Architects: Matteo Thun & Partners
Location: Schwendi, Germany
Project Manager: Luca Colombo
Team: Florian Köhler, Susanne Loeffler
Area: 1000.0 sqm
Project Year: 2009
Photographs: Jens Weber
From the architect. When wood burns certain natural cycles are naturally completed: chemical energy turns into light and heat, water turns into steam and then rain, mineral salts transform into ashes and fall back down to the ground and carbon dioxide is given off into the air.
But when wood burns properly, all this turns into energy which may be used creating less environmental impact than any fossil fuel (either oil or gas). It may seem strange, but burning wood and safeguarding nature are perfectly compatible.
This is the underlying philosophy of Schilling Power Station, which, together with the nearby sawmill, turn the woodburning cycle into something genuinely virtuous: waste products from the sawmill in the form of bark and wood chips become combustible biomass serving the power station. In turn, the power station generates energy in the form of heat to cover the sawmill’s energy requirements. This completes the circle, and that would be enough in its own right.
But that is not all, because the extra energy generated is supplied to a nearby hospital, and the electricity produced could potentially supply up to 1450 detached houses in the surrounding neighbourhood. Schilling Power Station shows how nature and technology can combine successfully, where technology means generating energy and nature provides the biomass required to serve this process (the biomass, which, as an alternative and renewable energy source, could provide at least 20% of the overall energy supply required by 2020).
In architectural terms, this translates into an aesthetic form of ecology: transparency, lightness, stylistic clarity. A cube-shaped glass and steel core forms the case holding a visible technological heart that hides no secrets; a cylindrical coating made of planks of larch wood, woven around the core like some kind of craft texture, provides a natural, suspended filter with the outside environment; a semi-spherical dome made of zinc acts like a heavenly vaults on the roof; a sheet of water, on which everything rests, is a dematerialised rendition of what has been built: earth, air, water and fire set in the pure forms of a cube, cylinder and sphere. A geometric way of supplying clean energy at 0 km or, rather, 25 km, which is the maximum distance from which the Schilling sawmill obtains its wood supply.
The very same wood which, in other forms, the power station transforms into both an energy supply and decorative texture at the same time, drawing on a language also capable of communicating with all the surrounding country houses.