We will soon be living in arid sandy contexts, driven by climate change. designers in this part of the world have risen to the challenge among kangaroos, squalls of red earth and ancient shamanic routes
The question is no longer whether to build in the desert. Because the desert ‒ due to climate change ‒ is probably where we will all be living in the future anyway. In a few years' or a few decades' time, depending on which study you read. What is nevertheless certain is that our cities are already having to deal with the issue of survival in extreme conditions, in stifling temperatures on the brink of bearable, with steadily rising water levels and attempts to protect coastal areas (some such examples are the new urban waterfront projects, also in seaside towns like Rimini). An important issue, tackled today by many designers and planners. The most obvious response comes in the form of green architecture.
We've decided to see what's going on in Australia, a country that is little talked of in the press or on the web. This has been further accentuated in the last few years by its borders being closed (but now open once again) due to the Covid pandemic. Here, architects and designers have been experimenting ‒ and for some time now ‒ with new sustainable technologies, forms and materials, although the famous red soil covering 90% of its area does not make this task an easy one, even in an urban context.
Here we have three exemplary projects: a winery among the coastal vineyards of Mornington Peninsula, near Melbourne; the recently completed One Barangaroo, Sydney's tallest building, on Darling Harbour surrounded by water; and a hotel made entirely of plastic converted into construction material.
PT. LEO ESTATE WINERY || Blending the ocean, sculpture and the Australian landscape
JOLSON ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIORS
The natural contours of its site are followed in the design for Pt. Leo Estate Winery by Jolson Architecture and Interiors, which was commissioned by an art enthusiast and fine Australian wine producer. The building is situated within a vineyard in coastal Mornington Peninsula, near Melbourne. The winery’s shape follows the rolling land while referencing the winemaking process; its abstract architecture develops from the blend between ocean, sculpture and Australian landscape.
Art and wine are combined with a sculpture park, restaurant and cellar, all to the backdrop of a breath-taking landscape. The structure is located on the highest point of the site, to encourage the public to engage with the vineyard upon approach. The sculpture park traces out a meandering path as it winds around the winery, creating freeze-frames of architecture, ocean and vineyard, and showcasing over fifty large-scale sculptures by local and international artists. The display was curated by former director of the Geelong Gallery, Geoffrey Edwards, while the sculptures include works by Tony Cragg, Augustine Dall’ava, Deborah Halpern, Inge King, Clement Meadmore, Jaume Plensa and Anthony Pryor.
The panorama and design of the edifice’s shell are at one with Inge King’s iconic sculpture located on the winery approach. The built form rises from the earth at the forecourt, incorporating part of the extensive vineyard. The sinuous layout is an abstract interpretation of wine pouring from a bottle and the organic cycle of the wine harvest. In summer months, a veil of vines covers the building, accentuating the design’s response to its context. The granite forecourt surface and the asymmetrical placement of a single bottle tree take their cue from the views of the rugged Australian landscape and the ocean.
ONE BARANGAROO || Inhabited sculpture
It's not exactly in the desert, but Sydney's tallest building, One Barangaroo, is part of the urban research that the city is fully developing to fight its climate emergency ‒ which has been officially declared, after the one in Hobart, another Australian city. Designed by WilkinsonEyre Architects and Bates Smart, the skyscraper stands on Darling Harbour, surrounded by water and offering exceptional views featuring Sydney Bridge in the foreground. The 275-metre-tall tower and its podium house a luxury resort hotel with 349 rooms and suites, waterfront restaurants, cafés, bars and shops, along with 76 luxury residential apartments on the upper levels.
Chris Wilkinson's design was influenced by an idea the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși once expressed: he said 'architecture is inhabited sculpture'. Wilkinson explained that he wanted 'something special', to break away from the customary rectangular plan typical to the surrounding buildings from the '50s, '60s and '70s.
The project brief came out just before the Christmas holidays and so Wilkinson had a chance to calmly think on what could be an ideal departure form for shaping the building. By looking at a 30-metre sculpture he had created with his wife and son for a design competition, he was inspired to include a few of its design elements within the new skyscraper: it features the idea of three interwoven petals that twist 90° as they rise from the ground. However, he had to join up the corners of the 'sculpture' to make the edifice inhabitable: to respond to the design brief needs, the angles had to change from 90° to 60°. Then, during project development, quite a large portion of the shape was gradually rearranged to adapt the architecture to the site.
THE PLASTIC HOTEL IN THE COCOS ARCHIPELAGO || An eco-friendly and self-sufficient island
MARGOT KRASOJEVIĆ ARCHITECTS
If we can't live on land because it's too 'stifling', why not move to an island floating in the ocean off the Australian coast? Here, we're in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, where increasing levels of pollution caused by waste plastic are damaging the whole ecosystem, trapping and killing huge numbers of hermit crabs. This species plays a crucial role in tropical environments and their disappearance would have a significant impact on both this and the surrounding ecosystems.
Margot Krasojević Architects has designed a construction that is capable of collecting and managing plastic waste in the ocean. Using software that simulates the ocean current, the studio was able to map the movement of floating plastic waste. This was a fundamental starting point for devising a system to collect the waste and put it to constructive use. From this stemmed the idea of converting this plastic into a building material for a floating hotel, whose structure could evolve parallel to the accumulation of the waste used as the floating base to the tourism facilities.
This island will be formed of mesh bags made of reclaimed plastics derived from the waste collected in the ocean. The entire structure will then be anchored to the ocean floor, and sand and silt will be deposited on the plastic flotation devices as a sort of landfill, making the island inhabitable. Mangrove trees will then be planted in the landfill, and their roots will grow around the mesh bags or reclaimed plastic to create a stable structure. In fact, mangrove trees are often used for flood prevention precisely because of the way they trap sediment.
>>> Carry on reading and consult the scientific article on the biopolymer invented and patented by Marco Caniato, a researcher and lecturer at the Faculty of Science and Technology at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano