A sense of place
The work method is inspired by the concept of ‘Topos,’ a Greek word signifying ‘sense of place.’ The notion of Topos in our work is built and reinforced through numerous site visits by the architectural team, both on the site itself and in its surrounding territory and hinterland. The aim is to identify the characteristics, the values, and the uniqueness inherent in each site: social, cultural, the fabric, both urban and architectural, a sense of belonging as well as local resources, both actively used and potential. According to the specific themes or ambitions of a given project, workshops are held with relevant specialists; engineers, botanists, historians, or sociologists, to analyse and understand the site as intimately as possible. It is by this process that the San Ramon pedestrian overcrossing was conceived, ensuring a continuity of the suburban landscape whilst crossing a major vehicle artery; that the Parliament of Malta blends delicately into a UNESCO heritage listed site; that the GES2 is a showcase of contemporary culture in Moscow and that Bishop Ranch has defined a new urban center in a satellite city of San Francisco.
Exploration and innovation: an environmentally sustainable approach
A sustainable design approach can no longer be considered as a simple moral obligation. Instead, it is as an opportunity to reconcile man with earth. By instilling such an approach into the design phase, from urban scale to that of the architectural project, an increased consciousness in sustainably results. On the Comino Hotel and Village project located in the Maltese archipelago, we have taken the initiative to pursue a “carbon zero” target for not just the site itself, but for the entire island. Working closely with the client, we have put in place a team of specialists in the fields of ecology, renewable energy, landscaping and botany. Through workshops, prioritizing the use of local materials, we have defined a construction technique and a palette of materials that fosters a “passive strategy” of thermal comfort. This has been achieved using local resources: sun, wind, thermal mass and geothermal. Through innovation, a unique construction technique for the hotel has been developed, one that combines local stone with prefabricated timber; a technique that reduces the on-site environmental impact during the construction phase and that enables the integration of thermal mass in the architecture, in turn reducing the building’s energy requirements. Such an outcome is the fruit of a work method has at heart, an ambitious ecological agenda, one that is accompanied by research and innovation, and in close and continual collaboration with the client, the architects and the relevant specialists.
Managing budgetary and planning constraints
An ambition of quality, a respect for budget constraints and the time schedule, are all crucial in the success of a project. Our work methodology consists of developing the project at different scales simultaneously. From preliminary sketches, we consider and explore construction techniques and building materials; key details that define the architectural vision. This method allows us to, from the initial conception of a project, contact the relevant market players and understand and verify the compatibility of costs and lead times of our design with the client’s timescale and budget; paramount when using innovation in an architectural project. Such was the case with the New Toronto Courthouse, a project led by Antonio Belvedere at RPBW and currently under construction. Commissioned within the context of a Public Private Partnership, there is little if any margin for error in terms of costs and timescale. This ambitious project required the development of a new façade type that was designed, from the schematic design phase, through 1:1 details and models followed by a full-scale prototype produced by the manufacturer to test the architectural expression, the technical performance as well as manufacturing and installation times.
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