Can a single building change a city or people?

english with russian translation

The “Bilbao effect,” where a single ambitious building project triggers regeneration of an entire city in the same way the Guggenheim museum did in the eponymous Spanish city, has gained would-be imitators around the world. Numerous cities have invested in extravagant public buildings as a result, but few have met with much success. Can a building really change something within a complex social system? That was the main issue for the discussion between Bruce Kuwabara (KPMB Architects, Toronto), Daniel Dendra (anOther architect, Berlin) and Thomas Auer (Transsolar, Munich).

Invited experts suggested looking at the story from an everyday point of view. Today, we spend most of our time working. Are there any examples of outstanding office buildings that try to change the behaviour of people who work there? Are there any sustainable buildings that allow us to enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle with less impact on the environment and natural resources?

Considering the Russia’s extreme climate, the discussion was centred around two case studies: buildings located in Winnipeg (Canada) and Satka (Chelyabinsk region).

Bruce Kuwabara (KPMB Architects, Toronto) discussed his approach to design and experience of how such design can affect people and cities, including the Manitoba Hydro HQ in Winnipeg which opened in 2008.

Daniel Dendra (anOtherArchitect, Berlin) presented the designs for the new Magnezit HQ in Satka, scheduled for completion by 2015.

Both buildings share a design approach that is focused on the user and an energy concept that was developed by Transsolar Climate Engineering (Stuttgart, Munich, New York, Paris).

Thomas Auer, one of the directors at Transsolar, moderated a discussion after the initial lectures. Natalia Nikiforova, Director of Strategic Communications at Magnezit, joined the discussion and explained why companies were interested in investing in projects that could positively affect their users’ mentality.

The discussion raised the following questions:

– What kind of effect can a single building have on a city or society?

– How long does it take until such changes become apparent?

– Is it important for the state or the private sector to invest in such “soft factors”?

– What are the benefits for society overall?

– How important are principles of sustainability?