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Vernacular architecture & technology

In this period of galloping city planning and technological progress in permanent motion, the architects realize that they have plenty to learn from vernacular constructions, long time considered as simplistic. The application of vernacular strategies to contemporary design refers to a climatic approach which is sensitive and conscious of natural resources. And this, when taking advantage of local perfectly adapted resources and materials. Therefore, the desire to be culturally connected to a specific region comes out as a well identified typology, material, colour choice and spatial language. It is true that the development of new materials has facilitated and made more secure the art of building. And has also given birth to new structures, more daring, because of their better resistance. As the economic and ecological concerns play from now onwards a leading role, all the manufacturers in the world are looking for reliable and environment friendly building materials. Researchers of the German Fraunhofer Institute have developed a method to create insulating foam based on finely ground wood particles with gas addition. Some Spanish scientists of the Valencia Polytechnic University have conceived bricks especially adapted to earthquake’s harmful impacts (Sisbricks). A reinforcement allows to absorb the relative moves between the separation wall and the whole building’s structure. A team of Swedish researchers of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology has announced last April the creation of a transparent wood, by eliminating the lignin and soaking it with a transparent plastic polymer. This cheap material could be used for creating semi-transparent façades. At the Harvard University, they managed to produce cellular composite materials unbelievably light and stiff. The researchers have used 3D printing techniques to create the “honey comb” effect in carbon-fibre epoxy materials. To summarize, let’s say that the next generation of building materials seems to concentrate mainly on sustainability and very high reliability. These innovative developments could really revolutionize the way of building in the near future.

The Archi-Europe team

Portrait of the month

1 Hervé Potin et Anne-Flore Guinée

2 Temporary Housings, “ ZAC des neufs journaux”

3 Collective Housings, ZAC Courtil Brécard

Collective Housings and individual passive houses

Rennes land Ecomuseum

6 Rennes land Ecomuseum

7 Centre for discovery, scientific culture and research on Environment and Biodiversity

8 Centre for discovery, scientific culture and research on Environment and Biodiversity

9 Public Services House

10 Tréverien School extension

Guinée Potin

At the same time discreet and talented, Anne-Flore Guinée and Hervé Potin subtlety advocate the development of architecture focusing on materials.

Anne-Flore Guinée (1973) and Hervé Potin (1972) have met at the Rennes Architecture School and have followed a similar route up to the end of their studies. They graduated respectively in 1997 and 1996.At the beginning of their professional life, she joined the team of Christian Hauvette, whilst he, after a training period with François Roche, started working with the office Edouard François/Duncan Lewis. A stay at the Medicis Villa in Rome enabled them to start a reflection on material and form, particularly a new approach on the buildings’ skin. “Researches are very much influenced by radical utopias of the sixties and a certain contextual architecture of the nineties, they indicate (…) The praise of architectural banality is a dangerous pretext enabling to justify, figuratively, a second-rate architecture”. Just after a stay in Addis Abeba (Ethiopia) in 2002, thanks to a scholarship 'The other side of cities', they created their own office in Nantes, simply called Guinée Potin. An office to be dedicated to architecture and arts, Anne-Flore acting as a plastic artist. Each piece of their work shows a real commitment. “Our approach falls within the development of a contextual architecture, which is also expressive, attentive and radical, dreamlike and real”. The skin of their buildings wants to be the link between architecture and environment.

Already in 2006, in the book 'Extra Muros, Architecture of Delight' (Patrice Goulet / Archibooks Editions/Architecture City) noted that the charm of their projects came mainly from their liberty of expression. “It is not that they have have forgotten History, but on the contrary because they have very much admired the antique mosaics and baroque claddings, as much as the works of Gaudi and Horta, but more because they dare to mix natural and artificial, raw and sophisticated, hard and soft... and that nothing seems to be able to stop them. They are finally as much artists and landscape designers than architects. Collage, colouring, diversion, crossing, folding, setting, inlay, veneer, interference, contamination, etc. are there to serve a sensual, expressive and magic architecture.”

