Carbon-neutral ‘Island’ for clothing brand’s liveable boutique

Dubbed the ‘home of adventure, BIG studio has collaborated with clothing brand Vollebak to design a self-sufficient, off-grid residential island in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Jointly with local architecture firm FBM, it will comprise both natural and manufactured materials, including seaweed, hempcrete, and 3D-printed concrete.


Located one-quarter mile off the Nova Scotia mainland in the Jeddore Harbour, the 11-acre Vollebak Island will include the 597sqm ‘Earth House’, consisting of nine interconnected buildings, and the 88sqm ‘Wood House’, a standalone garden suite on the island’s eastern shoreline. Fifty minutes from Halifax, the project will be fuelled by offshore wind, geothermal energy, and solar power, with the energy stored in Tesla power walls.

‘Vollebak is using technology and material innovation to create clothes that are as sustainable and resilient as they are beautiful. In other words, the fashion equivalent of BIG’s architectural philosophy of Hedonistic Sustainability,‘ comments Bjarke Ingels, founder and creative director of BIG. ‘For Vollebak Island, we have imagined the rooms as a manmade mount of individual volumes rising out of the ground and a separate outpost at the edge of the breaking waves.’

‘Each room in the village is made from its own unique material – stacked seaweed, compacted earth, hemp, glass brick or locally sourced stone – tailored for the specific use and experience of that particular room. For Vollebak Island, we incorporate local tradition elevated by global innovation in a self-sustained manmade ecosystem off the coast of Canada,‘ continues Ingels.

‘Earth House’, the village-like cluster of bespoke buildings, will gently rise from the ground at the heart of the island, resembling land art as much as architecture. The permeable layout will create various open spaces for socializing, allowing nature to intertwine with architecture. The structures by BIG and the FBM team will represent specific fragments of nature, each intentionally built with a different material and playful elements of surprise interwoven throughout.

Serving as a gateway to the island, ‘Earth House’ incorporates a living and dining room made entirely of weather-resistant and naturally insulating thatch; this space will serve as a central gathering area for cooking, eating, and relaxing around a large six-meter Viking fire pit. Residents and guests will reside in one of the four bedrooms made of fire retardant hempcrete, 3D-printed concrete, or naturally occurring boulder. For recreation, they can rejuvenate in a Japanese-style bath house with soaking tubs cut from the stone bedrock or have a first-class view of the galaxy in the sunken hempcrete stargazing room and meditation space.

Even more, a greenhouse made entirely of glass brick will grow food for the Vollebak island; energy will be stored in a building with a solar roof and submarine door; and the boat house will honor a local tradition of using regenerative seaweed as insulation. The roofs, meanwhile, will incorporate shrubs and other flora to reduce storm-water runoff and ease the burden on sewers and water treatment systems.

Complementing ‘Earth House’ will be the ‘Wood House’ annex, a standalone two-bedroom, two-bathroom residence with a durable exterior made entirely of wood from the island, essential for extreme climate conditions. The monolithic façade will be able to open and close toward the seaside, showcasing a vast eight-meter triangular vista over the water.

‘Every design detail at Vollebak Island will help to foster the closest possible connection to nature, acting as a curated extension of the island’s organic topography and creating a living environment that blurs the boundaries between inside and out. The beach, the woods, the cliffs, the landscapes, and the sunsets will all be part of the house on Vollebak Island,’ concludes BIG.

Images by Vollebak via Designboom

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