- Sustainable Architecture
- BIOTOPE, the new project by SHJWORKS
The latest project by SHJWORKS, a studio our readers are familiar with for their great attention to the environment has, as the title says, created a biotope, i.e. a place of life in a very exposed position in the city of Copenhagen on a small patch of green in the middle of a busy intersection, near a train station and with a lot of bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
BIOTOPE consists of a large concrete bowl containing the soil and a clear polycarbonate shell. This 4-mm thick membrane protects the microcosm inside, made up of plants for insects, a plywood beehive and of course the bees themselves. The bowl collects the rainwater that flows into the soil through small holes in the shell. This way, the shell and the concrete bowl become a self-watering greenhouse, without the need for outside action. Actually, as part of this experiment, the only human interaction is the visual interest of life inside the shell for passers-by and the possibility of sitting on the edge of the concrete bowl.
The installation is 7 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres high, a real living sculpture, something recurring in the research of SHJWORKS. An organic-architectural sculpture that houses sixty different plant species to attract insects as they grow, fostering a full self-sustaining lifecycle inside the shell that will be left completely to its own devices for three years. After that, it will be checked to see if the flora and fauna in the Biotope have thrived or survived or not.
The project's sculptural and organic shape was specifically designed for the location, a structure that mimics the shape of a primitive organism or bacteria. Its "back" faces onto the secondary street and its "front" faces the most extreme and energetic element: a three-lane road. This way, SHJWORKS has created a small protected area between the installation and a tree in the green lot.
The designers wanted to mimic the shape of a living organism to explore whether or not human beings can relate to it in some way. And if so, to see if an organic shape can "mediate" between humans and places. Can feelings of sympathy towards objects or structures establish a stronger and more caring relationship to the place in which we live and inhabit?
Biotope by SHJWORKS is an experiment that is much more than visually outstanding and an assured eye-catcher. It's a field test on how life can evolve in a protected environment even if it has to deal with tough situations. An answer to the question of whether or not we will be able to create living biological structures with architectural and habitable qualities in a not too distant future.
Project: SHJWORKS - http://shjworks.dk/
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Images: courtesy of SHJWORKS
The project is generously supported by "Områdefornyelse Fuglekvarteret".
SHJWORKS would like to thank:
Vilmer Jensen, civil engineer, for his help with structural calculations and the building process.
Morten Plesner, artist, for installing the bees
Thomas Bentsen, reptile and terrarium expert, for help with selecting the seeds for the plants.
Lorenz Sedlmayr, architecture student, for assisting in the assembling and building process.