Thursday, December 30, 2010


Looking forward into the New Year, we wish all our clients, colleagues and friends a successful and exciting 2011.

For the turn of the year, we have updated our office website with a new look and many more projects and services. Please have a look at

And do celebrate...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ocean Heights

We have recently submitted a master plan proposal for Ocean Heights to the government for approval. The project is a beach resort development, 150 km east of Ho Chi Minh City. The site offered only a small strip of beachfront with a wider stretch of hinterland. Resorts usually are of low density (PR 0.1-0.2), yet the developer wanted to achieve a higher density (PR 0,6). As space and privacy is vital to the success of a resort, the project aims to achieve those qualities by employing a formal strategy, which allows privacy, closeness to nature and space.

With a total length of 2 km, our design aims to maximize direct pedestrian access to the beach by creating a central park, that links the back of the site with the seafront. Circulation systems are separated into car circulation along the perimeter of the site and pedestrian circulation in the center along a park like connection to the waterfront.

To overcome the density and to reduce the sealed surfaces on the site, we investigated cul de sac road systems, as they use less road surface, are more able to cluster and provide a front lot with circulation and a backlot with green.

The site then is organized in four zones:

Zone 1 - Seafront Resort

The seafront resort is connected via a pedestrian bridge to the main site. As a visual icon for the site along the beachfront, a box floats above a landscaped roof, creating vistas on several levels towards the ocean. Towards the beach, there are restaurants, bars a spa and gym with an endless pool and a pier, leading into the water. The building acts as a backdrop for larger events on the beach, such as weddings etc.

Zone 2 - Luxury Villas

The Luxury Villas are located closest to the waterfront. They enjoy open seaview with most of the rooms facing the ocean. To maximize the element of luxury, an additional roof deck allows for another outdoor experience, while a jacuzzi pool and a waterfall in front of the dining room creates another feature for the garden.

Zone 3 - Cluster Villas

The Cluster Villas are located in the central part of the master plan. As the land is rather flat, the villas are designed to maximize ocean view by orientation and by shape of the buildings: The master bedroom as well as the living rooms always face the sea: the roofscape is a dropped pitch roof and therefor allows the adjacent building to have 2 alternative views to the sea over its roof. With the tropical climate, shading is provided in form of a the upper floor being a large cantilevered volume over the more open and ventilated ground.

Zone 4 - Sky Villas

The Sky Villas are located at the western edge of the site. They frame the site and act as an iconic gate to the approach from the East. To maximize the undisturbed ocean view as well as providing optimum outdoor terraces, the towers are curved in plan as well as slanting in section. The entrance podium is a covered landscape, which acts as a hollow landfill, raising the ground for the towers as well as for the adjacent villas.

The master plan strategy tries to overcome the relatively high density for a resort of P.R. 0.6 by maximizing the viewing direction for each villas and by using the cul-de sac strategy to create a green back lot for each villa with private access to the central green spine.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Louise Low, Claudia Wigger, Arthur Bel, Keith Chung, Hugo Ma, Tim Mao, Christopher Tan
Local Architect: Trinity

© 2010, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Radical Mix at Venice Architecture Biennale

We are very pleased to announce the exhibition "Radical Mix in Hanoi", which represents the results of our research on high density, mixed use developments during the teaching semester at the ENAC at EPF Lausanne. It also formulates the third position in the exhibition series "Teaching Architecture. 3 Positions Made in Switzerland".

The opening and accompanying book launch "Radical Mix" will take place on Friday, 19th November at 6:30 pm in the Istituto Svizzero in Venice, Italy.

Exhibition and book have been only possible through the generous support of the ENAC/EPFL.

Exhibition and book concept was by Ludovic Balland, Ulrich Kirchhoff and Louise Low

Contributions are made by Louise Low and Gedeon Abebe, Esteban Pellon Becerril, Olivier Genetelli, Pablo Gironda, Riccardo Grattacaso, Marta Lopez de Asiain Gamazo, Romain Lorenceau, Marta Lozano, Mansour Noverraz, Adrien Renoult, Julie Riedo, Erika Tillberg, Toru Wada

Special thanks to Victoria Easton, Salvatore Lacagnina

The book will be distributed through the Istituto Svizzero in Italy. Order can be made from the publisher:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kaohsiung Maritime Cultural & Popular Music Center International Competition

An acceleration of evolution of contemporary typologies has been taken place over the past years, particular in Asia and Middle East, and they have transformed our understanding of the city and the architecture within: Mixed-Use, Urban Theme Parks, Boutique Buildings have replaced the modernist notion of segregation and separation of programs and structures of the city and created an urban melange, which changes the scale and the content of the city.

The contemporary city is a more blurred and hybrid environment, where programming becomes the driving force for the architecture as well as the urbanism. Architecture as a craft of tectonics has become more and more irrelevant, instead serves as a spectacle and iconic expression of the urban skylines. Instead, the program and the programmatic mix is more vital to the feasibility of a project, that any design. As the scales of the projects have been increased to city-within-city size, the 'right mix' is determined by the right business plan, the right combination of program. Often, they result in a difficult to understand mix. One of those, which have potential to transform the understanding of how we use the city, was the Kaohsiung Maritime Cultural & Popular Music Center International Competition.

The project was aiming to combine various cultural programs with no obvious relation into an urban theme park. For us, the challenge lies in the question, how the city can benefit from a project like this. How can the place create an identity beyond the destination programs (pop music and museum) and how can it perform as a positive space, which uses the brief to create synergies with the context and creates new connections for the city.

Located at the edge of the city center, it is part of the neglected waterfront, which undergoes a rapid transformation from a shipping port to a leisure and entertainment zone for the city. As the port separated the city from the water, our intervention aims to use the brief to connect the city to the water, by offering an urbanized landscape, that introduces hollow landscapes with park above and program below it.