As examples, the 16 housing projects in the ZAC of New Papers in Chanteple (2008), forming three small wood/concrete framework constructions completed by a Douglas pine cladding, so as to softly integrate into the surrounding rural landscape. The play of volumes created on the façade is the result of an interlocking work of the housings on two levels. Each one takes the qualities of an individual house with comfortable interior spaces, an individualized access and a private outside area. This approach comes back in the 20 collective housing projects near St Nazaire, where the vegetal heritage is maintained to create visual filters. Or furthermore the bioclimatic project of 41 collective housings and 3 individual houses near Nantes (2015), where they used the last passive technologies, thanks to a green roof, small heating needs and a double flux active ventilation system. Well integrated to the site, the mixed concrete/wood structure permits a good thermal inertia and acoustic insulation. As to the dressing, the architects have also chosen Douglas pine, with a few metal touches on the northern side to break the monotony and the linearity of the façades.
Throughout the years, some astonishing projects propose to revisit traditional techniques and typologies.The Rennes ecomuseum (2010), a very noteworthy project, opens the way for the two architects to international reputation. Starting from a statement on the ancient constructions' qualities and on the potentiality offered by the site’s landscape possibilities, the project shows a geometric motive dressing proposing the scale of a “signal building”. The different woody materials used in the building’s envelop, as much as in the construction itself create the place’s identity. The constructive approach has aimed to very reliable targets in terms of energy management and maintenance (aerotherm heat pump air/water, wooden frame-skeleton-cladding, 75% green roofing, hemp wool insulation, Fermacell doubling, rubber floor, water recuperation, etc.)
Other noticed building fully respecting the site, the Beautour Biodiversity Centre in Laroche-sur-Yon (2013), which is based on the restructuring and extension of the ancient home and estate of the botanist and naturalist Georges Durand (1886-1964). In order to welcome a museum dedicated to a part of his collection of plants, birds and insects. Taking account of the natural heritage’s topography and quality has resulted in a route with a soft wooden structure slope, slightly off the land. With a strong identity, like a branch put on the ground, the extension stretches over about hundred meters and rests on piles made of solid chestnut trunks. Form and material are finally merged, as the façade and the roof are both wrapped with the same material, meaning the thatch of the Vendée wooden countryside, developed with new techniques. Rearranged, the existing building is covered with a grey lime coating.
In Quimper, the Public Services House is dressed with a geometric motive clear wood, in echo to the timbering in Quimper’s historical centre. It revolves rationally around an atrium. The architects have implemented a bioclimatic architecture (compactness with great inertia, passive use of the sun’s energy, sunny south façade, zenithal lighting by the atrium, reinforced exterior insulation, etc.)
The recent extension of the School in Tréverien (Ille et Vilaine) refers to the vernacular constructions. The full south orientation enables to develop a Trombe wall system* behind the windows in each class, permitting to return in heat the calories produced by the sun in winter. On the contrary, a canopy protects the classrooms from the summer sun. As to the materials, the walls are made of cob, a mixture more humid than adobe rammed earth and very much used in the region of Rennes for its good resistance to climatic conditions. Always faithful to their ideas, Anne-Flore Guinée and Hervé Potin claim their attachment to traditional construction methods. “Wood, thatch, tree trunks, green roofings are our tools, they say. We like to talk about coats when referring to façades or roofings. We like them to be rugged and apt to catch colours and reflects. Then it appears that these buildings offer excellent energy performance, it is very positive.”

* Building system using solar energy by the greenhouse effect, experimented by Professor Félix Trombe with the cooperation of the architect Jacques Michel in the years 1950/1970.


1 Hervé Potin and Anne-Flore Guinée
2 Temporary Housings, “ ZAC des neufs journaux” Chantepie (2005-2008)
3 Collective Housings, ZAC Courtil Brécard, St Marc, St Nazaire (2009-2013)
4 Collective Housings and individual passive houses, Orvault (2012-2015).
5 & 6 Rennes land Ecomuseum (2007-2010)
7 & 8 Centre for discovery, scientific culture and research on Environment and Biodiversity, La Roche-sur-Yon (2010-2013 + 2014)
9 Public Services House, Quimper (2010-2013)
10 Tréverien School extension, Ille et Vilaine (2012-2016)

Project of the month

House with patio in Tujereng, Gambia
Architecture: Virai Arquitectos, Madrid

Example of an ecological house adapted to the African climate, using passive and local solutions, as well as natural materials.

