Although necessary, power plants are typically an eyesore that don’t attract much positive attention. As Thomas Heatherwick put it, “we are ashamed of how we generate our energy.” Breaking the mold, a proposal by architecture firm AZPA (Alejandro Zaera-Polo Arquitectura) plans to transform a German power plant into a densely-forested “green mountain”, which will in turn be a landmark public space for a town.
In the German town of Wedel, near Hamburg, is the Vattenfall coal-fired, combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Commissioned in 1961, this plant is currently an unremarkable complex of industrial buildings sitting on the formerly-forested banks of the Elba. This new proposal looks to integrate the plant into the city by first giving the industrial facility a softer, more natural appearance, and secondly, by surrounding it with a forested, city park that is catered by the plant’s CO2 emissions.
The team started with the idea of using as much of the existing structure as possible to create a new plant, which they would then wrap with a corrugated skin of creeper plants. The reason for the corrugations are two-fold: it would soften the industrial aesthetic of the plant, and crucially, it would give the facade stability and provide an increased surface area for the creepers to absorb CO2.
However, as with a lot of green technology, more research is required before this skin could be confidently implemented. So until that point, they plan is to lay the ground-work by creating the galvanized steel substructure which would support it. The frame would then be clad in a thin porous skin, which would allow ventilation and illumination of the plant, while still achieving the same the green appearance. Beneath the skin, prefabricated panels would be attached to the building to provid the necessary thermal and acoustic insulation. Then, as the technology becomes available, the new vegetated skin could be realized incrementally.
Phase two of the plan is to reinstate a public forest around the plant, using the same native species which would have historically populated the banks of the Elba. Instead of being a fenced-off compound, when finished, the plant would be surrounded by a wooded city park, which would become the centerpiece of the various bike routes, gardens and viewpoints that are already cropping up along the banks of the river. A careful selection of carbon-hungry local species would be planted and graded in height, the tallest nearest the solid green core of the plant, and the more human scale nearer the outside, creating a distinctive green landmark on the Wedel skyline.
Detailed information on the proposal can be found here.