Fighting pollution with style
Riccardo Stein (Stein-Suazo Architects)
Can the façades of a building – in this case a hotel – produce as much oxygen as 1.5 hectares of forest? The answer is yes, in the case of a project based on innovation and a desire to make an active contribution to the fight against pollution.
Architect Riccardo Stein was commissioned to design an 11-floor hotel in Santiago de Chile. The first three floors are devoted to public areas, including the restaurant, cafeteria, coworking space and meeting rooms, while the next 8 floors house the hotel’s 99 guest rooms. The stated aim of the project was to recreate the image of a forest, the country’s most typical natural feature. This concept extended to both the aesthetics of the new building – which evokes the characteristic colours of the Chilean landscape – and the material and technological solutions, which were chosen not just for their ability to reduce the structure’s environmental footprint but also to help improve the city’s air quality.
„Chile is portrayed abroad as a country of natural landscapes,“ explains Riccardo Stein. „Hotel Nodo aims to embody that typical landscape as an element of differentiation, thereby satisfying guests‘ search for new and unique experiences. At the same time the hotel was built with the intention of reproducing the natural with the artificial not just in terms of aesthetics. Rather, the aim was to create a structure that could be associated with the idea of a living organism.“
As part of a design process that would meet these criteria, the architect developed an efficient structural and material solution that would at the same time blend in with the context. „Our interpretation of the natural world is conceptualised aesthetically and symbolically by a stone base out of which a vertical wooden body grows, following an irregular arrangement as if it were a forest,“ continues the architect. The concrete base is surmounted by a façade that has come to symbolise the entire project in that it embodies the concept of landscape while at the same time offering a solution that is not just sustainable but also active. „We were looking for surfaces that would resemble wood, particularly tree trunks in a forest, in order to represent this natural element. But at the same time we wanted them to contribute to reducing pollution by acting as a genuine green space, purifying the air just as trees do. Taking all this into account, we realised that Laminam surfaces could fulfil the dual role of image and function.“
Specifically, the façades of Hotel Nodo are clad with 2,400 square metres of 3-mm-thick Laminam panels, treated with bioactive technology which on contact with sunlight causes them to behave just like a living organism and purify the air. Along with their anti-pollution properties, the surfaces are also self-cleaning. Rainwater is sufficient to remove any residual dirt from the surface of the façade, greatly reducing the need for cleaning and maintenance.