City Architect due to deliver presentation at Building Green conference next month, focusing on how our changing attitudes towards the environment are impacting upon how buildings are constructed in Aarhus.
By Jacob South Klein
From timber-clad housing in Skødstrup, to the innovative and reusable concrete-based Circle House in Lisbjerg, there is a brand-new wave of ongoing sustainable development taking over Aarhus.
The man “at the coal-face”
Stephen D. Willacy, City Architect for Aarhus since 2012, is at the forefront of both these local projects and beyond – or as it puts it in his own words: “at the coal-face”. For a man determined to reduce the city’s carbon footprint through his architectural leadership, it is perhaps a curious turn of phrase.
“In my role as chief city architect, I’m a bit of an octopus, really”, a busy Mr. Willacy explains. A lead consultant on various construction projects – whilst also helping to constantly involve the wider community in the planning of local developments – he wields a central influence upon Aarhus’ ever-evolving physical complexion.
Aarhus leading the way
Aarhus Kommune has committed to reducing the city’s CO2 emissions to a net zero by 2030, a bold and demanding undertaking that is approximately half-way to being realised.
However, there is much more still to be done, as Willacy explains: “Whether or not you use plastic cups is not going to make the biggest difference – in my department, we’re talking about the really big issues, environmentally”.
“We know that concrete is a sinner, but we’re also trying very hard to reduce the amount of energy and water used in construction”, he adds.
Work is underway on a new architectural policy for Aarhus, one which is placing sustainability at its heart.
Exchanging ideas on “resource-based architecture”
In late March, Willacy shall be one of over eighty guests from the global industry presenting at Building Green Aarhus 2020 – a two-day conference showcasing how best to approach modern construction from a sustainable angle.
His own speech will include a discussion regarding eco-friendly building materials: “The interesting thing for me now is the ‘climate aesthetic’ – there’s a new composition coming along in terms of facades. Re-used bricks, in the shape of a big jigsaw-puzzle, like a collage. The re-using of timber, flattening old ventilation shafts, then mixing them all together – those kind of things.”
During the event, Willacy says he is particularly looking forward to learning more about “resource-based architecture” from our international neighbours: the notion that the form of buildings should be dictated by the resources contractors have at their disposal, and not visa-versa.
In addition, he is excited to listen to presentations from speakers including Joseph Halligan, co-founder of London-based Assemble Studios, as well as Ricardo Flores, a founding partner of Flores and Prats in Barcelona.
Ultimately, Willacy believes that Building Green Aarhus 2020 offers a unique opportunity for schoolchildren and professionals alike to challenge their pre-conceived ideas about environmentally-respectful construction – and in doing so, ensuring that Aarhus (and indeed, our planet) thrives for years to come.