The Powerful New Architecture of Clean Energy

Energy infrastructure has historically been met with a “Not in My Back Yard” response from policymakers and the public alike. Aside from the clear human health implications of coal plants and natural gas stations, the architecture of energy infrastructure has traditionally been driven by raw economy and feasibility, with isolated locations creating little need for architectural beauty. However, modern ideological and urban shifts are powering a new approach.

Recently, several factors have led to a revision of the above narrative. Energy infrastructures, like the people they serve, are increasingly moving to cities just as much as cities are moving towards them, owing to urban sprawl and the establishment of more interdependent energy networks. Meanwhile, growing awareness of climate change has placed an added importance on energy production typologies. While the cold, impersonal coal and gas stations of the past symbolized a division between this infrastructure and the world around it, a new approach to harvesting energy has heralded a new architecture to accompany it.

Across the world today, energy infrastructure is lighting up architectural imaginations, fueling a new typology that merges a continuing need for efficiency and economy with architectural considerations that respond to a variety of contexts, whether it be urban or rural, built or natural, occupant or visitor. Below, we highlight ten examples of how architects and designers have used energy plants as an artistic platform to celebrate, and instigate, a greener future.

The Mulegn Powerplant is an example of beauty shaped from practicality. Designed with a concrete structure to provide strength against flooding, the building is acoustically insulated and sheltered by its wooden cladding. Natural light seeps through south-facing breaks in the wooden planks, which also serve to regulate heating and cooling, and direct noise pollution away from the nearby village of Tinizong.

CopenHill Energy Plant and Urban Recreation Center / BIG. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu