‘Green building’ can mean different things to different architects, but in Barcelona, the site of Gaudí’s wild innovations, it sometimes seems as if anything could bloom. Architectural photographer Roland Halbe recently captured a unique take on new challenges to be environmentally conscious as integrated into Barcelona’s rich architectural history. The Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel, completed in 2012 by Ribas & Ribas Arquitectos and Jean Nouvel, offers a unique take on the recent trend of botanical buildings by responding to the the plants’ natural beauty with windows and other features that echo their shapes. The plants that wind along its exposed staircase have a unique partnership with its outer facade, allowing light to shine through differently at different times of the day. Thus the building, despite standing at more than 300 feet tall, has a unique way of blending into the surrounding streetscape. The architects have stated that the building’s vertical gardens create a “living element in permanent transformation” through the unique play of light.
There’s function behind that form, though. The bright white color of the tower’s outer facade on the south, west, and east elevations helps reduce solar heat gain due to the building’s greater exposure to the sun on those sides. Meanwhile, the north facade has a matte black finish to absorb as much solar radiation as possible during the short time of the day that it is exposed to the sun. The junior and deluxe suites also employ this scheme, with the former onyx black and the latter having a white scheme. This creates a more even temperature throughout the building, which no doubt has been nourishing the people inside as well as the plants. The concrete panel behind the building’s glass, palm frond-printed curtain wall also contributes to its energy efficiency. The palm frond shape is echoed in the concrete, creating uniquely shaped windows in the rooms.
A gallery joins the two halves of the building on the 14th floor, as well as a panoramic restaurant, ensuring through social space that the two halves of the building, even united as they are by the vertical gardens, never become estranged. Check out Halbe’s explorations of the unique tower below.