LEAF International has recently announced the shortlist for the 2014 LEAF Awards, a yearly prize that recognizes the most innovative architectural projects around the world.

Runners-up in the (newly established) Hospitality category are the Steyn City Club House in Johannesburg, South Africa and the Ecotone Hotel in Shiga, Japan: two projects sharing the same theme of a renewed relationship between architecture and environment.

The Ecotone Hotel, designed by Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects & Associates, has been conceived as a building that should not interrupt the interplay among the natural elements of its setting, Lake Biwa. Its unique oblique structure, for example, helps avoiding harsh reflections of the solar light, visually hiding the structural beams and sliding gracefully into the water. The building’s relation to the surrounding nature has been given a sonic dimension too, by capturing the force of the wind and employing it to “play” a set of tuneful strings. Hence, its name: “Sound of Wind”. As far as sustainability is concerned, this project has recently won a Re-Thinking the Future 2014 Second Award for the best commercial concept.

The initial brief for the Steyn City Club House suggested the idea of “a building taken over by nature”. Boogertman + Partners Architects interpreted it by trying to reduce the building’s environmental impact to the minimum: an approach exemplified by the grassed roof that merges visually with the surrounding landscape, and further reinforced by the use of natural materials and advanced energy-saving tricks. The clubhouse is the heart of a new residential area built upon an abandoned quarry, and the local community has been directly involved in the design and construction process.

Definitely, two innovative projects that suggest a new perspective on commercial architecture. The LEAF Awards ceremony is taking place in Düsseldorf on October 10th: who should be the winner?

Further reading

Re-Thinking the Future – Ecotone Hotel in Biwa Lake / Sound of Wind
The project in the architects’ own words (with photo gallery)

Leading Architecture & Design – Architectural design altered to support local skill
A detailed review of the Steyn City Club House project  (with photo gallery)

Archijuice Staff

Archijuice Staff

Commercial & Business Interiors. Our mission is simple: offering you a carefully edited selection of the best Hospitality, Office and Retail design and interiors projects from around the world: this was the idea that led to the creation of the ArchiJuice web portal. We’re mainly interested in bar design, hotel design and restaurant design.