Pipe Dreams: A New Frontier in Architecture 1

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
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Prahran Hotel Melbourne
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While they may seem a strange place to build a structure, huge concrete pipes have been used to create a pub, a hotel room and even an underground home.

The newly renovated Prahran Hotel, located in Melbourne, and the Tube Hotel in Mexico are but two projects that incorporated huge concrete pipes in their architecture, creating unique and innovative interior spaces.

Melbourne-based Techne Architects recently completed the renovation of the facade and concept design of the Prahran Hotel pub. The project included the inventive use of 17 concrete drain pipes, which are now featured in the structure’s facade, interior gardens and dining booths.

Prahran Hotel Melbourne

Inside the Prahran Hotel in Melbourne.

“The inclusion of the pipes not only gives the pub a dramatic and contemporary facelift but also offers its patrons large porthole-like views and an intimate dining experience from within the booths,” the architects said.

The building’s interior features natural materials, reclaimed wood, interior plants and plenty of natural lighting. There is an open steel glazed courtyard with hanging half-pipe garden beds and a concrete slab wall featuring hanging plants. The industrial style is mixed with wooden elements in areas such as the lining of the pipe booths, the tables and the central floorboards.

The pipe facade creates a great visual connection between the interior space and the street outside. During the day, the pipe facade fills the interior space with plenty of natural light, while at night, the light coming from inside creates a unique view from the street.

Prahran Hotel Melbourne

Inside the Prahran Hotel in Melbourne.

According to the architects, the new building “is a substantial two storey corner pub with a striking streamlined art deco facade. The design intends to add another unique and captivating venue to the ever evolving Melbourne pub scene.”

On the other side of the world, architecture firm T3arc found a way to make sleeping inside a pipe not only comfortable but also a holiday experience. Tubohotel is a unique hotel created from recycled concrete tubes, located 45 minutes south of Mexico City, in the village of Tepoztlan.

The original pipe hotel concept comes from German architect Andreas Strauss, who created Das Park Hotel in 2006. Tubohotel expanded on Strauss’ idea to create two-storey triangular modules stacked in a pyramid shape, reflecting the Aztec pyramid of El Tepozteco that overlooks the town.

Tubohotel Mexico

Tubohotel in Mexico by architecture firm T3arc.

Tubohotel features 20 concrete rooms, each of which measures 2.44 metres wide and 3.5 metres long and is simply furnished with a queen size bed, a desk light and under-bed storage. The rooms are displayed around a central courtyard and guests have access to shared bathrooms located on the hotel property.

The original Das Park Hotel included only three pipes located in a public park in the Austrian city of Ottensheim. The rooms were very similar to the ones in the Tubohotel, furnished with a double bed and storage. The main difference is that Tubohotel’s rooms have a glass façade, including the entrance door and lateral windows, while Das Park Hotel’s rooms have one circular skylight near the top and no other windows.

In Das Park Hotel, each room features wall paintings by Austrian artist Thomas Latzel Ochoa, adding some warmth to the tiny sleeping spaces. Facilities such as toilets, showers, minibars, a cafe and a swimming pool are located in the surrounding public space.

Tubohotel Mexico

Tubohotel in Mexico by architecture firm T3arc.

Also inspired by Strauss’s project, American web designer, aspiring writer and tiny house designer and builder Michael Janzen has created a prototype model for a 320 square foot underground house.

“It occurred to me that a small house could be built out of large concrete storm drain pipe,” he wrote in his blog.

He used four 12 foot diameter by eight foot long concrete pipe sections as the basic building blocks to create his concept home.

While his prototype could be used as a small home or vacation rental, it is very simple to build and it would require only a small amount of on-site concrete work. He said the four pipe sections could also be lined up in a row but the entry would be lost.

Das Park Hotel Austria

Das Park Hotel in Austria.

South-facing orientation can add passive solar benefits to the underground house.

“The added insulation provided by the earth berms would provide the thermal mass needed to naturally regulate temperature year round. Only the main living space faces south but I think this would be sufficient to keep the space comfortable. Placing the bedroom in the back would also give the home owner a place to escape on particularly hot days,” Janzen explained.

Reusing concrete pipes is a way of recycling materials that would otherwise be wasted, much in the same way shipping containers are used to create sustainable housing. The tubes can also be used as emergency shelters in the woods, in the mountains or in even more remote locations. The possibilities are endless.

Design Study

Concrete Pipe Home Concept by Michael Janzen. (click on the image for a larger version)

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  1. ashraf hassan

    best design