Instead of designing a large glass-faceted building for a new mixed-use development in Yerevan, Armenia, Forrest Fulton Architects came up with a giant living man-made mountain! The entire facade of the hill-shaped building is covered in native plants, which act to absorb heat, filter air and water, and provide habitat to animals and insects, while the entire surface is irrigated with recycled graywater. Inspired by traditional Armenian lace needlework, Lace Hill, is punctuated with recessed windows, has interior voids that act as cooling towers, and includes many other sustainable building strategies.
Birmingham, Alabama-based Forrest Fulton Architects wanted to avoid designing yet another towering glass structure for the mixed-use development. Instead they chose to create a structure whose form more closely resembled the surrounding hills of Yeravan, located between the Black and Caspian Seas. The hill development proposal is 85,000 sq meters (900,000 sq ft) and incorporates retail and restaurants on the bottom floor, office space on the north side, and a hotel and apartments on the south side, which has great solar access and the best views. Parking and car access is completely underground, so no automobile traffic mars the approach of the sloping hillside, which eventually connects to a open space and park to the west of the structure.
The interior of the sustainably-built hill contains restaurants, office space, retail, apartments and underground parking, and the entire project looks more like a piece of the landscape than a building. Windows into the building are recessed to remain shaded from the sun. Geothermal heat pumps in coordination with radiant floors provide heating and cooling for the rooms, while large interior voids provide shaded and naturally ventilated spaces. These voids are large and cathedral-like with vaults and arches. Below, ponds and landscaped areas help cool the interior open spaces.
The architects designed Lace Hill as an alternative to traditional development. As they say about the development: “Instead of shimmering glass, a growing productive surface. Instead of a sealed building, open sun-drenched terraces. Instead of a building that imports a fleeting image, a building that invests in performance, connectivity, and function.”