First developed in France in the 1980s, hempcrete is a relatively young architectural material that often flies under the radar in our industry. Although it does not have the load-bearing strength of concrete, this bio-composite mixture of hemp hurds and lime makes up for its structural shortcomings in myriad constructional and ecological benefits. For Lina Bellovičová, the first architect in the Czech Republic to build in hempcrete, the material served as a fertile jumping-off point in the design of House LO — a project for which she went on to win a prestigious 2021 A+Awards Special Honoree Award, distinguishing the house a Project of the Year.
According to the architect, from the get-go, the material’s unique properties ensured that the project was a true collaboration between the designer and the client, allowing “the builder to build their house on their own.” This logic extended into other aspects of the unique design: from a green roof planted by hand by the client’s grandfather and grandmother to custom-designed kitchenware using stainless steel plates from the family business. In addition to the building’s innovative materiality, the striking silhouette of the design, with its large sliding windows and dramatic roof overhangs, sets the building apart.
Architizer was delighted to speak with Lina Bellovičová to learn more about her innovative, award-winning project.
Hannah Feniak: From the onset, the client was clear about his idea for the building material hempcrete, which had never before been used in the Czech Republic. How did this specific request impact the design and what did you learn through the process of working with the new material?
Lina Bellovičová: Before I started designing a house I needed to know what the house was supposed to be made of. That is what material I will work with, how the house will work. What feeling it conveys to the client and to the surroundings.
I was happy with the assignment. The client did not want to use anything with plastics and had the courage to throw himself into something new.
I immediately started researching the properties of the material, the construction process and the possibilities of implementation. I liked the classic procedure of placing a wooden support system and then compacting the material into the formwork. The process created layers on the facade. Family and friends took part in the construction. Everyone sees their work. We see errors and who had more forces… layers are natural. They fit into the surrounding nature.
In addition, the material petrifies during combustion and burns carbon dioxide. But it remains breathable and resistant to pests.
I am glad that Ondřej sees the world differently and thanks to him such a project could have been created.
Aside from the use of hempcrete as a material, what other aspects, such as environment or cultural context, inspired the project?
The inspiration was the place itself. The land is located between wooded hills below the forest. There are rocks all around — that’s why I liked the idea of petrifying material.
The surroundings are mystical. The house is the eye through which we can observe another world. He must merge with his surroundings so that he himself cannot be seen and frighten the creatures living all around.
What other construction details in House Lo are you particularly proud of and why?
I am proud of the green roof, which was planted by hand by the client’s grandfather and grandmother. The tailor-made kitchen was made of stainless steel plates in the client’s family business, which manufactures car and aircraft components and cost a few crowns. I also enjoy the table made of GrilLO lava stone, which was designed in collaboration with a client. The idea of cooking together on a table outside is beautiful.
What has the public reaction to the project been like?
I think the reactions were different and finally after understanding came the enthusiasm.
What does winning an A+Awards Building of the Year Award mean to you?
It is one of the ways to thank my parents for the support, upbringing and background they provided. It is also a motivation and a great encouragement to my further creative activities. I also see it as support for my children, who will not have to be afraid to follow their dream as well as their mother. Perhaps also an encouragement to self-confidence and work for young architects. Thank you very much!
The theme of this year’s A+Awards was “Architecture for a Changing World.” Looking ahead, what kinds of architecture would you like to see being developed in the near future?
Projects with humility towards nature and people. Projects that bring with them an idea or education for their users … in any way. Projects that will make our children and their lives more valuable and happier.