Power plants are, in general, rather dowdy structures—unless you live in the world of Bjarke Ingels, that is. The Danish architect and his firm, BIG, was invited to design a new biomass power plant for the historic city of Uppsala, in Sweden, and has responded with a vast, rainbow-colored geodesic dome that not only provides a welcoming face for the green energy facility, but also serves as a public gathering space during the summer months.
Uppsala’s biomass cogeneration plant is planned as a means to supplement the town’s grid during peak fall, winter and spring months, when demand for heat and electricity is at a high. It’s a bold move by the town, that requires the construction of a large, new piece of infrastructure, and as BIG notes, “its beautiful old town, home to the oldest university in Scandinavia and the impressive Uppsala cathedral, [and so] it required careful consideration to integrate a vast structure into the historical skyline.”
And so we have a welcoming, if slightly whacky, geodesic dome to house the biomass operations—one that takes the sizable new silhouette that the plant will bring to the skyline, and renders it light and transparent through the use of a greenhouse-like structure. The various buildings the make up the biomass plant are assembled compactly, as opposed in a linear form so as to minimize footprint and fit snugly within the dome.
The rainbow color effect on the geodesic dome is created through the use of clear photovoltaic panels and so, “the diamond dome is color-coded to reflect the amount of sun exposure on each facet — ranging from red to blue — hot to cold. Thermal exposure becomes architectural expression.”
But with the biomass facility out of use during the summer months, when tourists flock to the region, BIG wanted to find a way to make the power plant double as a public park. Which is, again, an pretty unprecedented concept for a power plant. Surrounded by green space, the top of the dome functions as a cat walk, while silos are converted into a visitors center. There will also be walking paths, picnic areas, restaurants and, it appears, a skating area.
Alas, there will be no ski slope—that is reserved for BIG’s waste incinerator in Copenhagen. But if you look really closely on the grounds of the Uppsala biomass plant, we’d reckon it’s highly likely that you’ll find a unicorn or two.