THE VOXEL. A Quarantine Cabin
Directed by: Vicente Guallart & Daniel Ibanez; Academic Coordination by: Michael Salka; Developed by: Master in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Biocities students, class of 2020: Alex Hadley, Anfisa Mishchenko, Sena Kocaoglu, Camille Garnier, Dania Aburouss, Ester Camps Bastida, Filippo Vegezzi, Giada Mirizzi, Juan Gabriel Secondo, Maitri Joy Uka, Camila Fajardo, Nathalie Botbol, Shreya Sharma, Yue Zhang, Zhiqian Liu, Rafael Abboud, Irene Rodriguez Perez; Hosted by: Valldaura Labs at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalunya; Valldaura Management by: Laia Pifarré; Sponsored by: Saltoki, Miogás, Mausa, Distribució Sostenible, Bestiario, Henkel, Cork 2000 & Tallfusta; Guided by: Oscar Aceves, Miquel Rodriguez, Jochen Scheerer, Elena Orte, Guillermo Sevillano, Eduardo Chamorro, David Valldeoriola, Miguel Nevado, Jordi Prat, Gustavo Escudero; Assisted by: Bruno Ganem, Luis Leveri, Akshay Mhamunkar, Daniel Nahmias, Layth Sidiq, Kya Kerner; Photographed by: Adria Goula.
THE VOXEL A Quarantine Cabin Barcelona 2020; VOXEL: The Voxel is an autonomous, 12 square metre cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure clad in a parametric rainscreen, exemplifying an advanced ecological approach to architectural production BIO-CIRCULARITY: Valldaura Labs is located in Barcelona’s Collserola Natural Park, and the Voxel’s primary materials never left this site. Before being processed in immediately adjacent facilities with both manual and computationally-driven tools, the Aleppo Pine used in the construction was selectively harvested from the surrounding forest in accordance with the sustainable management plan in order to promote succession toward a mature, resilient, dynamically stable ecosystem. Every timber element can be traced back to its exact point of origin, and all building components have been rigorously quantified in terms of their geographic source and embodied carbon, accounting for each fuel or energy input throughout the entire respective life cycle. It is thus possible to evidence that the overall construction sequesters over 3000 kg of CO2e. Moreover, software has been developed to display this crucial information with interactive infographics easily understood by non-experts. Such global awareness and hyper-localism is further combined with the reimagination of linear cycles of material waste as circular flows, for instance by repurposing off-cuts from the CLT fabrication as an organic skin of charred slats with naturally formed profiles which blend harmoniously with the landscape. The wooden rainscreen elements are protected from fire, infestation and rot through controlled pre-burning, inspired by the Japanese yakisugi tradition, which additionally safeguards their potential for eventual composting due to the avoidance of unnecessary chemical additives. Similarly, all structural joints between CLT modules are fastened with dowels of regional beech wood rather than conventional steel hardware. The foundations are of poured-earth concrete, substituting the industrially produced substrates of typical mixes with filtered soils resulting from the excavation. The structure can consequently be demounted, leaving nothing behind but four small points of solidified indigenous dirt. Solar panels with battery storage power lighting and devices, while a rooftop garden, rainwater collection and greywater recycling systems integrate with a self-contained biogas infrastructure for blackwater treatment to generate only usable fuel and sanitary fertilizer as by-products. Containment of all equipment in the ventilated voids of the facades and on platforms suspended below the structure, yet above the ground, facilitate maintenance or removal and minimize environmental disturbance. PROGRAM: The Voxel was conceived and fabricated during Catalonia’s coronavirus lockdown, and is intended for use as a quarantine cabin. The Voxel therefore accommodates one occupant isolated for 14 days. REALIZATION: The Voxel is a project of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia’s Master in Advanced Ecological Buildings & Biocities 2019/20, representing a collaboration between 17 international students, volunteers, and the Valldaura Labs team, along with consultants and sponsors. The Voxel is optimized for pre-fabrication and rapid deployment; all CLT and facade modules were prepared in secure workshop settings before being quickly assembled near the final site. The completed structure was then mounted in its ultimate position by a crane. These strategies maximize safety, precision, and efficiency, while mitigating damage to the site.