Architect Profile: Rafaa

9 April, 2010

A tower built to be an Olympic torch, a waterfall, and a bungee jumping platform will become Rio de Janiero’s landmarkfor the 2016 Olympic Games. The tower is designed by Swiss architecture firm Rafaa, based in Zurich and led by Rafael Schmidt, whose research-driven approach has produced some award-winning designs.

The Solar City Tower, which generates solar energy by day and hydraulic energy by night, won the design competition for what are anticipated to be the world’s first carbon-neutral Olympic Games.

From the architects: “The aim of this project is to ask how the classic concept of a landmark can be reconsidered. It is less about an expressive, iconic architectural form; rather, it is a return to content and actual, real challenges for the imminent post-oil-era.”

WAN | Going for green at the Olympics

The studio has also developed designs for a new Unity and Freedom Memorial in Berlin, commemorating the social movement that culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In an effort to rethink the notion of memorial, Rafaa actively considered constellation and interactivity as key aspects of the visitor’s engagement with memorial objects. An open field of chairs is proposed, each standing for a “witness” from different time periods and socio-economic levels. The chairs are interconnected through a series of subterranean mechanics, and respond to being pushed and pulled. This chain reaction represents the hidden processes that the memorial seeks to commemorate.

From the architects: “We were interested in discovering the complex factors and hidden processes that led to the capitulation of the state before its people.

The memorial can be touched, used or climbed on, but it cannot be knocked over! The chairs are interconnected subterraneously by invisible ropes. As soon as someone tries to knock over a chair, it is held up by the others; if one gets knocked over, another one is uplifted. It is a system that receives its strength and stability from below, from the collective, from the community.”

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