Autonomy - Architecture

Tamera and the SolarVillage have so far taken two approaches to building: clay building, for low-cost alternatives using the resources of the surroundings, and multi-zone architecture, presently most visible in the shade-roof constructions. The SolarVillage is still searching for a visionary concept for solar architecture of the future. The two approaches described here are the work of Gernot Minke, former Professor of Clay Building at the University of Kassel, Germany, and Martin Pietsch, Tamera's resident designer and master-builder.

Earth, Straw and Grass:

The Rediscovery of Ecological Building Materials

Providing space for 400 people and with walls eight metres high, the Aula, Tamera's auditorium, is the largest straw-bale adobe building in the Iberian Peninsula.

Despite its impressive size, its green roof and the earthcoloured walls blend harmoniously into the landscape. Visitors who enter are amazed by its grandeur. The timber construction and harmonious proportions give a feeling of magnitude. “Almost like a cathedral,” is often heard. The Aula consists of a wooden construction stacked with straw bales and plastered inside and out with clay. On the outer walls the clay was mixed with lime as protection from the rain. Grass and herbs grow on the roof.

Building with adobe has a long tradition in Portugal. This tradition can now be combined with new scientific techniques, with materials such as straw and features such as green roofs, as well as with solar architecture. This enables futuristic architectural design such as cupolas, and the conveniences of modern life. Building with clay and straw is an alternative that saves money and labour, creates a good living climate indoors and combines old knowledge with new techniques.

Multi-zone Architecture

The work of Martin Pietsch

Bright arching roofs of rainproof tent fabric and dark shade-meshes stretch over the village plaza of the Solar Village test field. They shape the centre of the community into a playground of different nuances, from the intensely hot and sunny, through dappled shade, to cool and tranquil. Its ecological design gives rise to a variety of different gathering places. The spacious membrane construction designed by Martin Pietsch is an approach to semipermeable architecture, in which daily life and contact with nature are designed to come together in a mutually enhancing synergy.

Martin Pietsch has been planning and building his stretched membrane roofs since the founding of Tamera. Their fantastic yet functional forms are reminiscent of huge flowers, mushrooms or UFOs. They settle into the landscape of Tamera during the summer. They are however, only one part of a much bigger concept which he has also created in other parts of Portugal, for example in 2008 at the Boom Festival in Idanha-a-Nova.

As a former trade-fair building designer, Pietsch has been designing membrane architecture and 'organic' buildings for future-looking communities for decades. His greatest source of inspiration, in addition to the social building task, is music and especially dance. “The feeling in my body is decisive in the process of finding the form,” he explains. “I feel the form more than I calculate it – the measure of success in this is the inner dance of the soul and the outer dance of the body. As my body translates melody and rhythm into manifold movement, so I look for artistic forms to seduce human and nature into a common pulsing dance.”

The membrane roofs are the most striking part of his work in Tamera. But they are only one part of the multizone architecture he has developed. Another example is the house for handicrafts, Casa Sandra. The outside of Sandra Schmidt's spacious sculpture studio follows the flow of the landscape harmoniously. Inside, in the centre, is a living area where the temperature can be passively regulated independent of the weather, and in front is the light-filled studio, open to the air. Further outside are courtyard terraces, partly protected from the rain, where animals and plants from the surroundings can enter freely. The inhabitants and users of multi-zone architecture can choose the level of contact with nature and the elements they want according to their needs and wishes at any time. Their life and work spreads organically in places where they like being together. Life in a multi-zone landscape is the opposite of that resulting from urban concepts which have for centuries contributed to the isolation of the human being from an environment that is perceived as threatening.

Order the book "Terra Nova" here