The Biodiversity Garden

The Biodiversity Garden

VS Associati

The Biodiversity Garden

VS Associati as Architects

The project concept The Biodiversity Garden greenhouses are a great showcase, an ideal cross-section of the globe which slopes away from the equator to the poles. From the most favourable living conditions with abundant humidity and high temperatures where rain forests can grow, to the most extreme conditions where the cold and scarce water make life almost impossible.The project has retained the empty space in the urban fabric represented by the existing Benedictine vegetables gardens before the changes made at the beginning of the 1950s, while the relationship with the former vegetable gardens is more than just a simple re-proposal of their forms. It rather derives from interpretation of the compositional rules governing the layout of the 16th century part. The Renaissance architecture used shapes such as the circle and the square, together with numerical modules. An idea transposed into design of the extension, respecting the dimensions and proportions present in the schemes regulating the old Hortus cintus and maintaining the same orientation of the axes which cross the great circle and visually connect the domes of the monumental complex of Santa Giustina to those of the Sant’Antonio basilica.An urban place, an integral part of the city’s fabric, within which a visit can take multiple forms, with display areas and spaces for entertainment and interaction.

Solar Active building The building has been designed to reduce environmental impact to a minimum – a 100 m long, 18 m high showcase in which the shape, layout of the spaces and installations have been optimised to exploit to the full the natural energy available free from the sun. The building plays an active role in transforming both the inside and outside environment, thanks to design and technological features which reduce environmental impact.Natural precipitation feeds a 450 m3 collecting pool. The same body of water which marks the entrance to the Biodiversity Garden also ensuresconstant mixing and oxygenation of the water reservoir.From a depth of 284 m, an artesian well takes up water at a constant 24°C, allowing tropical aquatic plants to live all year round. It also integrates the water reservoir in periods of drought. Electricity produced by photovoltaic panels powers the pumps regulating the water cycle and contributes to operation of the entire greenhouse system.The opaque internal and external surfaces are covered with a photo catalytic compound which exploits ultraviolet rays to produce a chemical reaction. This considerably reduces atmospheric pollution - estimates speak of 150 m3/m2 cleaned of pollutants each day.A new technique for growing shrubs has been used on the non-transparent roofs of the structures. Transforming these areas into places where plants can grow has positive effects on the environment, from reducing the building’s energy consumption to producing oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide and particulate.The greenhouse effect is exploited to save energy and at the same time keep the environment within the temperature and humidity parameters specific to each climate zone. The heat produced by the sun’s rays remains imprisoned in the greenhouses. In winter, the masonry parts accumulate the heat and release it during the night. During the summer, the heat is mitigated by opening the glass walls and roofs of the greenhouses.

And the signal to open and close the windows comes from the plants themselves as they react to the environmental conditions by releasing carbon dioxide and oxygen in different degrees as the humidity and temperature vary. A computerised system relates the data provided by the plants to the optimum parameters for life in each of the climate zones.The greenhouse roofs are made from cushions of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a corrosion resistant plastic, lighter than glass and more transparent to the UV rays vital for the plants.The roofs are shaped to accumulate the sun’s heat, creating a buffer of air which reduces dispersion by radiation during the night.To obtain the visual effect of a 100 m long perfectly flat piece of glass, a new system has been devised to fix the panes, free from external profiles or through elements, but able to support wind loads of more than 400 kg/m2.

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Library of Birmingham
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Library of Birmingham

Libraries, Exhibitions and Theaters
Birmingham, United Kingdom - Build completed in 2013
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