Building Feature | Fünf Höfe

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On our exploration of the city we came upon the Fünf Höfe, a modern mall in the heart of Munich designed by architects Herzog & De Meuron. The Fünf Höfe (literally “five courtyards”) is a collection of shopping centers, galleries and apartments that naturally blend in with the rest of the city as it retains the original walls of the previous buildings. With a square meter of land costing over €12,000, the center could not give up space for a park but did create a vertical garden over transition areas inside the building. With vines hanging high from the ceiling, shoppers are offered a breath of fresh air and a visually appealing hall that transitions from one courtyard to the next. This move also helps to bring in a significant amount of light into the space despite being rather dense. The courtyards are open to the air and reveal perforated metal screens that can be manually adjusted to control light.

One of the bigger courtyards features a hanging globe, an art piece by Olafur Eliason, that abstracts the world into a large sphere composed of multiple metal rings. The installation is cleverly integrated with the architecture and features specially designed windows that curve with the shape of the globe. Despite taking up so much volume the courtyard feels light, both by the visual perforations in the installation but also because of the light bouncing off the reflective metal.

It is impressive to see such a high level of density in a building serving multiple purposes and also managing to work directly with art to enhance its spaces. This idea of integrating functional sculpture pieces could be a fantastic influence on the solar decathlon house, transforming the design from being simply practical to also livening the space and creating a dynamic environment.

Photographs and text by Michael Rahmatoulin


Medieval Munich

Strolling through Munich

Our first official day of class kicked off with a short presentation of the program and the work we would be doing for the Solar Decathlon. After a tour of the school and it’s amazing facilities, we were taken on a tour of historic Munich. On our explorations, we learned of Munich’s origins (from a city of Monks to its expansion as the city it is known as today). Munich is located in Southern Germany in the region of Bavaria, only a couple of hours away from the Alps. Even though we arrived in the end of August, the weather was very mild and even chilly for most of the week. Luckily, rain did not get in the way of our tour.

Unlike many large cities, Munich’s center is almost bare of skyscrapers. Having suffered extensive damages during allied bombings in the second world war, parts of the city are surprisingly modern. However, strict height restrictions prevent buildings from getting taller than any of the churches. Much of the modern buildings are located in the northern part of Germany, such as the BMW Museum and the historic Olympic Park which were built for the 1972 Olympics.

Photographs and text by Michael Rahmatoulin

Munich Team Debut

The UT and TUM Collaboration

A former inaugural (2002) and repeat (2005, 2007) DOE Solar Decathlon participant, the University of Texas at Austin, School of Architecture (UTSoA) was also a participant in the (2005) EPA P3 Competition with an entry on “Zero Net Energy Homes.” Building on the lessons learned from those projects, UTSoA started the design process in an interdisciplinary architecture and engineering design studio in spring 2013. In 2013, UTSoA developed a working research partnership with Technische Universitaet Muenchen, Germany (TUM) through the joint EnergyXChange Conference directed by Professor Petra Liedl in Austin, Texas. As an outgrowth of the conference, UTSoA and TUM began working together to develop a joint entry to the 2015 Solar Decathlon competition. During the October 2013 EnergyXChange conference, faculty and students from TUM shared their expertise in lecturers, seminars and workshops. During the Solar Decathlon 2015 project exchange programs for students and faculty from both universities will strengthen their relationship to facilitate project coordination, and continue to develop ideas within the strong sustainable design programs at both schools. The 2015 UT and TUM DOE Solar Decathlon team is formulated as an interdisciplinary collaboration, working with the strengths of several programs within the University of Texas and TUM.

With the solar decathlon in full swing, our work this semester will be split between a team of architecture students travelling to Munich and a team of engineers that will be based in Austin. Alongside TUM students, the Munich team will be hashing out the final design of the project and will be in constant contact with the Austin team through emails, Skype, and file sharing. The team in Munich will also be taking supplemental seminars that focus on life cycle analysis (LCA) and climate analysis, with Munich serving as a fantastic premise of history and sustainable design.

We’re excited to kick off the semester and show you our work over the next year as we aim to create the winning solar decathlon house of 2015!