Our dream house is an airy structure of gleaming white squares stacked in asymmetric harmony against the rugged beach of the Scandinavian island of Åland. It’s called Sea House and it’s the latest oeuvre from the emerging Swedish architect Rahel Belatchew Lerdell. We adore it because it’s beautiful and innovative and luxurious, but there are less obvious reasons to fall in love with this building. What makes Sea House extra-ordinary is its super low carbon footprint. The house has its own underground sewage treatment facility that releases clean water back into nature; a solar-powered water heating system and extra thick walls to retain heat; and a green roof that’s covered with maintenance-free sedum plants (a hardy stonecrop that retains water and thrives in dry locations), to help insulate it and thus save energy.
Amazing as all that sounds, the architect doesn’t necessarily view these features as all that innovative or special. To her they’re just an obvious part of modern architecture. “Today sustainability should be seen as a fully and naturally integrated part of every architectural project,” says Rahel Belatchew Lerdell.
As nonchalant as Belatchew Lerdell is about her design, it’s the combination of eco-friendly functions and fierce aesthetics that has made this truly global designer (she was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, educated in France and worked in Tokyo and Luxembourg before moving back to Sweden around the turn of the millennium to set up her own practice, RB Arkitektur) a universally recognized up-and-comer. She was selected as one of the world’s most exciting new architects by Wallpaper magazine in 2007, and she has won several national awards in Sweden. Her striking Villa UH1, a U-shaped futuristic take on the suburban home that is partially integrated with the landscape, has made the rounds on every design and architecture blog known to the internet.
But Belatchew Lerdell does not just cater to those who are wealthy –and lucky- enough to commission a private home. She’s currently at work on a new housing development for 30,000 inhabitants in the future sustainable neighborhood of Stockholm Royal Seaport. Her even more accessible project, the pre-fab, mid-priced villa Eco House, which is sold through Willa Nordic, is a modern, untreated wood structure with an extended green house that absorbs solar energy and contributes to the heating of the house. Now that’s the kind of flat package that we would be excited to receive.