Le Village (temporary name)

The garden project aims at offering an alternative space for students on the EPFL campus. It consists of several building units, each fulfilling a specific function. The buildings will be built using low-cost, yet efficient materials. Part of the project must be showcasing some innovation in architecture design and/or inner vegetation integration.

  • provide a quiet working place for 30 students
  • install 10 microwaves and tables to address the lack of self-alimentation possibilities on the EPFL campus
  • offer a discussion place with couches for associations and/or students group projects
  • (TBC) showcase the integration of plants inside a building

The objectives we want to cover are split into 3 main buildings, each fulfilling its own dedicated function. Together, they form a collective unit, or little “village”, around which the activities of the students can develop.

As of now, those buildings (modules) are :

  • study module
  • “L” module, regrouping the microwaves and couches
  • chilling module, regrouping vertical farming projects and hamacs
  • an additional pergola with tables, to eat

The first location envisioned for the project is the roof of the SG building. It offers both a good amount of space to place the buildings (about 38mx20m on the southern part of the roof) and a good visibility from the EPFL's place du nord. However, this location is subject to change, depending if the roof can actually support an additional load and depending if an access to the roof is available or achievable.

This first design proposal presents somewhat disparate modules, in order to, at a first stage, showcase different possibilities. The design of the village will be made into a more coherent unit at a later stage.

Study module

The idea of this building was to provide a simple space to study. 28 seats are available. The tables could be folded against the walls or moved, to use the space for various activities or workshops. A wall separates the entrance from the rest of the building, to remind the visitors that it is a quiet area. This wall could be used to display various associations related advertisements.

The wall are made of pallets, each 120cmx80cm. The dimensions of the buildings are length = 15.6m, width = 6.32m and height = 3.35m. The pallets wall will likely be filled with straw and earth to provide insulation, and covered to hide and protect the structure.

The roof would be made out of ETFE cushions 1), providing plenty of light inside the structure. The south wall was made one pallet (80cm) higher, in order to incline the roof. This inclination faces the north, thus avoiding direct sunlight on the roof. It remains however unclear whether this is sufficient to avoid excessive greenhouse effect. A possible workaround is the use of shutters that could be adjusted depending on the season. Also, it should be considered to avoid direct lightning on the workplaces, as this very inconvenient to work.

Technical sheet Value Comment
Dimensions 15.6 x 6.32 x 3.35m
Pallets 121 price : ~7.-/unit
ETFE foils 97.2 m2 price (per sqm) : 250$, swiss provider
wood beams 87.9m sapin, épicea 640.-/13m price
tables 8 total : 1600.-
chairs 28 total : 1400.-
floor 93.6 m2 total : 3000.-
total price (approx. ) 15000.-

L module

This building encompasses both the microwaves area and the couches/discussion area. Thus, the space was designed to show a clear separation between the two. The main door, on the lower left part of the L shape, opens up on both spaces. The walls and roof are much like those of the study building. The lower left part of the L is over-elevated, again, to avoid direct sunlight hitting the roof. For this module, green sheets, laid on the ETFE foil, were added as an idea to provide some shade. The pattern of the foil is aiming at giving the place some personality, evoking a leaf - and technology, with its hexagonal shape.

Technical sheet Value Comment
Dimensions 13.44 x 13.44 x 3.35m
Pallets 124 price : ~7.-/unit
ETFE foils 130 m2 (approx.) price (per sqm) : 250$ 2), swiss provider
wood beams 140.57 sapin, épicea 640.-/13m price
tables 2 total : 400.-
sofa 3 total : 600.-
floor 120 m2 total : 3600.-
total price (approx. ) 16000.-

Chilling module

The Chilling Dome is an area for relaxation or meditation for students that need to disconnect with the outflow of time. It will be a silent area without any electronical waves. Smartphones will be prohibed and shoes left in the entry.

Technical sheet Value Comment
dimensions r=3.91m h=1.6m
floor 24.5m2 tatamis, 2000.-
pallets 42.5 300.-
poles 17.43m wood, 500.-
beams 51.85m wood, 1500.-
etfe 45.8m2
hamocks 7 350.-
cushions 8 200.-
total price (approx.) 18000


This pergola has the role of providing some shade to the eating tables, as well as being a central element in the village. The roof is a reciprocal structure which would be used to support some vine plants. It is the purpose of the flower pots schematically presented on the structure.

Technical sheet Value Comment
Dimensions 9.18 x 5.24 x 3.3m
wood beams 82.8m sapin, épicea 640.-/13m price
tables 3 total : 600.-
chairs 12 total : 600.-
total price (approx. ) 6000.-

proposed materials list yet :

  • pallets filled with earth and straw (offer good stability and insulation)
  • bamboo holding structure (look for documentation on reciprocal structures)
  • ETFE, lightweight plastic replacement for glass, providing some insulation

The lightning consists as natural solar light, to make a difference with the other workrooms at EPFL, often located underground, or having few windows (thus requiring artificial lightning). For that purpose, the use of a glass roof is under study. It should be present on the north part of the building only, to avoid excessive greenhouse effect. The inclusion of artificial lightning, taking into account the early night hours in winter, should be discussed.

At best, no heating system will be included in the buildings, relying only on the insulation to keep away from the excessive temperature (both cold and hot). The inclusion of inside vegetation might help stabilize the temperature.

A way to have natural ventilation (either through openable window or plants) has to be designed, keeping it mind it must not disturb the work of the students.

Connection to the grid or solar panels?

The question of fire safety has yet to be looked more precisely. Can the modules avoid the law's regulations?

An association will have to be created to ensure the cleanliness of the premises, and to take care of the plants. They would also overlook any other uses of the premises by other associations. What will they get in exchange?

The premises will be open to everybody during the day. At night, they will be closed (closing hour to be determined, maybe depending on sunlight). To ensure no group of people squat the place, no wifi will be available.

The aim is to locate the modules on one or several EPFL building's roofs, if they can withstand the additional charge. Two other location on the ground will be chosen in case the former turns to be impossible.

Proposed locations Approx. space Picture
Roof of SG building 38x20m
Close to epicure and rolex 30x25m

One of the challenge of this project lies in its acceptance by the EPFL's head. To achieve this, it was decided to adopt the following strategy :

  1. Produce a first detailed model of the modules and their function
  2. Have an answer to all the technical questions (heating, energy supply, safety, …)
  3. Have a rough budget per building.
  4. Advertise the project on social networks and EPFL campus to get students support
  5. Present the project to EPFL responsables, with several locations and arguments
  • innovative urban gardening
  • popular by students (TBC =D)
  • workspace
  • microwaves
  • space for associations
  • summer building camp for first year architecture students

For the pergola, a wall out of bamboo bricks, some serving as flower pots.
Bamboo shutters. Could be used to have shadow in the study room :)
How to build furniture without nails.

foil might be easier than cushions. cushions require an air pump keeping them pressurised
this is overpriced for our means, look for an alternative?
  • thegarden.txt
  • Last modified: 7 years ago
  • by loic