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Architectural Icon: Biodiversum
Nature

Architectural Icon: Biodiversum

by Sarita Rao 2 min. 13.04.2020 From our online archive
Shaped like an upturned ship's hull and built entirely from wood, this low-emission visitor centre is a work of art
There are no sharp edges so the building blends effortlessly into its surroundings Photo: Christof Weber
There are no sharp edges so the building blends effortlessly into its surroundings Photo: Christof Weber

On the edge of the Haff Réimich Nature Reserve, the prize-winning Biodiversum visitor centre is made entirely of wood in the shape of an upturned ship’s hull.

The building is designed to be closely tied to the land but also to perform a function. Smooth, with no sharp edges on its exterior, it is intended to have a low impact on the surrounding landscape, integrating effortlessly with its environment.

"Cradle to cradle" approach

Built on a former industrial site, the Biodiversum stands on an artificially created peninsular that takes full advantage of the lake for its geothermal heating system. The building design is constructed using a “cradle to cradle” approach, emphasising eco-friendly technologies and sustainability.

The 80-hectare nature reserve was part of a gravel pit at Remerschen which after it stopped being used, became flooded with water. Eventually vegetation started to grow and it became a wildlife sanctuary for migrating and local birdlife.

Architects Hermann & Valentiny were tasked with building a place to house permanent exhibitions on topics related to the biodiversity of the nature reserve that promotes bird protection. They built the Biodiversum to resemble the hull of a ship breached on the shore. It is 63 metres long and has three levels. The roof ridge gradually lowers to the ground and the floor is partially subterranean. Part of the building also stands on pilings in the water.

Fishing net window

The northern end of the Biodiversum, which houses the café, widens out into a curtain façade giving panoramic views of the lake almost at water level (in fact original plans included the idea to build an underwater viewing space). The glass façade is constructed in diamond shapes reminiscent of a fishing net.

Built on a former gravel pit that became naturally flooded to form the perfect environment numerous bird species Photo: Yves Kraus/www.instagram.com/yveskraus/
Built on a former gravel pit that became naturally flooded to form the perfect environment numerous bird species Photo: Yves Kraus/www.instagram.com/yveskraus/

Underneath the building’s vault ceilings, a mesh of diagonal lines supports the interior cladding which is built from four layers of Douglas fir wooden blades and planks. The spacing is designed to absorb sound. Red cedar cladding covers the main nave.

A heat pump draws its energy from the lake water, which is pumped into the low temperature floor heating system. The use of wood for its entire construction gives the building thermal insulation and a very low carbon emission.

The architects who completed the Biodiversum in 2016, have won the Green Solutions Award for its design and the Holz Baupreis Eiffel.

Biodiversum is the starting point for several discovery trails in the Haff Réimich Nature Reserve. The building’s basement houses exhibitions and classroom space, whilst the ground floor has an exhibition on the history of the reserve and the underwater world. There is a suspended gallery which looks at ways to preserve biodiversity and the work of other nature reserves.

Long ago, it is thought that Celtic long houses would have occupied the area and Biodiversum, with it’s boat-like wooden structure, pays testimony to this history whilst supporting and blending in with its natural surroundings.

More information 

The Biodiversum re-opened on 9 June and you can find details for visiting it here.


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