• 06.28.11

Architects Turn Hydroelectric Power Into Thing Of Beauty

Sounds ridiculous, we know. Just check out the pictures.

Architects are famous for going overboard on metaphors. Consider Becker Architekten, a German firm, which describes a recent project as summoning “a smoothed river stone” and ‘a frozen wave.’ Also: “a stranded whale.”


At this point, we should probably point out that the architects are talking about a power station. We should also point out that they’re totally right. The hydroelectric power station, in Kempten, Germany, is the sort of uniquely sculptural industrial architecture — a mass of curving concrete stretched long and low on the left bank of the river Iller — that lends itself to all sorts of purple prose. We’re partial to the stranded whale simile.

The station substitutes a hydroelectric plant that dated back to the 1950s and supports 3,000 households with 10.5 million kilowatt-hours a year. At first, an engineering firm floated a perfectly good, perfectly boring replacement, but authorities scrapped the design in favor of Becker’s. Why? They wanted the riverfront to feel like a riverfront, not an industrial park. Okay, so it’s no San Antonio River Walk. But it’s no Cimarron either. Now, thanks to Becker’s design, the river’s got a new, continuous pathway for cyclists and pedestrians. Happy stone-wave-whale watching!

[Images by Brigida Gonzalez; hat tip to Yatzer]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.