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Our favourite healthy buildings

Inspired by our upcoming health edition of Notes From a Small Practice, we have chosen our favourite ‘healthy’ buildings – which has made for an interesting selection as it can be interpreted in many ways.

When thinking about a guest contributor for this topic, Lloyd Alter immediately sprang to mind. Lloyd is the design editor of TreeHugger (he’s a fan of the Hen House) and contributes to a wide variety of media including The Guardian and When it comes to talking about sustainable architecture, look no further.

Lloyd kindly agreed to put pen to paper, the result of which is a brilliant introduction to the origins of healthy houses thanks to design trailblazers.

Why did Le Corbusier put a sink in the hall in the Villa Savoye? Why is it on stilts? I have long been obsessed with this, and about the origins of minimalism and modern design. It was in fact, all about making healthy buildings, about giving disease no place to hide, in the era where they understood germ theory but didn’t have antibiotics. The sink was in the hall simply because the first thing you should do when you come home is wash your hands. The house was on stilts because Corb thought it would  “provide an actual separation between the corrupted and poisoned earth of the city and the pure fresh air and sunlight of the atmosphere above it.” And he didn’t even know about radon.

Why did Mies and Breuer design light, moveable chairs for Thonet? Mies wrote “It offers no hiding place for dust and insects and therefore there is no furniture that meets modern sanitary demands better than tubular-steel furniture.”
Modernism and minimalism were the response to dust and disease; it is not a coincidence that Neutra’s health house, Corb’s Villa Savoye and Chareau’s Maison de Verre were all designed for doctors. These were the original healthy houses, and we can still learn from them.
Read more from Lloyd about what makes a healthy home here.

Image: Green Building Store

Reed Walk social housing, Exeter – Gale and Snowden 
I listened to Gale and Snowden talk about the concept of “Beau Biologie”, of fundamentally healthy buildings, at the Passivhaus conference a couple of years ago. This social housing development reminds us that natural materials, excellent air quality, comfort and daylight are not, and shouldn’t be, the preserve of high-end projects. More social housing should be like this. [Paul]

Image: Glenn Howells

The Triangle, Swindon – Glenn Howells Architects
I really like the way The Triangle creates a healthy environment for its occupants but without being showy about it. Not only is it a well-composed streetscape but it also uses the site’s landscape to create a healthy lifestyle for its occupants. There’s plenty of space at the heart of the site for children to play outside whilst being supervised by windows of on looking houses; cars are neatly hidden by the gabion walls and there’s plenty of space for bikes outside the door of each house. Internally, the houses use natural materials and natural ventilation to keep the indoor healthy too. [Alan]

Image – Studio Weave

Belvue school, Northolt – Studio Weave

Oh, I wish my school could have looked like this! I chose this classroom facility situated next to woodland because it’s a healthy building that promotes wellbeing and an imaginative way of learning for its students. Highlights for me include this stacked roof, which provides natural ventilation for the whole building. I also love how the whole space is flooded with natural light. Studio Weave also ran story writing workshops with the students to develop a narrative that links the new building to the woodland. And that’s what good design is all about, isn’t it? Telling stories. Making people happy. Creating a bit of magic. [Fera]

Image: Alva Aalto Museum
Paimio Sanatorium, Finland – Aalvar Alto
The first municipal hospital to provide an outdoor terrace that patients could be brought out onto to ensure fresh air and sunlight for their health and wellbeing. The wards were also orientated south for patients to benefit from sunlight when indoors. Nearly a hundred year since it was built, this still hasn’t fully taken off! [Marcus]

If you’d like to read more, take a look at our Favourites archive and for tips on creating your own healthy home click here.