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25 July 2009

Natural architecture: green visions for inner-city spaces

Buildings with grass growing on the rooftops, little brooks running through pedestrian zones, homes built from tree roots - it may sound utopian, but a Belgian architect says it's all possible.
"I'm an architect and a utopist," said Luc Schuiten. The architect lives and works in Brussels and believes that the city, like so many others, has no future if something does not change soon.

"You cannot feel good in light of all the environmental pollution and the grim perspectives for the future," said the 65-year-old visionary. "So, I try to envision alternatives."

For the first time ever, drafts and designs by the relatively unknown architect are on display in a large show in Brussels.

The entrance to the "Vegetal City" installation is composed of an archway made of branches adorned with little yellow lights that blink to the sound of a heartbeat pulsing from speakers.

Beyond the entrance, visitors will find architectural models and drawings of balanced, colorful, almost fairy tale-like cities and people who have managed to live in harmony with nature. Round, flowing shapes that weave into one another are Schuiten's trademark.

Arriving at his home in Brussels' suburbs, Schuiten parks his vehicle in the garage. The elegant facade of the old townhouse masks a wood-dominated interior designed in Schuiten's flowing style. A window stretching over two stories looks out into the lush garden.

Schuiten sits down to work in his studio attached to the townhouse. Among all the carefully marked drawers and binders are his sketchbooks that stand at the ready beside hundreds of other books lined up on shelves.

Ideas spring to mind quickly, he said. In a matter of seconds, one tiny sketch can lead to a vast vision for an entire city.

Author: Nina Plonka (als)

Editor: Kate Bowen

Deutche Welle

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