Some forms of architecture make their mark for breaking boundaries and standing the test of time, thereby becoming major global icons. From the Coliseum to the Burj Khalifa, these buildings are recognised for breaking architectural norms and forming new standards.
There are buildings that respond to weather, emit no carbon and reach heights that were once unimaginable. Some buildings, however, are not so definable. This is the case with French architectural firm St. André-Lang’s corncob building, or “Tourner autour du Ried,” as it is better known.
While it may not gain the acclaim of true global icons, the French architects have certainly gone to a new place in terms of architectural innovation.
The design of the 20 square metre prototype home development is circular, with highly considered solar orientation features. In its Muttersholtz parkland position in France, the roof’s central light shaft has been oriented to offer maximum light to different working and living zones throughout the day. For example, the sleeping zone is located in the east and the living space in the south to maximise daily light sources.
According to the co-creator Bastien Saint-André, this solar positioning was a fundamental element of the building’s overall design.
“It is important to think [of] the position of the different spaces inside the house according to the orientation,” he says.
While the concept of solar orientation is growing in the modern industry works, the use of corn to construct the structural walls is not. Surprisingly, however, the use of the corn harkens back to tradition rather than innovation.
“We had in mind all those traditional corn dryers that you can find all along the Alsatian plain, in the north east of France,” says the architect. “Not innovative in a technical way, but more in a traditional way.”
While it is difficult to judge the true sustainable attributes of the prototype home given that it still does not as yet feature weather-proofing, plumbing, electricity or amenities, the foundations of the building are proving to be sustainable, right down to costing.
Taking just under a month to build, the home set back architects €7,000. While this number could potentially rise quite a bit with the inclusion of even the most basic of living features – it still stands as a very affordable home.
Corncob living is certainly innovative, though the jury remains out on whether it is realistic. In the interest of innovation, it will be interesting to see the building in completed built form.