LAVA designs zero-carbon 'LIFE hamburg' with waterholes and an edible roof

LAVA designs zero-carbon 'LIFE hamburg' with waterholes and an edible roof

LAVA (laboratory for visionary architecture) has collaborated with urban agricultural collective cityplot to design life hamburg, a new self-sufficient ‘education campus‘ with a new type of landscape that intends to ‘reinvent learning’. slated to open in 2023, the infinity loop-shaped building comprises of three levels that will accommodate 1600 students, bringing them together upon the backdrop of a continuous landscape that merges both inside and out.

LAVA designs zero-carbon LIFE hamburg with waterholes and an edible roof



LAVA based the structure on the spatial typology concepts of american futurist david thornburg and takes into consideration the educational paradigms of learnlife, an organization driven by purpose-inspired and personal learning. it is inspired by five elements found in nature: waves, cells, branches and nests, applied to layouts, structural systems, ceilings and plantings, which are expressed through undulating balconies, spiralling terraces, honeycomb ceilings and nesting greenery.

LAVA designs zero-carbon 'LIFE hamburg' with waterholes and an edible roof



at the center of the organic-shaped building is an agora that houses core facilities, a food court and sports area. it links, via spacious staircases, the two parts of the building, spread across split-levels that allow flexible uses within the three-dimensional system. the architects have designed the three-story campus with a load-bearing wood structure and a highly insulated glazed shell that permits plenty of natural light. meanwhile, the envelope of the building uses a highly insulated glazed shell.

LAVA designs zero-carbon 'LIFE hamburg' with waterholes and an edible roof



a continuous garden landscape flows from outside to inside – first to the central agora and then to open terraces and up to the rooftop garden, which features edible gardens of herbs, views and the space for outdoor learning. part of this landscape includes a carbon dioxide-absorbing facade made up of seasonal greenery balconies.

LAVA designs zero-carbon 'LIFE hamburg' with waterholes and an edible roof



‘variety and diversity are the spatial prerequisites for creative learning,’ says tobias wallisser, LAVA director. ‘and LAVA’s design enables the optimal conditions: connection to outdoors, integration of green spaces, fresh air and daylight, unobtrusive technical support and flexibility.’


‘we combined the differentiated learning spaces of thornburg with our nature-inspired design approach. instead of homogeneous rooms, there are spaces with different levels of brightness, openness, plantings and connections to the exterior.’

LAVA designs zero-carbon 'LIFE hamburg' with waterholes and an edible roof



‘based on thornburg’s concepts they include expressive spaces (mountain top) for groups; open communicative environments (watering hole) for conversations with peers; hands-on spaces (sandpit) for workshops and manual experiments; group spaces (campfire) meeting areas and lectures; introverted spaces (cave) for individual quiet reflection.’


‘so kids will enjoy open spaces for active, experiential learning, whilst for teens think caves for concentration.’

LAVA designs zero-carbon 'LIFE hamburg' with waterholes and an edible roof



‘we use principles of permaculture and edible landscapes to help shape local built environments,’ adds leonie woidt-wallisser, founder of cityplot. ‘by co-developing this project with LAVA from the very beginning, green spaces will not only offer places of contrast, beauty and repose, but will also perform important educational, social and ecological functions.’


‘the opportunities to cultivate organic food will strengthen the role we play in nature’s cycles, right across the generational spectrum.’

LAVA designs zero-carbon 'LIFE hamburg' with waterholes and an edible roof



LAVA entered its life hamburg concept to an invited competition earlier this year and has commenced feasibility work with construction due to be finished in 2023. once complete, it will house 1600 students in total, including 800 children and 800 adults.

LAVA designs zero-carbon 'LIFE hamburg' with waterholes and an edible roof



the project will be featured in the upcoming exhibition on LAVA’s design work ‘nature meets technology’ at architekturgalerie berlin from 31 october – 15 december 2019.


project info


name of project: LIFE hamburg
design: LAVA with cityplot
location: hamburg, germany
client life: hamburg
status: invited competition 2019; feasibility 2019; construction finished 2023
size: 12,000 m2
partners: SBP (schlaich bergermann & partner); transsolar
image credits: LAVA


practice credits


LAVA: tobias wallisser, chris bosse, alexander rieck
team: laurent dubuis, daniele colombati, semyon bondarenko, iannis foulakis,
courtney jones
cityplot: leonie woidt-wallisser




name: nature meets technology
where: architekturgalerie berlin
when: 31 october – 15 december 2019

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