Be they underground, geodesic or digitally fabricated, greenhouses are structures that give gardening a much-needed boost in more northerly climes. But what if greenhouses weren't just static structures, but could also change and respond to their environments?
In a new tropical conservatory at the Botanical Gardens in Aarhus, built to replace one they also designed back in 1969, Danish firm C. F. Møller Architekten has created a domed greenhouse made out of translucent ETFE plastic pillows which can be inflated or deflated according to immediate lighting and heating needs.
It might seem iffy to use plastics in green architecture, but some types are surprisingly durable and versatile, and are increasingly being used in the green building context. Working with membrane facade manufacturer formTL to create the energy-efficient skin, C. F. Møller set up a series of ten steel arches to create a 18-meter (59 feet) high distinctive dome shape on an oval base, which maximizes interior volume with the lowest possible surface area, translating to high energy efficiency. The architects explain:
The domed shape and the building's orientation in relation to the points of the compass have been chosen because this precise format gives the smallest surface area coupled with the largest volume, as well as the best possible sunlight incidence in winter, and the least possible in summer.
This is an 'intelligent' greenhouse that sits like a "drop of dew in its green surroundings," and probably won't be the last example of responsive architecture we'll encounter. Let's hope it doesn't burn down, though. See more over at Dezeen and C. F. Møller Architekten.