Light My Fire
Mairi Beautyman -- Interior Design, 10/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Smelly, noisy, and sometimes downright dangerous neighbors, industrial plants are rarely received with open arms. That's a point Interior Design Hall of Fame member Matteo Thun definitely kept in mind with the Powerstation Schilling in Schwendi, a remote town in southern Germany. To help the 1,000-square-foot intruder blend into the agricultural landscape, Matteo Thun & Partners took the "soft, friendly approach," Thun says, of conceptual artist Andy Goldsworthy. Planks of larch, sourced from local trees, encircle a glass drum 82 feet in diameter, capped by a zinc dome to create a form like a silo.
The power station fulfills all the electrical and heating needs of the sawmill Schilling Holzwerk and is fueled by an unlimited source of leftover bark and chips that Thun calls "natural garbage." Compared to traditional wood stoves, the highly efficient combustion system operates nearly residue-free, allowing the power station to have significantly less environmental impact than one running on oil or coal. The technology is also entirely automatic. Staff need only feed in the biomass, and hydraulic cylinders do the rest, moving the power-generation process through four zones in 4-inch intervals. Visitors can view the action from a concrete balcony, as the incinerator is housed in a clear glass cube. Thun offers extra drama, too. Thanks to an optical effect that allows the combustion to be seen through the structure, the building smolders like an ember at night.
Photography by Jens Weber.