To generate sustainable and habitable space in extreme weather conditions is a challenge for architects. By observing and responding to these environmental conditions, our cities have the possibility to transcend standard forms and become bespoke elements that morph and adapt to embrace their local surroundings. Wind is an omnipresent force that we have learnt to harvest for its energy, but our cities also reshape the winds direction, channeling it into open spaces and generating turbulence as it whips around the sides of our buildings. By observing and studying these natural forces, architects and city planners have the possibility to not only rethink the way we live in our cities, but generate new temperate outdoor environments in the more extreme climates.
Nordic Built Cities is a Nordic programme for developing, visualising and exporting Nordic innovative solutions for liveable, smart and sustainable cities. The ‘Vertical Challenge’, one of six urban competitions launched by Nordic Built Cities in Autumn 2015, invited designers to propose spectacular sustainable solutions for a new housing typology for the steep terrain of the Faroe Islands. The ‘Eyes of Runavik’, White Arkitekter winning proposal, offers a unique and contextual solution to the windy climate. The Jury quotes:
The Eyes of Runavik simultaneously draws from the rich history of Faroese architectural aesthetics and traditions, whilst applying them to a contemporary forms and construction techniques in order to create a new building typology that is deeply rooted within its’ local context.
Sustainable solutions are often closely linked to their context. In this Runavik proposal, the contextual findings are merged with modern knowledge and technology to meet the demands of society and create the smart, sustainable and liveable city of the future.
The proposal is a direct composition of its local context. By making use of the local resources (wind, water geothermal heat, basalt rock, sheep wool and vegetation), the buildings and road infrastructure become highly sustainable; they are harmonious with both the local architecture and the surrounding nature. On the Faroe Islands, the extreme weather conditions can create limitations to the liveability. Harsh winds have an effect on the outdoor social culture on the site, and White Arkitekter experiment with how this can be changed – by working with the architectural forms. As they’ve said:
The wind is an eternally present natural power on the Faroe Islands, constantly sweeping over the hillsides, plains and slopes from shifting wind-directions. The eye-shape and configuration of the settlements make the best of the extreme conditions and protects the interior courtyard from wind from all sides.
The architecture does not merely provide a place for people to live, it directly shapes its local environment by creating a temperate outdoor courtyard that is sheltered from the wind. In contrast, the existing town is comprised of predominately single family homes set on a plot of land. Whilst this existing architecture creates a good living environment, it does not utilise its full potential to construct a community within a windy landscape.
How the architecture has been designed
With the ambition set out for creating a microclimate inside of these rings, the
size and height are relevant, as it is important to maintain the protection from the wind. By the use of a wind simulation program it is possible to calculate the wind dynamics from the designed architectural forms, estimating how it responds to the climate.
The images show how the iterative process of the formal building development. Testing the size of the settlements establish how big the open courtyards can be. Developing the angles of the roof to restrict the flow of wind coming in; different roof angles give different wind projections. Also the outer spaces are tested carefully, because it is important to have a natural flow of the wind between the settlements.
The settlements form is for this proposal the most important element in the ambition for new liveable initiatives. With the site located on a steep hill with a prevailing westerly winds, strong northerly winds and high winds coming down the hillside, this housing typology has a special challenge. The wind must be directed where it is not a nuisance.
Building for changing climate
The Faroe Islands is located between two boreal climate zones: the middle zone lower down towards the fjords and the alpine zone at the peaks of the mountains. This mean the general temperature varies between 1 and 13 degrees Celsius is larger low and wild vegetation is a rare sight. The circular form of the settlements raise the temperature by a few degrees inside the courtyards. The result becomes a shift in the boreal zone and in the centre courtyards it would simply jump to the southern zone and host a climatic temperature more similar to the Danish. This change means that an outdoor activity is more pleasant than before and spaces where recreation can take place in a more comfortable environment.
TEXT – Trine Banch Møller, Member of the Danish Association of Architects, FORESIGHT blogger by invitation
ILLUSTRATIONS AND VISUALISAITION – White Arkitekter and Beauty & the Bit
ENGINEER – DIFK