Book review: Hot to Cold - visions of green buildings

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 April, 2015, 6:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 April, 2015, 6:51pm

Hot to Cold
by Bjarke Ingels Group

A compendium of fetching designs for buildings, Hot to Cold is the work of Danish architecture company Bjarke Ingels Group, an emerging BIG beast of contemporary starchitecture.

Founder Bjarke Ingels' beliefs are appealing, and his extrapolations from them are often simple, elegant and beautiful. He believes our wasteful ways are the product of incorrectly designed systems, and buildings should be self-sustaining organisms with intelligent reactions to environmental conditions. They should harness natural elements to achieve the sort of liveability that's usually generated technologically: heating, cooling, vertical movement.

As he says in the introduction: "Building services are essentially a mechanical compensation for the fact that a building is bad at what it is designed for: human inhabitation."

Respect for local climate often means contemporary solutions inspired by vernacular architecture, which has always had to think about these things. In the 60 designs showcased in Hot to Cold - each illustrated with an impressive range of captioned photos, models and architectural drawings - that translates into a lot of double skins on buildings to provide natural ventilation, a lot of spiral ramps and a whole lot of twisty, organically inspired buildings.

They certainly look cool, from the overlapping, twisting, pineapple/palm tree design of Ward Village Green Tower in Honolulu to the urban housing for students in adapted floating shipping containers in Copenhagen.

There's also plenty of playfulness and whimsy: a Copenhagen power station that doubles as a ski slope; or the lines of Taiwan's Hualien Resort and Residences, recalling both Chinese landscape paintings and rice paddies.

But while a lot of the designs are ingenious, the book's central thesis, of adaptation to climatic conditions - underlined by its red-to-blue colour scheme, moving from hot-weather projects to cold-weather ones as the book progresses - doesn't always stick. The book has to go through a green, temperate stage, where the effects of the weather are less pronounced, but the design solution is often only minimally concerned with the climate, and a lot of projects feel shoehorned in.

Many of the projects in Hot to Cold are still in the planning stage, or are incomplete or abandoned. There are more renderings than photos, and that's disappointing in a book that's supposed to be about a practical, real-world approach to architecture, rooted in local conditions.

Hot to Cold is an entertaining ride through the mind of an architectural visionary; it just isn't exactly what it purports to be.