Wednesday, February 24, 2010

High Density Resort?

We recently won the bid for a 144 ha time share resort planning in Vietnam. After reviewing the brief, we discovered to our surprise, that the client was targeting a rather (sub)urban density of 0.6, while maintaining the resort character (which usually has a density 2-3 times less than the proposed). So how do you plan a high density luxury resort, without creating a great pile of houses? Always confronted with the question of maximizing the plot, we have accepted the challenge for the urban areas, but the image of luxury holiday and density did not come together yet. The great challenge in the beginning turned out to be a great potential for an exciting investigation in urban planning. As we started our research, we found an increase willingness to buy a house in a cul-de-sac (not the best word for the kind of quality it creates: Anybody who has a better word is welcome to contribute). People are paying a premium of 30% due to the exclusivity and privacy of the lot location.

Researching on the distribution of housing, we found that the planning parameters drastically favor the cul-de sac planning pattern, compared to a standard row/grid planning, with an increase of green surface and a decrease of road surface. It seems to be a win-win situation for both developer as well as buyer, as the buyer maintains a maximum of exclusivity, while the developer will have less construction cost.

As we are now in the process of finalizing the concept stage, please see below our first layout studies, creating a master plan, which we in such way would have not suspected.

Team: Louise Low, Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Arthur Bel, Hugo Ma, Tim Mao

Back to EPFL

After having taught a Masters Studio in Lausanne last Winter Term, I am very excited to go back to Switzerland in March. Giving two lectures about contemporary typologies in architecture, one at the ETH Zurich and the other one at the EPFL Lausanne, I am also looking forward to visiting the completed Rolex Learning Center by SANAA (and maybe I will be lucky to give the lecture there).

The subject of the Masters Studio was: Sustainability and Density - Contemporary Typologies in Architecture. The design project was putting emphasis on dealing with complexity: The project was a high density mixed use development in Hanoi. The complexity was not only related to the amount of program but also the climatic difference and the completely new social and cultural environment - a tough but fruitful journey for the students...

The research has been focussing on two main aspects: How density will affect typologies and their transformation in such a compact spatial scenario. And about low-tech spatial strategies for sustainability.

The purpose of this studio is to bring back a more expansive view of Architecture, to refocus energy into the larger context of living, especially in the understanding of how others live and use spaces. To simultaneously create and be created by the forces of the context, architecture is no longer an object, but also a subject in the larger scheme of things. We want to design buildings, that are not just form, but perform.
With the building boom particularily in the emerging markets, there has been a run for high density mixed-use developments. Unable to bridge the scalar gap to the existing context, we have seen a lot of brilliant solutions of self referential projects, but the overall built environment is increasingly mismanaged: Ignorant to the environment, program and climatic parameters, high density developments pose quite often severe challenges to the city, such as canyon and heat island effect, social segregation, and economic pressure. With such development pressure of iconic high density structures, architecture is produced as an object of desire, rather than a space to be inhabited and used.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Louise Low

Students: Gedeon Abebe, Esteban Becerril Pellon, Olivier Genetelli, Pablo Gironda, Riccardo Grattacaso, Marta Lopez de Aisain Gamazo, Romain Lorenceau, Marta Lozano, Mansour Noverraz, Adrien Renoult, Julie Riedo, Erika Tillberg, Toru Wada


We recently participated in the 'Open International Competition on the Development of an Architectural Concept for an International Business Center with an Intercontinental Hotel in the City of Yerevan'. The brief was extremely blur. Yet we were fascinated by the strong civic urban spaces in Yerevan and how a contemporary intervention can communicate with them.

About the Site:

Yerevan is a city of strong civic spaces such as the Yerevan Cascade, which offer striking views over the city as well as to Mount Ararat. Their bold intervention create a dialogue with the natural beauty of the surrounding and act as urban navigators.

The site of Y3+1 is in proximity to the icons of the city, located at the eastern edge of the city. With the location, it acts as an interface between city and nature, forms a gateway between the two. With it’s prominent position on a plateau above the city, it has the potential to not only act as visual symbol to the city, but also as a civic destination, which will act as an urban boulevard on top of the city, creating striking views to Mount Ararat.

About the Program:

Y3+1 is aiming to be a development, which not only acts visually but performs on spatial as well as programmatic levels, and therefor could become a major civic space in the city of Yerevan. The result should be an environment, which is urban and programmatically and spatially diverse.In order to create a maximum of urban civic space, the building will be lifted above that zone, standing on three legs, which contain only the lobbies for the tower above. The plateau is a three dimensional space with above ground pavilions, sunken courts and an underground connection to the city level. The project consists of three main structures, which are raised above the plateau: A residential building, a hotel and an office building. They connect to the ground by three legs, which contain the entrance and the main public functions of the program. The legs are connected to the urban plateau above and below ground. The towers are designed to maximize the panoramic view over the city and its environment with a major emphasis on the direction towards the Mount Ararat.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Louise Low, Hugo Ma, Tim Mao

© 2009, ice - ideas for contemporary environments


With the end of the rather unusually chilly holiday season in Hong Kong, we are awakening from our hibernation period as well. Big plans for this year: As we are moving along with our architecture practice with projects in Vietnam, China, Germany and Taiwan, we are also expanding our operation into becoming a rather universal design environment. The iceblog will be our most updated companion during this journey. So then: Happy New Year of the Tiger.

ice team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Louise Low, Arthur Bel, Hugo Ma, Tim Mao