The Monthly European Architectural Newsletter
  NL | EN | FR | IT

May 2011

Sustainable housing policies

End of 2010, took place in Brussels an important conference, at European scale, on housing policies within the management of environmental and climatic constraints imposed upon our Society. This is how, following the informal meetings held in Spain by the Housing Ministers, these days enabled them to exchange many experiences and go deeper into the basic lines presented earlier in Toledo. Housing in Europe has recently changed significantly. More particularly, by being fully incorporated in the various policies relating to energy, social protection and urban rehabilitation.

The EU recalls the leading role played by housing renovation to succeed in the energy-saving transition, but it establishes probably for the first time a direct link between the objectives of this energy-saving transition and the urban dimension. It is in town that this transition will really take place, as 80% of the European population lives in cities. This is where the energy consumption is at its highest level. After being only examined under its technical aspects, the climatic objectives have now been confronted to the social and economic realities of Europe. Toledo has underlined that renovation was essential for climatic reasons without forgetting the social and cultural realities of its inhabitants. The high level of housing costs in urban centres explains mainly the economic and social precariousness of many European citizens. The climatic and housing convergence has been fully included in the environment-friendly objectives, but it is not the same with the coordination of the housing and social protection policies. To renovate deteriorated constructions indicates clearly the necessity to implement creative and inventive policies to find adequate answers to all problems of cohesion, mixed society and poverty. We wish to mention that Brussels has already conceived a few innovative and exemplary projects.

The ArchiWorld® Team

Portrait of the month





Juhani Pallasmaa, Helsinki

Since the beginning of the sixties, Juhani Pallasmaa has extensively explored many different fields of architecture from the design to education, exhibitions, lectures, critical publications. These activities are intertwined throughout his career, constantly supporting and influencing each other. The Finnish architect is the jury’s president of the big contest Archi-World® Academy ( officially launched on April the 15th 2011 by Archi Europe Group with BAU Munchen.

Over the years Juhani Pallasmaa has developed a tremendous influence worldwide. As a board member of the Pritzker Prize since 2009, he leads the perception of architecture. Generous and full of energy, permanently travelling around the world, he has an impact on generations of architects through his teaching. His research spans at the same time cultural, philosophical and theoretical fields. In his lectures and writings Juhani Pallasmaa has had a fundamental, revolutionary effect on attitudes; just no one was left indifferent. In his book “Animal Architecture” published in 1995 he looks with the eyes of an architect a world built of a rich and incredible ingenuity and shows that animals have the tools to produce high performance materials and to create complex habitats well integrated in their territory. There is a structural homology between animal and human architecture. In the same way, ten years later, his book "The Eyes of the Skin" can be seen as an attack against the present architectural discourse. He denounced the hegemony of the eye in our society defends the necessity for the architects to take account of the richness and the complexity of sensory perceptions." He denounced the hegemony of the eye in our society and tries to reformulate the beauty of the world’s human perception. The work of Juhani Palasmaa challenges us to open our minds to the dangers of a reductive minimalism or exhibitionist architecture only based on the visual sense.
When Juhani Pallasmaa began his career, he defended rational thinking, emphasizing the importance of knowledge and technology. Later, he developed a more sensitive and more humanistic approach. His early experiences of simple farm life are reflected in his work as an architect. “I am even today unable to acknowledge boundaries between architecture and design, fine arts and philosophical investigation, or the spheres of life and work. I learned that everything should be done with care and attention, and the way one works reflects one’s attitude to life. Work is an essential part of the art of life and one’s self-identity and esteem.” When he was managing director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki from 1978 to 1983, Juhani Pallasmaa gave an international dimension to its activities exhibiting the works of such architects as Tadao Ando, Alvaro Siza and Daniel Libeskind, who only later became renowned throughout the world.

Nowadays he runs his own practice “Juhani Pallasmaa Architects” in Helsinki without leaving his other fields of activity and considers architecture “as an existential expression; buildings structure, express, and articulate our being-in-the-world”. He used to say: “My works are geometric and they appear abstract. Yet they are grounded on a view of distinct archaic meanings and mental impressions of form. Forms are gestures: when drawing horizontal lines, I imitate the superimposed horizontal zones of the Finnish landscape; when designing a column, I repeat the image of an upright human figure. When drawing a circle, I feel that I am making a gesture of integrity and singularity. Abstraction always implies a condensed and ambiguous image of the world, or more precisely, a union between the world and oneself. I am more interested in the essence of things than their shape. Architecture of essence usually leads to a state of meditation, whereas an architecture of form aims at captivating and dynamic compositions. (…) I would like to call my architectural approach ‘sensuous minimalism.’ As an architect, I wish to strengthen the silence of the world.”