TSituated close to the sea, not far from the capital, Banjul, the place is peaceful. The owners of this house left their home in Barcelona to settle here and create two projects. First of all, the school Fandema which they manage – this special development project includes a nursery school and a training centre for hand-crafted apprenticeship, computer learning, renewable energy installation and a responsible tourism project. Right from the start, their demand gives priority to comfortable and ecological constructions well rooted in the environment. Designed by Juan Manuel Herranz Molina and his team, the residence and its outhouses were executed at distance from Madrid. This obligation has required a simple construction, easy to realize with clear plans. Only three one week visits on the spot were necessary to rethink the buildings’ establishment, meet the local constructors, clarify the details, check the execution of the carpentry and finally examine all the remaining points. Internet did all the rest of the work. The house is built with packed down earth blocks, sand and lime, realized in situ with a mobile press and dried during one month on the building site. Coming from the small local industry, the blocks are produced from shells which are visible on the inside and outside walls. Pipes and ducts are integrated in some specially created blocks.The use of pressed blocks has a major impact in the community and many local manufacturers are starting to use this system, thanks to the advantages in terms of cost and thermal behaviour. Whilst the roofings are realized in a wood and straw structure, with an adequate slope to guarantee watertightness and sustainability. Worth noting the ceilings and their traditional braiding with different geometric motives coming directly from the local handicraft. The architects have favoured the settlement around the patio, as per a local typology. The latter serves as a filter with the outside world, softens the very strong outside light by creating an area with shadow and freshness inside the house. The difference of temperature enables to improve the natural ventilation in the house. Like the Roman impluvium or the traditional houses in Casamance (Senegal), the patio collects the rainwater which is stocked in a big water tank enabling it to be used for the irrigation of the orchards and the gardens of the estate. A small annexe shelters the solar panels and batteries to ensure the electrical power. The buildings are spread out on the land to take advantage of the best orientation, in the clearings, by reducing the impact on the forest. Separated from each other right up to the land’s limits, they are covered by a very dense green vegetation, the whole year through.

Photos © Juan Manuel Herranz Molina & Marta Parra Casado



Product of the month

Light up your indoors with Saint-Gobain Mirrors

Mirrors have for centuries been used to increase space, breathe life and air into our living environments. By adding light to them down the sides or from the back, mirrors can provide an extra dimension, making a room even brighter but also animating it through colour and variation thanks to Saint-Gobain know-how and experience.


Saint-Gobain proposes innovative mirrors constantly matching today’s needs and guaranteeing:

• Appealing design to create bright and friendly living spaces.
• Quality and durability with performance focused on innovation.
• Minimized ecological footprint through the work done at every stage of the product life cycle.
• Well-being and safety with a toxic-substance-free product and an optional protective film.

Saint-Gobain keeps the innovation coming with its light mirrors that give off an elegant lounge feeling and with its Water Drop Mirror that prevents the double sight of water droplets.


- DESIRE light mirrors


- MIRASTAR Mirror-effect tempered glass

- MIRALITE REVOLUTION Ecological mirrors

- Mirror-effect radiators Thermovit EDEN and HARMONY

- Mirrors Selection PRADEL



Events in the spotlight

BAU Congress China: Strategies for China's cities

BAU Congress China is an annual congress with an accompanying exhibition that takes place at the China National Convention Centre (CNCC) in Beijing. This event focuses on high-quality design, planning, and construction. It is a high-quality, business-focused, and industry-wide platform that provides real solutions and inspiration to global and local industry professionals in an international setting, tailored to the specific needs of the Chinese market.

The third BAU Congress China will take place from July 4 to 6, 2016. For the first time, due to its popularity, the BAU Congress China 2016 will take place in the halls of the China National Convention Center (CNCC) in Beijing over the course of three days.

BAU Congress China 2016 focuses on three different themes: the first day of the congress concen-trates on “Urban strategies”, while on the second day “Project development and implementation” is the midpoint of the lectures, and the last day emphasizes “Smart building technology”. The congress seeks to identify the specific challenges facing urban planners and developers in China, and how sustainable concepts can be implemented.

The speakers are well-known planners and architects from China and Europe. Using best practice examples, they set out their ideas for the Chinese city of the future.

The exhibition emphasizes outstanding building products, materials, and services in conjunction with structured, long-term, and sustainable urban development. BAU Congress China provides a complete overview of the market—it showcases product innovations and reveals specific opportunities for the industry. As an efficient communication, networking, and information platform, it promotes business exchange between manufacturers and project developers, architects, planners, and distributors.

Find out more about BAU Congress China.
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Piscine Global November 15 - 18, 2016 - Eureexpo Lyon

You are an architect, designer or landscaper? Come to the dedicated specifier days on 17th and 18th, 2016



- Creating swimming pools with value added designs
- Integrating pools into the surroundings : is this a combination of skills or a dual skill?

