If you want to see a classic example of green architecture before the eco building movement was even born, check out the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center by Renzo Piano on the island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Built to honor the assassinated Kanak leader, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, as well as the culture of the Kanak peoples, the cultural center is modeled after a traditional Kanak village, and the pavilions were inspired by Kanak huts. Using traditional materials coupled with modern materials and technology, Piano also utilizes clever green building strategies to keep the pavilions cool and integrate the center with nature.
The cultural center is situated on a narrow strip of land surrounded by the ocean and lots of lush vegetation. Ten pavilions of various sizes ranging in height between 9 and 24 meters high are situated asymmetrically along a main path. Each pavilion serves a various function or evokes certain themes and includes permanent or temporary exhibitions. Some contain studios for traditional activities, such as music, dance, painting and sculpture. Also housed at the center is an auditorium, an amphitheater, the administrative departments, research areas, a conference room and a library.
The pavilions themselves were inspired by traditional Kanak huts, but were not copied exactly – they’re more of a modern take on the traditional architecture. Built from iroko wood as well as glass, steel, and bamboo, they respect traditional construction methods according to the most sophisticated engineering studies. Operable roof skylights and a screen of laminated wood facilitate natural ventilation using the wind to push hot air out of the top, while a bamboo wall filters light into the interior.
photo credits: ©Renzo Piano