Q - From an architectural point of view, what is your main goal when executing a complex building design and construction project like this?
There are many issues. Most important is to achieve the best performance of the building in extreme conditions, while maintaining the best relation between the inside and the beautiful nature. It is important to keep opened views and establish contact between the inhabitant and their surroundings. On the other hand, we also have to keep in mind structural resistance to the strong winds and all the vertical forces and, of course, the thermal characteristics of the building that would work well in the extreme climate of this region.
Q – When Guardian Glass challenged you with this project, what was your first thought, your first feeling? Did you think it viable?
It really awoke our interest. In the office, of course we deal with very tough building projects but I would say what we enjoy very much, is making small objects like this one in extreme environments. In the last years, we built three Alpine shelters in very high mountains, with a lot of snow, and we are testing their resistance and the wellbeing of the mountaineers who are using them. The glass house in the desert is part of this research but challenges a very different context, climate, and material.
Q - As architects who specialize in harsh environments, what are the main requirements these constructions should meet in order to become habitable and comfortable? What is the most important factor you need to take into account?
First of all, it is a climate issue. Gorafe has very hot summers with almost no rains, strong sun and winds… and then in winter you can get very cold weather and even snow. There are also extreme temperature gaps between day and night that we had to consider. The building design and its construction need to face this climate and protect the interior from the sun while keeping the glass as transparent as possible. We managed to achieve this with the help of Guardian experts who defined various coatings on the triple glazing – non-visible while achieving a thermally isolated interior. We also explored the structural aspect of glass – to have glass walls as a structural element. There are no columns in this building made with either steel or wood. The roof with all its heavy PV elements is only supported by glass.
Q - "The house of the desert" is an energy efficient and self-sufficient building, with almost zero consumption. What role does glass play in this?
Glass plays an important role in the design and construction of this building. In our projects we like to research and test different types of materials. Glass is the hero of our project and we enjoyed challenging it to its limits. Creating a glass house is playing with transparencies and reflections… Then it is about testing is thermal characteristics – to protect the interior from getting too hot in summer and a keep warm interior in the winter. The third challenge was creating a design building with no other structure than glass. No columns, no steel, pure transparency.