On one of many islands of Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia, north western Russia, there are two large wooden churches and a bell-tower. Built in 18th century, on a spot where once stood a medieval church, later damaged in a great fire, their breathtaking appearance and complex architectural construction got it included as a UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1990.
One of the most remarkable examples of wooden architecture is the Church of the Transfiguration or the Summer church. Its central cupola culminates at 37m, and it has 22 bulbous cupolas, characteristic for Russian Orthodox churches. The interior is decorated with wooden iconostasis holding 102 icons from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Church of the Intercession is built to be smaller so that it could be easily heated in the harsh winters. Its central dome is encircled with eight smaller domes, which makes this “ship type” church peculiar among Russian church architecture. Between these two churches stands the 30 meters-high bell tower with a tent roof.
What is interesting about this site is that Kizhi Pogost was built without a single nail apart from the domes and roof shingles. Russia’s abundant forest lands were the main source for its construction. Three hundred red pine logs were used for its built. Its domes look like they were made of metal, but really were made of a poplar wood which gives them a gleaming appearance. Constructive of this site gave birth to a legend about Master Nestor who built the whole churches with only one axe. After he finished building it he threw axe in the lake and said “there was not and will be not another one to match it”.
Folkk is a social enterprise based in Belgrade which aims to network artisans and young designers from the Balkans, particularly in Serbia, so that they create high quality home products inspired by tradition. One of the main ideas of this project is to preserve old-fashioned crafts and prevent them of dying out. The revitalization of rural life is the goal. Small entrepreneurs are challenged by increasing migrations from rural parts of the Balkans to larger cities, due to economic issues. Therefore, Folkk’s goal is to revive traditional design and make it more appealing to local and international markets. The use of local materials is also one of the key mechanisms of sustainability. Kilim production is common in countries once part of the former Ottoman Empire, such as Serbia. The trademark of Serbian handicraft is the Pirot kilim, named after a city in the southeastern part of the country. Folkk products, such as kilims and pillows, use redesigned common motifs seen in the city of Pirot. They are hand-woven from 100% locally-sourced wool and dyed vivid colors. These economical and ecological production methods should provide a stable income to artisans. Jobless women for instance are educated and encouraged to participate in the process of sewing and weaving. Also, part of the income is reinvested in the development of new products. Hopefully, the project will expand across the Balkans and engage more artisans and enrich the world of design.
What’s happening in the middle of Abu Dhabi’s desert in United Arab Emirates? A whole new city in the form of a cube is emerging built on the principle of sustainability. Masdar city, which in Arabic means source, will be finished by 2025 and will be completely powered on renewable energy.
Although United Arab Emirates is considered to be built on oil and gas, there was recently an initiative to find new sustainable ways for producing energy. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, located in the core of the city, is doing in situ pilot projects so that the guidelines behind the WWF would be applied to the development of Masdar. The aim is to create a zero-carbon and zero-waste environment. A lot is invested in equipment like solar panels and concentrated solar power systems to produce thermal energy.
The whole city plan rethinks approaches to sustainable architecture and urbanism. Behind the design of the city is the British architectural firm Foster and Partners and its urbanism plan which is incorporating principles of traditional Arab architecture. Solar radiation in the streets is minimized by narrowing them which provides a lot of shade, while natural ventilation is regulated by traditional architectural elements- wind towers. Accordingly average temperature in the streets are 15 to 20 °C (27 to 36 °F) cooler than the surrounding desert. Fasades are mostly made of terracotta decorated with arabesque patterns or covered with solar panels.
To cut emissions, public transportation within the city will rely on electric vehicles and other clean-energy vehicles, among which is a personal rapid transit (PRT) systems. Also, Masdar city is planed to be friendly to pedestrians and cyclist. There are still some problems to be solved, as blowing sand can stick on solar panels, and a more effective water management system. Still this visionary plan is an impressive example of sustainable building.