Kämpfen Architects: Putting energy in action
Text: Cornelia Brelowski | Photos: Kämpfen Für Architekten AG
K ämpfen architects follow a holistic, integral view of sustainability in architecture and put what others talk about into action.
Architect Beat Kämpfen is a pioneer in the field of solar building and has been involved in energy efficient projects ever since the eighties. To him, sustainability and ecology are “not just a marketing gag but a vital part of the concept”. His first zero-energy residential project ‘Sunny Woods’, a multi-family dwelling built in Zurich in 2001, has received both the 2002 Swiss Solar Prize and the 2002 European Solar Prize.
“Our buildings aim to fit into the immediate environment and often come along with a modest appearance,” the architect explains. “They are showing that solar energy usage can be a simple, everyday issue.” However, at Kämpfen architects a project never evolves around energy issues alone – the architecture primarily serves the future inhabitants to make them feel well at home in their new surroundings.
Lately, two projects integrating both thermal solar modules and photovoltaic elements have kept the team of 21 more than busy: The conversion of an apartment house with 50 small flats in the Zürich Schwamendingen borough on the one hand – and two new buildings in Zürich-Altstetten with 28 living units on the other.
For both projects, architectural and energy concepts form an aesthetic synthesis: Innovative solar technology is visually integrated into the overall design, avoiding any artificial, technoid appearance.
Thermal solar collectors form the large new facade elements for the Schwamendingen conversion and provide hot water, both for heating and household needs. They change color according to the respective viewing angle. For the new building complex in Zürich-Altstetten, stylish balcony railings made of golden-brown, shimmering photovoltaic modules provide the apartments with electricity. On the roofs, the respective technologies are applied the other way round: Photovoltaic technology on the roof of the conversion, and solar thermal power for the new buildings. Both projects exceed the highest possible Swiss minergie standards: While the new construction is aimed to become a zero-heating-house, the conversion will even produce a surplus of energy for heating, airing and hot water all year round.
Asked about what drives his architectural engagement, Beat Kämpfen states: “Some 30 years ago, my postgraduate studies in California opened my eyes for ecology and solar energy. Ever since, we have further developed these early ideas, applying Swiss quality and precision. Our architecture provides an answer to the current energy and climate crisis, contributing to the preservation of creation.”
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