Integrating sustainability into architecture: an interview with Chris Bosse

architecture, energy efficiency, Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, Chris Bosse, Tobias Wallisser, Alexander Rieck

LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture) is a young, digitally focused architectural practice based in Germany and Australia with a vision for the world of the future: a vision where three elements — man, nature and technology — merge.

Chris Bosse, Tobias Wallisser and Alexander Rieck founded LAVA in 2007, aiming to utilise the latest research and technology to build efficient, sustainable and beautiful structures. The award-winning practice combines digital workflow, nature’s structural principles and the latest digital fabrication technologies to achieve more with less: more (architecture) with less (material/energy/time/cost). Geometries in nature is the basis of their building typology, generating structures that are both efficient and beautiful.

A recent exhibition, ‘VISIONAREALITY’, at the Architektur Galerie in Munich, Germany, gave visitors an opportunity to experience LAVA’s vision of the world of the future, through projects including a desert campus with conditioned outdoor spaces, a Martian writing centre for kids, a solar-powered electric car recharging station and an iconic office building with a smart façade.

“The exhibition was an exciting opportunity to take stock of what we have been doing over the last seven years,” says partner Chris Bosse. “We would have liked to achieve even more, but architecture moves at a dinosaur pace!”

LAVA’s world-wide projects featured in the exhibition included:

SIPCHEM Laboratory, Saudi Arabia, 2015

A multi-functional smart façade designed using an economical product to achieve a low-energy iconic building that showcases the company’s technology and vision.

King Abdullah City of Science and Technology Headquarters, Saudi Arabia, 2016

A series of research institutes arranged around a courtyard. Varied facades create a special identity for each cluster and a passive design strategy addresses environmental performance – heat, shade, light, dust and energy.

Eight Point One, Germany, 2011

A modular solar-powered charging station for electric cars based on a dihedral arched framework and constructed in recyclable aluminium.

Bayreuth Youth Hostel, Germany, 2016

A new 180-bed youth hostel, its ‘Y’ shape generating connective spaces, with innovative spatial configurations, sustainability at environmental, structural and social levels, and integrated sporting facilities.

Parametric Façade Systems, global, ongoing

LAVA developed a parametric façade structure of pyramidal elements for the Corniche in Abu Dhabi in 2007, Schuco in 2012 and upcoming projects in China, including the Zheijang gate Towers in Hangzhou.
“We try to see sustainability as integrated into the architecture,” says Bosse. “It’s not just about sticking solar panels on the roof. It’s often the invisible things that have the most impact – from the orientation of the building and organisation of people flow so air-conditioned zones are restricted to the creation outdoor spaces with shade structures that open and close and adapt to conditions throughout the day.

“It’s not just about technology, but organisation. For example, with the KACST Institute office building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the very hot climate meant a need to reduce solar impact. The building was therefore designed to be fortress-like, with small windows, with a gigantic internal atrium that brings green space and natural light into the building. The public green space is inside the building, while the outside is enclosed.”

LAVA have a particular interest in multi-purpose facades. “Facades have to do more than one thing,” says Bosse. “They have to look good but can also provide shading, insulation and antiglare elements according to climate and geography.  Thin film photovoltaics allow an entire building to have a photovoltaic coating and developments are afoot to incorporate algae into facades using little green tubes that will act as bioreactors.”

For the future of sustainable building, Bosse can see two definite trends emerging. “There is a massive trend towards nature,” says Bosse. “People want to be immersed in nature and there is a strong trend towards organic products. There is also a huge trend towards technology with everything accelerating at a rapid rate. We believe you can bring nature and technology together and they can complement each other. We have to build for a future where buildings can be constantly updated, disassembled and rebuilt and use materials that can be transformed . The only constant is constant change.

“New energy-efficiency rules and regulations are bringing new challenges and also new opportunities. With the SITCHEM building in Saudi Arabia, for example, we had to use half a metre of insulation around the entire building. We carved into it to make it an attractive feature of the building.

“New building technologies using cranes and robots will produce the need for new building materials, so bricks will be replaced with smarter elements that will collect water or be connected. Very soon we will be able to introduce even greater intelligence into our buildings.”

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