‘Breathe’ is the suggestion that greets visitors to the Austrian forest/pavilion, where the highest point is a 12-meter hornbeam that together with 54 other trees gives an unusual look to the Expo skyline. Its designer, the Austrian architect Klaus K. Loenhart, partner in the studio Terrain: Architecture – Landscape Architecture – Landscape Urbanism of Graz, reveals the secrets of the unique pavilion during a stroll through shrubs, ferns, moss and climbing plants.
WHERE DID YOU START TO REACH THE IMAGE OF A FOREST INSTEAD OF A PAVILION? I started with air, a primary element, a fundamental resource for life. The pavilion is, in fact, a prototype that leverages the performance (intelligent) of nature and, combining it with modern technology, is able to produce ‘fresh air’ without using external power and without creating waste heat (there are no filters or air conditioners). With multidisciplinary working team (team.breathe.austria) a sort of ‘air factory’ took form, functioning as a natural air conditioning system: it uses the foliage surface of the forest (approximately 43,000 square meters) to produce oxygen and simultaneously to absorb carbon dioxide. Fans and high-pressure misting systems stimulate and support the natural activity of the forest, promoting dialogue between nature and technology. For maximum energy efficiency.
COULD YOU EXPLAIN IN GREATER DEPTH?
The Austrian Pavilion has a neutral energy balance: the electricity that serves its internal needs is in fact produced by ‘dye-based’ solar cells applied to the portion of the roof that frames the forest, making energy based on the natural principle of photosynthesis (an outstanding case of research conducted in Austria, ed.).
IN SHORT, WHAT HAPPENS ON A SMALL SCALE ON EVERY LEAF IN THE FOREST CONTINUES ON A LARGER SCALE ON THE ROOF…
Precisely: the goal is to inspire a new way of thinking (and designing) to develop sustainable solutions to global problems. The Austrian contribution, in fact, is a starting point for futuristic urban design in terms of ‘green technology,’ meaning complete synergy between technology and the natural environment.
ARE YOU URGING A ‘RETURN TO NATURE,’ AS THE FOREST/PAVILION MIGHT SUGGEST?
No, it is not about ‘going back to nature.’ The Austrian Pavilion sets out to make a place that can join two apparently incompatible realities: technology and nature. This project demonstrates how ‘hybrid systems’ that combine natural resources and technological innovation can become successful solutions. Also and above all in terms of ecology and sustainability.
focus by Laura Ragazzola – photos by Luca Rotondo and Transsolar/Raintime