Our favourite CLT projects from around the world

King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre

The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre (KAPSARC) created great interest when it opened to the public for Saudi Design Week. But for those unable to attend and enjoy the Zaha Hadid Architects’ masterpiece up close and personal, German photographer, Hans Georg Esch, has created a wonderful video for all to enjoy.

Taking us on a journey through the sprawling 17-acre campus, Esch uses wonderful film techniques including sweeping, birds-eye shots to highlight and showcase the exquisite, geometric building.

The institution collaborates with international research centers, public policy organisations, worldwide government institutions and global industry leaders to research into policies that contribute to the most effective use of global energy.

To create a relationship of openness and transparency between the public and the researchers, the building includes open plan spaces with canopied courtyards, split levels for transparency between floors and geometric cutouts to the façade. With a calculated undulating roof, the structure’s modular design easily allows for expansion.

Looking more like a render than a real-life project, the center’s seemingly crystalline-like structures emerge from the desert landscape.

“KAPSARC’s five buildings differ in size and organisation to best suit their use,” explain the architects. “Each building is divided into its component functions and can be adapted to respond to changes in requirements or working methods. Additional cells can readily be introduced by extending KAPSARC’s honeycomb grid for future expansion of the research campus.”

The KAPSARC was one of several designs by Zaha Hadid prior to her passing in 2016 and was Zaha Hadid Architect’s first LEED Platinum building – a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.

Located on the shore of a man-made lake near Seinäjoki, western Finland, stands a stunningly simple prefabricated wooden tower offering a spectacular view of the surroundings. But the real beauty of the tower lies in its viewing platform options.

Whether you decide to trek the stairs to the top or stay on the banks of the lake, you are guaranteed the same bird’s eye view thanks to a series of large mirrors forming a periscope.

Tilted at just the right angle, the mirrors transform the tower into a periscope and allow those who are unwilling or unable to climb the opportunity to experience the same perspective.

Designed by Helsinki-based firm, OOPEAA, the tower has an inner core made of cross-laminated timber (CLT) that forms the frame for the extra-large periscope. The staircase spirals up and around its inner core concluding at a balcony deck boasting views out across the lake. Larch battens, spaced apart, frame different snippets of the lake and surrounding landscape as one makes the climb.

The prefabricated lakeside tower forms part of a wider development project for reshaping the lakeshore and will be connected to a network of recreational paths, accessible to everyone. A perfect example of design brilliance breaking down accessibility barriers.

Hormuz Island

Hormuz Island, also known as Iran’s ‘rainbow island’, is home to some of the most unique landscapes in the world – and features some unique architecture to match.

A high concentration of iron oxide gives the soil of the island an otherworldly reddish hue, while its mountains and caves are characterised by a rainbow of blues, purples, yellows and whites, drawing tourists from all over the world.

Complementing the incredible landscape is the nearby Iran Hormuz port and its famous Majara Residence, a mixed-use development with hues that mirror those found across the island.

Designed by local studio Zav Architects, the Residence is comprised of 200 various sized domes in bright primary colours – simultaneously contrasting against the immediate sandy terrain, yet marrying perfectly with the colours of the region’s further surrounds. In addition, the undulating outline of the development mirrors that of the local terrain, populated by rocky mountains and valleys that sit as a backdrop to the built community.

Each dome was constructed using the superadobe technique, a building method developed by Iranian architect Nader Khalili which involves filling long sandbags with dampened earth. These sandbags are laid in coils, working their way upward to create a domed structure. Strands of barbed wire are put between each sandbag layer to act as a mortar and provide more stability, and the walls of the resulting structure are then caked with soil mixture to provide a smooth and solid finish.

By utilising this simple building method, jobs created in the construction of Majara Residence were able to be given to local unskilled workers, increasing local employment and empowering the island’s community. In addition to allowing the employment and trading up of locals, the use of the superadobe technique is also sustainable, low-impact and long-wearing – able to withstand heavy rains and even earthquakes

While the majority of the beachside domes are residences, many are also amenities for visitors, tourists, and those who stay there, including a massage parlor, salons, restaurants, water storage, and a prayer room.

The individual domes are connected by meandering pathways, treading minimally on the landscape and painted in the same palette as the structures that surround them.

prefabricated residential and commercial buildings

Prefabricated residential and commercial buildings are designed to disguise the modularisation.

Modular prefabricated buildings can sometimes look, well, modular and prefabricated. Melbourne-based architecture practice is designing and constructing prefabricated sustainable homes and commercial projects that disguise the modularisation. From a coastal homes and country getaways to suburban modular extensions and contemporary houses, is designing and building for the particular conditions and landscape of the site.

Appreciation for Japanese and Scandinavian architecture – he was born in Japan and his father’s family is Danish – as well as an intrinsic understanding of the Australian landscape and climate. “Our prefab buildings have the textured minimalist approach of Scandinavian and Japanese architecture while letting the form of the building follow the function and that sense that it lightly touches the land,” Jan explains.   

A system of housing modules and finishes that allow for a vast range of building types and forms. Each module has a fully welded structural steel frame that allows for cantilevering, stacking, and covering large spans, and SIPs on the floor, walls, and roof effectively create a thermally insulated cell. The exteriors are then clad in a choice of materials – metal, timber, stone, brick, pre-finished materials – and the interiors fitted out. “We can create a lot of different design outcomes without adjusting the actual structure of the module. We can curve the housing modules or have fully glazed modules,” Jan says. “It debunks the myth that a module needs to be rectangular, or dare I say it, have a shipping container sort of look.”

Designed to be responsive to their specific locations and climatic conditions, every project is based on achieving the most sustainable outcome with the configuration of buildings optimised for passive solar design. “We view prefabrication as the ultimate means of construction for sustainable homes because we have more control building it in one location, there is less waste and no commuting back and forth to the site. Beyond that we look at passive solar design principles, materials and the systems that affect the lifecycle and continuous operation of the house,” Jan explains.

This is evident in a small and secluded project in Tintaldra, Victoria, in which a single module operates completely off-grid and is clad in $ 3-per-meter recycled corrugated iron. On an exposed hillside on Phillip Island, the form of a long and low house responds to the often extreme winds, acting as a barrier and protecting the external courtyard behind. In suburban locations, the housing modules are similarly designed to respond to their environment, and sympathetic to scale and streetscape rather than attempting to mimic existing forms.

Designs and constructs equally versatile and varied commercial projects, including a brick-clad service station, display suites, railway station, private hospital rooms, and the addition of eight apartments on the top of the Adina Hotel in St Kilda. “ 20 modules in one day so that the hotel didn’t lose any downtime in operation,” says Jan. “It demonstrated how a modular approach to infill construction can be very effective.”

Words from HabitusLiving