by Guillaume Vandekerckhof
Master Dissertation 2021/2022 “Constructing Ecosystems”
Faculty of Architecture
Sint-Lucas Brussels Campus, KU Leuven
Prof. Dr. Jan Wurm”
by Guillaume Vandekerckhof
The rise of capitalism and human-centric views and behaviors has deteriorated the basis for heathy life on the planet. Biodiversity is shrinking as grey infrastructure is rising. The separation between man and nature is growing further. This project reinforces human’s role as part of nature and to co-benefit from this new relation. Co-habitation removes the human from an anthropocentric view leaning towards a multi-species and a multi-disciplinary approach to improve living conditions in cities. The foremost political objective had to be to restore the natural capital for the benefit of all life.
The European Parliament is currently heavy, opaque, inaccessible; an image that does not represent democracy nor welcomes the citizens. The main driver of change is to invite the citizen to take part in the transformation of the building, to feel involved in its evolution and the evolution of policy-making. Inspired by the program of the "New European Bauhaus", the seat of the European Parliament provides transparency and openness.
Natural systems wrap the building creating a new skin on all aspects. Shrinking the initial volume, the private spaces become smaller to open space for the people. Along a public ramp, the citizens are invited to reclaim the building through different activities such as collective greening project and urban farming. They are becoming part of the transformation, shaping the future of this skin, contemplating natural beauty, harvesting fruits and vegetables, and as citizen scientists monitoring also the health of soil, water and air systems. This soft, spongy filter becomes a place of exchange, of dialogue between the citizens and the MEP’s to voice desires and ideas.
The skin is in direct exchange with its surrounding and internal functions: light is controlled and diffused in the building according to a monitored system of shading elements to negotiate sun exposure for humans inside and the growing vegetation outside.
The vegetative layer is integral to the climate control of the Parliament. It protects the glazed facade from direct sunlight providing food and is a diverse habitat for insects such as butterflies and bees. During winter, with seasonal adaptation, the vegetation becomes less dense to let the light in. The technical layer works on a buoyancy ventilation to facilitate bio-climatic effects: AI monitored windows open to control speed and direction of ventilation and fresh air intake, while the warm, exhaust air is given back to the atmosphere by the solar chimneys. Finally, the water cycles are the key element for integration. Rainwater is captured on the large roof surfaces, it is filtered by the green roofs, and it irrigates the vegetative layers on the façade, also providing an enforced insulation layer and attracting birds and pollinizing insects, before being collected in the cistern of the basement. Surplus of water is released to the park and environment to facilitate positive micro-climatic conditions. Water, the basis of all life, can be experienced as the building’s critical infrastructure.
Co-Habitation offers an intelligent and interactive facade that integrates the building with the environment. It converts the Parliament from an alien body into a living ecosystem.