1. Juhani Pallasmaa
© photo Adolfo Vera

2. Finnish Institute, Paris (1986-91)
© photo Gérard Dufresne

3. Arrival Plaza and astronomical structure, Cranbrook Academy, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (1994 - with Dan Hoffman and the Cranbrook Architecture Studio)
© photo Balthazar Korab

4. Sāmi Lapp Museum, Inari, Lapland, Finland (1998)
© photo Rauno Träskelin

5. Kamppi Center, Helsinki (2006)

Project of the month

Soap factory Heymans, Brussels
MDW Architecture

Rewarded by the MIPIM Awards 2011 in the category “Residential Developments” the Soap Factory Heymans was refurbished by MDW Architecture for the Brussels CPAS department. It is considered as a perfect example of urban rehabilitation regarding sustainable housing and social cohesion.

On the site of an old soap factory in the centre of Brussels, abandoned since 15 years, has now been built “a small town with different typologies” with 42 sustainable housings - studios, apartments, lofts and small houses. The architects, Marie Moignot and Xavier De Wit, winners of the tender ”Exemplary Buildings”, as well as Gilles Debrun (designer), gave preference to a bioclimatic conception with a strong insulation. The buildings are indeed equipped with large terraces protected by bioclimatic “loggias” composed of glass sliding panels. These low energy “loggias” offer a thermo - acoustical protection and some privacy in such a densely built area. The lofts having been especially conceived with high performance materials are of the passive type. Many technical solutions have been implemented: double flow ventilation, night cooling, green half-intensive roofing, collective heating network, solar sanitary water, etc. Two condensation gas boilers and a small cogeneration unit are used to heat the complex. The rain water is partly recuperated and reused after treatment.

Keeping the façade with the original steel structure, this building has been reinforced with new floors and a central concrete core. An external wooden structure with 14 cm of cellulose and 5 cm of rock wool “packs” the whole building. To avoid condensation, the builders have chosen more diffuse materials for the steam spreading, ie, (from inside to outside): plasterboard, mineral wool, OSB, vapor barrier with variable diffusion, cellulose, fiberwood panels, ventilated groove, brick covering.

This project was conceived globally and underlines the quality approach for the buildings as well as for all the multipurpose spaces in the area. The whole complex with new, preserved and transformed buildings (lofts) proposes a great variety of services and conveniences: a launderette, a playing ground, a meeting centre, an inside garden, a walking area, a library. As a consequence of the biodiversity management of the site, the green roofing of the building serves to facilitate relations between inhabitants. The fact that the ancient emblematic chimney was not demolished is a proof of respect of the historical site. It is used for a better ventilation of the underground parking.

Competitions in the spotlight


Archi-World® Academy

The first worldwide architecture contest for students in architecture
Archi-World® Academy Award (AWA) 2011/2013: "Energy-saving projects and ideas for the future of architecture and urbanism".

Win a top class traineeship in a leading architecture practice by one of the 12 star architects: Zaha Hadid, Françoise-Hélène Jourda, Bjarke Ingels, J-M Jaspers, Francine Houben, Daniel Libeskind, Kengo Kuma, Mario Cucinella, Christoph Ingenhoven, Jain Bijoy, Ma Yansong, Andry Bokov.

Click here to enter your project!


Saie Selection 2011

and Archi-Europe jointly organize a special contest "SAIESelection" in order to select 24 projects and concepts (12 for young architects and 12 for students) on the theme “Innovating, Integrating, Building Highly innovative and sustainable buildings".

All 24 projects and/or concepts will be presented in a special dedicated exhibition ‘Cuore Mostra Saie 2011’ in the framework of the SAIE International Building Exhibition taking place in Bologna (Italy) from October 5 to October 8, 2011.

Click here to register!

(09 - 11/06/2011) - Munich (DE)
(26 - 27/05/2011) - Liege (BE)
(24 - 26/05/2011) - Lyon (FR)
(11 - 13/05/2011) - Madrid (ES)
(14 - 26/05/2011) - Vienna (AT)
Italo Zannier photographer
(17/04 - 13/06/2011) - Florence (IT)
Picasso: Peace and Freedom
(11/02 - 29/05/2011) - Humlebæk (DK)
Brit Insurance Designs Awards 2011
(16/02 - 07/08/2011) - London (UK)
>> read more
BA AWARD 2011 (Biological Architecture Foundation - Futuristic Water and the bioreef diversity theory - City design Competition)
Deadline: 15/05/2011
Sustainable Design Awards
Deadline: 15/05/2011
[London] Olympic Games Information Pavilion
Deadline: 15/06/2011
>> read more

John Pawson. Plain Space
Alison Morris

244 pages | € 75.00
Phaidon Publishers
ISBN 978-0714857480
>> read more
Le regard des sens
Juhani Pallasmaa
98 pages | € 18.00
Editions du Linteau
ISBN 978-2910342685

>> read more
Making architecture, nurturing people : from Rwanda to Ha´ti - Shigeru Ban + Keio University SFC Ban Laboratory
260 pages | € 45.10
Inax-Shuppan Publishers
English / Japanese
ISBN 978-4872751635
>> read more

Copyright 2011 Archi-Europe Group nv/sa
Responsible Editor: Jacques Allard | Chief Editor: Marie-Claire Regniers
Not yet a member of ArchiWorld? Subscribe here!
To unsubscribe from Archi-News, click here.