An expert partner, Arch- Europe Group, 400 candidates and projects since 2012, 600 subscribers on LinkedIn, 15 journalists at the 3 Piscine Show network.

- STARTING AT 7.00PM, SHOWROOM ACADEMY AND POOL VISION TROPHY AWARDS CEREMONY and Cocktail party during the Show Late Night Opening.


Guided Tour of the Confluence dis- trict led by the Lyon Tourist Information Office.

How to register: On the website with code GMFPR


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15th edition of Middle East’s largest real estate investment and development exhibition returns from 6 - 8 September 2016

For more than fifteen years, Cityscape Global has been the bridge between emerging and mature real estate markets bringing together investors and professionals from Asia, Middle East, Africa, Russia and the Indian subcontinent with those from Europe and the US. With over 43,000 participants expected, Cityscape is the annual opportunity to build and maintain your presence across emerging real estate markets

This year flagship event will feature a range of country pavilions, including those dedicated to exhibitors from the UK, Pakistan, and India, a seminar theatre for exhibitors and a number of big-league speakers at the Cityscape Conference.

On the day preceding the show (5 September), the Cityscape Global Conference is expected to gather an exclusive mix of more than a 1,200 delegates and speakers taking part in three dedicated conference programmes: Market Overview, Architecture, and Real Estate Brokers.

For the first time since the Conference inception, the Market Overview programme will feature one of the most sought-after speakers, Rohit Talwar, a globally-renowned futurist and strategist, who will debate risk management and ground-breaking development strategies in legislation and investment policies for the global and local real estate market in the near future.

Following the success in 2015, the show returns with the Cityscape Talks seminar theatre, offering exhibitors dedicated space in the centre of Hall 1 on the show floor to engage with visitors and host presentations showcasing their organisations’ expertise and latest property developments.

The opening day of the show will feature the Cityscape Awards for Emerging Markets, an awards programme attracting hundreds of entries from developers and architects across emerging markets globally.

More about the event and/or register in advance please visit:

Competitions in the spotlight

Archi-World® Academy 2015 - 2017 - III edition

After the great success of the first two editions 2011/1013 and 2013/2015 with the active participation of 24 world renowned architects as jury members, we are now launching Archi-World® Academy Awards 3.

We have the pleasure to present to you the jury members of the 2015 - 2017 edition: Sergey Romanov, Rudy Ricciotti, JKMM Architects, COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, Poponcini & Lootens, Labics, Guz Architects, SBA Architects, Grafton Architects, CHIASMUS, Ercan Çoban Architects, Emilio Ambasz and Associates

This third edition of the Archi-World Academy Awards will again involve students in architecture and architecture schools from all over the world and give to 12 winning students a fantastic opportunity to win a prestigious traineeship in top architecture practices which will definetely boost their carreer !

Challenge us with your best projects in a new topic "Responsible Future Architecture".

Registration is open:
Deadline: Friday 30 September 2016

More information:

(21/06 - 11/09/2016) - Lisbon MAAT, Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (PT)
Pier Luigi Nervi. Architecture for Sport
(> 2/10/2016) - Rome MAXXI (I)
The Bauhaus #itsalldesign
(1/04 - 14/08/2016) - Bonn Bundeskunsthallee (DE)
Frantz Joseph. Man & Monarch
(16/03 - 27/11/2016) - Vienna Schönbrunn Palace (AT)
Stay. Now. Then: Housing and answers for 99 years
(16/04 - 31/12/2016) - Stockholm ArkDes (SE)
>> read more

2016 VMODERN Furniture Design Competition
Deadline: 27/09/2016

Green Academy: Call for Entries
Deadline: 01/08/2016

Call for Submission – Site Landmark: Portugal
Deadline: 24/09/2016

>> read more
Penser l'architecture - La idea construida
Alberto Campo Baeza

Editions de l'Espérou
€ 20.00
184 pages
ISBN 9782889151615

>> Read more

Residential towers

Gta Verlag
€ 83.90
352 pages
ISBN 9783856763497

>> Read more

Museum Buildings
Construction and Design Manual

Christian Schittich (Ed.), Hans Wolfgang Hoffmann

DOM Publishers
€ 78.00
416 pages
ISBN 978-3-86922-217-2

>> Read more

© 2016 Archi-Europe
Responsible Editor: Jacques Allard
Chief Editor: Marie-Claire Regniers

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