The only visual existence of an iconic structure is a rather 'technical' tower, that serves the outdoor pop music arena as lighting and media tower, sound and stage control room, VIP lounge as well as a pedestrian connection over the water.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Louise Low, Claudia Wigger, Keith Chung, Tim Mao, Christopher Tan
© 2010, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Revisited: DK2 - West Lake Luxury Service Apartments

DK2 is our awarded entry (3rd prize) for an invited international competition for luxury service apartments at the West Lake, Hanoi. As Hanoi is a low rise high density city fabric, the project's 65 floors mark a revolution for the urban typologies of the city, challenging both social as well as volumetric characteristics. With such a unique height (which automatically will dominate the city skyline), our starting point was to ignore to go down the road to an iconic building. Instead the design was evolving inside out, focussing on the performance of the space on human scale and on the precise definition of the functional value of each component of such a project: The housing approach was aiming to translate the 'traditional' Hanoian approach to housing in form of courtyard buildings into a vertical structure, making use of double volume courts, to improve cross-ventilation in such for a high rise compact structure.

The podium transformed from an extruded, fortress-like alien block into a landscaped topography, enabling to soften the boundary to the context. The resulting space enables a landscaped roof and a more poetic experience of that landscape from below (e.g. in terms of a corridor under the pool).

The vertical courtyard concept allowed us to introduce three dimensional cavities, which create shaded, but ventilated exterior spaces, that can be used all year around, as they are protected from the direct tropical sun.

Unfortunately, the jury was looking for an easy to understand icon, so that our efforts to create a residential environment, which aimed to elevate the spatial qualities of a high density development, were irrelevant in the final judging and only good enough for a third prize.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Louise Low, Tim Mao Yiqing, Roberto Requejo, Amy Wang

© 2009, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Revisited: RIO - City Tower Rio de Janeiro

We were already working on the WOD - Window of Dubai competition in 2008, when there was another sightseeing tower competition announced: A viewing tower to support the applications for the Olympic games of Rio de Janeiro. As we really liked that time our Dubai proposal with a cyclic elevator, we were tempted to submit the entry twice. Thinking it might backfire us, in case we win both (as everybody, who submits competitions, is convinced he would), we decided to use the ring as a circular panorama deck, enabling a 360 degree view over the bay of Rio, using the program to transform the section into an internal landscaped boulevard.

The design was aiming to create an interactive object, which can be used for leisure and recreational use (bungee jumping, rock climbing etc.). Other than WOD, RIO used more of programmable surfaces and spaces.

Ironically, the RIO competition winner submitted a ring scheme similar to WOD; and the WOD competition winner created a window as well, but square...

So far so good for competition entries and the internal discussions on what is the best strategy to (never) win an open international competition.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Louise Low, Keith Chung, Tim Mao Yiqing, Christopher Tan

© 2008, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Revisited: Y3+1 - International Business Center with an Intercontinental Hotel

Y3+1 is a mixed-use development of office, residential and an Intercontinental Hotel above the city of Yerevan, Armenia, opposite the Mount Ararat. With its pristine location, the project site offers open views over the city as well as the surrounding nature. The hill has been excluded from public use, so that the design aims to make it fully accessible and create an urban plateau, promenades and a public landscape. The architecture will only act as a shading device above the ground with only their public program and the circulation cores touching the ground. The building's upper floors are connected in order to allow another connected layer of programs on the upper floors.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Louise Low, Keith Chung, Hugo Ma, Tim Mao Yiqing, Christopher Tan

© 2009, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Revisited: WOD - Window of Dubai

We submitted the "Window of Dubai" as a competition entry to the Thyssen Krupp Elevator Award, which was asking for a emblematic sightseeing tower, incorporating innovative elevator technologies.

The concept for this project was based on our research on the question of a vertical urbanism and the possible use of cyclic elevator systems to create a seamless connection between public ground and public sky. Elevator companies like Thyssen and Mitsubishi are reinvestigating currently such systems, as they are more energy efficient.

With the competition site in Dubai (before the credit crunch), we also fell into the trap of being "Dubai-tized" and created something different from the usual office integrity: A purely visual, iconic structure with very little performance value to the public space.

After seeing other entries to this competition, we have shockingly realized, that we have not been the only ones, who have been Dubai-tized. Even as we started the project, the boundaries of cynicism, architectural integrity and the potential of just doing anything have been extremely blurred by the word alone – Dubai. Given those parameters, we went down a road, which lies on the verge of our own office integrity and agenda and the insanity of an architect’s wet dream. Not that we want to start a discussion about ethics in architecture, but it seems that all of us are responsible for the direction architecture took in recent years.

Despite the cynical character of the project, we do like the exploration in terms of form, ornamental structures and building transport systems and we believe, that it will return in a more feasible, more social form in other projects.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Laure Bouchard, Keith Chung, Tim Mao Yiqing, Christopher Tan

© 2009, ice - ideas for contemporary environments

Monday, August 2, 2010

Revisited: TPMC - Taipei Pop Music Center

Being approached by LST publishing house, we had to revisit a few projects, we have designed over the past 2,5 years. It was good to see, how consistent these projects are in terms of conceptual strategy, yet how diverse in terms of formal approach.

The following project was an entry for the Taipei Pop Music Center in Taiwan, where we designed a contextual object, which acts as an urban street park, picking up the flow of the surrounding neighborhood. As a project it blurs between object, structure and infrastructure, generating an open field of planned and unplanned activities.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Louise Low, Keith Chung, Hugo Ma, Tim Mao Yiqing, Christopher Tan

© 2010, ice - ideas for contemporary environments