract the anonymous, placeless character of the International Style. In the 1980s, Frampton preferred to use the term “critical regionalism” for that correction. Modernism and a regional style have since merged as a way of creating a place and giving the building a distinct identity. However, it seems that architects from around the world increasingly reject modernism as a starting point, even in a corrected form, and place more and more weight on the use of local resources. Their critical outlook on globalism is coming to a head as partial or total rejection. Giving a voice back to the locality and reinforcing the local identity – these are what matter most to them.
This attitude does not necessarily entail an uninspired falling back on traditional architecture. That it can still be modern and original is evident in the projects described below, of Studio APL in Taiwan, HEMAArchitectes in France and Studio Lotus in India.
KRUSHI BHAWAN Bhubaneswar, India
Usually an office building keeps a distance from its environment and the local community. The building serves in the first place the organisation that it hosts. However, Krushi Bhawan, situated in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the state Odisha in India, is a government facility, developed for the department of agriculture and farmers’ empowerment, that fundamentally re-imagines the relationship between the state and the people who live there.
Krushi Bhawan was originally planned as a purely administrative space. Studio Lotus took a cue from urban designer Otto Königsberger‘s original vision for Bhubaneswar where he saw the city with a host of government offices becoming “a lively point of public life”. The suggestion of Studio Lotus to include public functions and community spaces was willingly embraced by the client. This has been achieved by designing the ground floor as a free-flowing public space that opens out into a plaza. The ground floor comprises of a learning centre, a gallery, an auditorium, a library and training rooms. Similarly the roof top has been designed to house farming exhibits and demonstration of agricultural practices. Through exhibitions, workshops, weekly markets, lectures and school visits, these public spaces become a hub for imparting skills and sharing knowledge that engage diverse sections of the population. The offices have been placed on the first, second and third floors. This allows the offices to be secured, making it possible to keep most of the other facilities open to public even on weekends and holidays.
As befits the hot, humid climatic conditions of the region, the design scheme for Krushi Bhawan consists of a central courtyard that opens through a series of colonnades into a public plaza, thus providing natural ventilation and shading. The primary entrance pathway is lined with laterite lattices and trees, and performs multiple functions, ranging from a common area for employees to congregate in and eat together during lunch hour, to a place for small gatherings. The distinct appearance of the building has been derived from regional materials and vernacular narratives, expressed in a manner that is responsive to the local climate. Over a hundred highly-skilled artisans created a vibrant and contemporary narrative of traditional craft, depicting agricultural folklore and mythological stories which are envisioned at an unprecedented architectural scale.
Krushi Bhawan serves as an example of how the government can become a key patron of regional crafts and can sustain the communities and economies built around them. It seeks to embody the idea of truly inclusive architecture, created for the people, built by the people and expressive of their collective cultural identity.
ARCHITECT: STUDIO LOTUS Photos: Studio Noughts and Crosses
LES COTEAUX FLEURIS SCHOOL Heudebouville, France
The countryside is under immense strain, especially in densely inhabited countries. Not only is it necessary to produce food on a grand scale for the continually growing population, but the space that urban areas lack for such activities as distribution centres, data centres, solar farms and windmills is likely to be claimed in rural areas. Consequently the landscape is messed up in many places from a visual point of view. This is not so everywhere, fortunately, and there are still villages that have succeeded in preserving something of the rural idyll; that is to say, there is still a harmonious combination of villages, farms and the landscape.
The charming commune of Heudebouville in the relatively hilly inland of Normandy is one such village. That the location must be treated carefully was evident to the Paris-based office of HEMAA Architectes. Les Coteaux Fleuris School, lying just outside the village centre and designed in collaboration with the architects Hesters Oyon, sought a bond with the undulating landscape, the traditional farmhouse architecture and the characteristic building materials of Heudebouville. In this respect the school is not felt as an intrusion but as an aspiration of the local community.
The buildings with classrooms amount to a contemporary interpretation of the longères, elongated farmhouses that are characteristic of Normandy and Bretagne. The school buildings lie parallel to one another in accordance with the local morphology, and are spaced so that the areas between them offer shelter for playgrounds and an orchard. Thanks to the structural system of porticos without intermediate load-bearing sections, the schools can easily be extended when required to accommodate the anticipated growth of student numbers.
There are also references to the architecture of the historic village centre. The exterior woodwork of its houses is reflected in the framing and interior cladding of the new school buildings. Their slate-clad façades and roofs recall the façade slatework of the church towers and the town hall. The use of locally available materials and cooperation with local companies add up to an effort to limit the CO2 footprint to the maximum possible extent. Photovoltaic panels play a similar role: the heating of this remarkable school is designed to function without fossil fuels.
ARCHITECT: HEMAA ARCHITECTES AND HESTERS OYON Photos: Sergio Grazia
DE-HOSTEL Zhutian, Taiwan
The countryside is nowadays characterized by an ambiguity of mixed-use structures that often wander on the edge of regulations. The result is a manifold of chaotic, rough, self-contained spatial patterns. In Zhutian, Taiwan, Studio APL explores how to regenerate the structures left by the agricultural relics of the past through several projects. One of these projects is the re-use of a former rice factory.
Dexing Rice Factory was once the grain warehouse for the rural area of Pingtung. It was a place for rice storage and for children to play. It is still remembered as the Hakka House (Huo fáng) in everyone's mind. When designing De-Hostel, Studio APL chose to respect the old warehouse and its meaningful history within the local community. Studio APL designed and worked closely together with local partners on this project. In practice, through the materials and construction methods commonly used by the local , the familiarity of memory is reconfigured and perpetuated. In addition, the long periods of tropical heat and the humid days in July and August were important considerations for the design. At the same time, the design would also reflect, in a kind of dialogue with the old structure, elements of a contemporary lifestyle.
The predecessor of De-Hostel was the Grain Bureau. After the third generation of Zhang sisters, it became the first site in Zhutian to provide visitor accommodation. In essence, the design of De-Hostel is about the reorganization and refurbishment of the old warehouse building, and exploring the disappearing traditional Hakka building typology. The new exterior wall retains the old wooden beam structure embedded in holes in the brick wall. The fifty-one voids are arranged in such a way that they follow the shape of the old gable roof that has disappeared. The wind and light passes through freely, and the voids even become resting places for birds.
The new building skin is hand-made and expressed through a traditional stone washing method, while the small red stones on the wall feel like rice grains, a symbolic reference to the past. The shallow pool in the atrium also functions as a courtyard, and the second floor contains accommodation space. De-Hostel provides the members of the extended family with a place to return to, as well as an opportunity to meet again in their village of origin.
ARCHITECT: STUDIO APL Photos: Yi-Hsien Lee and associates