By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
You may be forgiven if you start to doubt your own sobriety when you walk inside the cubed building by architecture firm TheeAe. By crossing over fundamentals of maths, geometry, and engineering, they’ve created a gigantic, asymmetrical office cube for the Hong Kong Science Park.
The oddly-angled design concept of the Cube truly unifies the Park’s development in harmony with other surrounding buildings, and does so in the most eco-friendly way possible. The building is oriented towards the sun in order to maximise the absorption of the solar energy; this way power will be stored in the photovoltaic panels on the tilted roof and gathered in the battery on levels four and five. Consequently the entire electric consumption of the headquarters will be covered through this system except in the coffee area on the first level.
The self-sufficient building is both a “zero energy building” and a “zero emissions building.” Inclined facade walls represent sustainable ideas with dual layered composite panels: the wall unit is combined with light weight precast composite panel exteriorly, MDF panels interiorly, and low-E dual glass in-between. This limits the sun lights during day time and minimises heat transmittance to the interior space.
Exterior walls are transformed by their functional requirements, such as providing balconies and glass openings and air ventilation openings at building’s core. Interestingly, the “Cube” is connected to another cube (the “Cube Annex”). This is a transitional form to link the Bridge Podium (a pre-existing building) to the main cube. This linkage not only amplifies the dynamic form of the Cube, but maintains the existing building design in harmony with the new icon too. The icing on the cake is the roof garden, where you may enjoy some greenery during lunch hour, all with a fantastic sky view, too.
The Cube is currently setting a model in eco-architecture, as another sustainable structure with a similar concept has recently come on the scene: Atelier 8000 has won the international competition Kežmarská Chata with their cubical mountain hut set in Slovakia’s High Tatras, a popular ski resort.
Thanks to the positioning of the construction, three sides of the facade are visible from any viewing point, which amplifies the play of light and shadows. The glass surface of the windows and metal plating playfully create shimmering glowing effects, while the photovoltaic panels are at work absorbing the sun’s energy. The construction is made with glue laminated timber beams made out of larch wood and at its base the hut provides a snowmobile garage, staff entrance, ski storage, drying room and bathrooms. The ground level is where the restaurant is located, and the bedrooms are on the upper floors.
Those inside will be delighted by the organic materials and the asymmetrical windows, which lend the place a slightly ‘Alice in Wonderland’ surrealism.
Eco cube architecture is clearly becoming ‘a thing’, and whether housing office workers in Asia or ski fanatics in Slovakia, it seems that nowadays in architecture, it really is ‘hip to be square.’