greener on the other side of the puddle

Nicolai Ouroussoff in the NYT:

Nicolai_2The headquarters of the federal environment agency in Dessau, Germany, occupies a low-slung building on the edge of an abandoned gasworks. Dessau, a center for munitions production during the war, was virtually obliterated by Allied bombs. Over the next 50 years, East German factories saturated the soil with chemical and industrial waste. Yet both the agency building and its location might be said to embody a new, ecologically sensitive Europe.

Designed by a young Berlin-based firm, Sauerbruch Hutton, the building is touted as one of the most efficient in the world, but it doesn’t wear its sustainability on its sleeve. Four stories high, it wraps around a vast interior courtyard that is cooled and heated by a system of underground pipes. Vents in the glass roof allow hot air to escape, and an occasional breeze passes through the courtyard’s gardens. The sinuous wood structure is clad in horizontal bands of candy-colored, enameled glass panels, in shades of green, red and blue. The pattern, it turns out, is carefully tuned to the surrounding environment: the green reflects a nearby park; the red, the brick facades of an industrial shed; and the blue, the sky.

More here.