It started as an open challenge 14 years ago from the Tenerife government to architects around the world, design a self sufficient dwelling that blends in and makes full use of its natural surroundings, with zero CO2 emissions. Some 397 applied for the project but that was whittled down to the best 25, they were given full reign to develop their ideals on the 400,000 square metre ITER (Institute of Technology and Renewable Energy) site in Granadilla, Tenerife.
The worldâ€™s media came together with the scientific and architectural community on Friday 19 March to celebrate the official inauguration of these 25 beacons for the future. With 90 % of the worlds population expected to live in cities within five years the drive has been to make houses that are functional, practical and pleasing to live in, the applicants certainly rose to the challenge.
The winner of the contest was La Geria (above) from a Spanish team led by Cesar Ruiz-Larrea Cangas. The name refers to a horseshoe shaped protective wall used to shield vines in Lanzaroteâ€™s wine regions, and bunkered down into the earth, this house makes good use of the grounds warmth and insulation. Facing the best light source keeps energy use down and liberal sprinklings of plants on the shaded patio area contribute to the cool feel of the building.
All the houses differ but they share common features, extensive use of photovoltaic solar panels, wind turbines and a shared water supply with desalinated sea water from the Atlantic that laps the perimeter of ITER. Complimenting the environment is also an important consideration, the partial sinking of many of the houses helps to blend them in and building materials were carefully chosen to be recycled and good for the retention of heat, light and energy. Each dwelling also blends with its neighbouring buildings using natural colours and textures.
The competing architects have not lost sight of the need to make these houses into desirable homes, many of the external looks are bold and exciting such as La Estrella (the star) or the open fronted Las Bovedas. The nest stage of the project is for scientists and other interested parties to live in the houses and test them as they interact on a daily basis. All the houses are fitted with monitors to constantly check air flow and quality, inside and outside temperatures and humidity.
Tenerife presents unique weather and environmental challenges and advantages, those have all been factored into the development of this village, but the idea is to use the knowledge gained on this site to implement bioclimatic techniques around the world. The new homes will now act as a living laboratory and are making a big impact on architectural thinking and planning for the next generation of homes