As a structural engineer who works at a company who does a lot of municipal work, I know what power-plants and water-treatment facilities look like. I can tell you first hand that they are NOT beautiful OR stylish. They usually are ugly grey boxes that are noisy and smelly. But today I found this amazing example of what I will call “thinking outside the box” at one of my favorite magazine websites Surface.
This hydroelectric power plant was completed in Kempten, Germany (why are all the cool projects there?) on the banks of the Iller River, but the commissioning agency decided it was too utilitarian (read: ugly). To design an alternative they brought on the local firm Becker Architects to come up with a more natural concrete housing that seamlessly hides the turbines, generators and other mechanical parts. Says partner Franz Schröck: “It’s a rock in the river, out of the river, for the river.” Their solution is a unique way to fit modern utilities into the historic industrial town setting. The picture below shows how “the rock” was attached to the boring concrete walls.
While I agree, a natural winding river will always look better uninterrupted, I don’t think anyone could disagree that this is the best possible alternative. It’s a reminder that we never have to settle for the norm; there is always a more beautiful way to do things, and we can continually think outside of the box to make the world a better place. Can you imagine what infrastructure could be if we focused not only on the function but also the form?