From a French library to the D.C. headquarters of the Nuclear Energy Institute to a tiny seaside bodega in Spain, this handful of projects has one noteworthy characteristic in common: They all tread lightly on the environment.
1. Firm: Archi5
Project: La Médiathèque du Marsan
Location: Mont-de-Marsan, France
Square Feet: 51,000
Standout: This library’s rooftop garden collects rainwater and insulates, while the double-skin glazed facade preserves optimum temperatures throughout the year using little or no energy. Natural ventilation comes from the central courtyard, its fluid shape inspired by Henri Matisse paintings leaves and Alvar Aalto vases.
2. Firm: Fox Architects
Project: Nuclear Energy Institute headquarters
Location: Washington, D.C.
Square Feet: 50,000
Standout: A staircase of steel, glass, and floating terrazzo treads connects this three-level office, recently awarded LEED Gold certification. The space is unified by blue LEDs, their color inspired by the Cherenkov Effect; for energy efficiency, lights in all conference rooms are activated by motion and sound sensors.
3. Firm: Martín Lejarraga Architect
Location: Cartagena, Spain
Square Feet: 125
Standout: Recycled shipping pallets provided the wood planks cladding the walls, ceiling, and countertop at this seaside bar and bodega, where a 19th-century wooden mermaid sculpture greets customers.
4. Firm: UnSpace
Square Feet: 3,100
Standout: The third outpost of the menswear brand that merges virtual and traditional retail occupies a 1920’s former bank, any additions over the decades stripped away so that the original neoclassical architecture—clerestory windows, vaulted ceiling—seamlessly juxtaposes with the digital components.
5. Firm: Park + Associates
Project: Firm’s own office
Square Feet: 8,200
Standout: Minimal intervention transformed a 1960’s former school into a showcase of clean-lined design, thanks to vintage furnishings, a black-and-white palette, and painted-steel arches highlighting the reinforced-concrete barrel vaults.