Underground architecture - six of the best


While skyscrapers can be undeniably impressive, sometimes it's those buildings that go down instead of up that are most intriguing. Building underground can save precious ground space as well as getting round strict planning regulations. We take a look at some of the best examples of subterranean architecture


The California Academy of Sciences

Location: San Francisco, USA

Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop; Stantec Architecture

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Photo: Shunji Ishida © Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Designed by Renzo Piano in collaboration with San Francisco-based Stantec Architecture, and completed in 2008, The California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest museums of natural history in the world. It also houses an aquarium, the planetarium, and the four-storey rainforest, as well as being the headquarters for the academy itself.

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Photo: © Tim Griffith

Although not technically subterranean, we think this ingenious and rather beautiful building qualifies, as its green roof means it is literally underground.

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Photo: Justin Lee © Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The roof of the building is covered in rolling earth planted with more than 1.7 million plants from nine different native species. The green roof provides a natural habitat for wildlife and endangered species like the San Bruno butterfly.

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Photo: Tom Fox © RPBW - Renzo Piano Building Workshop


Earth House Byoung Cho

Location: South Korea

Architect: Byoung Cho

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Photo: Wooseop Hwang

Built in honour of Yoon Dong-joo, a Korean poet, this subterranean house is actually more about the sky than it is about the ground.

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Photo: Wooseop Hwang

'Earth House is a house of the sky. It is a house built in honor of Yoon Dong-joo, a Korean poet, who wrote beautiful poems about the sky, the Earth, and the stars,' says the architects.

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Photo: Wooseop Hwang

Set in woods and rice fields an hour east of the South Korean capital Seoul, the subterranean house is made up of six small and unadorned rooms - a kitchen, library, two bedrooms, and a bathroom - and a 23-by-23ft courtyard.


Parc Des Célestins

Location: Lyons, France

Architects: Michael Targe, Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Daniel Bure

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Photo: © Daniel Buren

Designed by architects Michael Targe, Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Daniel Bure, this underground car park plunges six-and-a-half storeys below a square in the French city of Lyon.

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Photo: © Daniel Buren

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Photo: © Daniel Buren

The square had become congested with cars, and so it was decided to build underground, with the 415-space car park taking the form of two parallel cylinders with a giant mirror used to bring light into the underground space.

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Photo: © Daniel Buren

As noted by writer Tom Morris, aethetically, the combination of the car parks vaulted architecture and the classical music soundtrack that is constantly played creates an almost eclesiastical atmosphere.

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Photo: © Daniel Buren

In 2013, the car park was named one of world's coolest car parks by FX magazine and Stress Free Airport Parking.


Städel Museum extension

Location: Frankfurt, Germany

Architect: schneider + schumacher

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Photo: Norbert Miguletz © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

In 2008, German practice schneider + schumacher won an competition to design a new underground wing of the Stadel Museum, in Frankfurt.

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Norbert Miguletz © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Extending beneath the Städel garden, the new wing adds 3,000 sq m of additional exhibition space for the presentation of contemporary art.

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Norbert Miguletz © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

The main part of the museum was built in 1878, and this was the first new extension since then.

Light for the subterranean galleries comes from nearly 200 round skylights which puncture the grass of the Städel garden.

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Norbert Miguletz © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

The lawn itself rises to a dome where the height of the museum space below is greatest.

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Norbert Miguletz © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Just 12 columns support the roof of the underground section, leaving plenty of space for larger exhibits and also maintaining sight lines.


Joanneum Museum extension and refurbishment

Location: Graz Austria

Architects: Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos, eep architekten

Joanneum Museum extension and refurbishment_Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos, eep architekten

Photo: Roland Halbe

This 2012 extension to Austria's Joanneum Museum added a conference hall, reading areas and an archive to the existing museum complex, which comprises a regional library, an art gallery and a natural history museum.

Conical openings surrounded by glass puncture the ground above the subterranean extension bringing daylight into the underground rooms.

Visitors enter the building by an outdoor elevator into the of the cone-shaped volumes.

Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos, eep architekten

Photo: Roland Halbe


Hanna Arendt School

Location: Bolzano, Italy

Architecture: Cleaa Claudio Lucchin & architetti associati

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Photo: Alessandra Chemollo

Tell a child that their new school is underground and they'll probably jump for joy. But would years of learning in classrooms below the surface of the earth really be good for children? Well, that depends on how well designed the buildng is.

The underground sections of this school in Bolzano, Italy were added to an existing school complex, which was protected by Italy's National Heritage Association. The school needed more space, but expansion above ground was not an option.

Cleaa Claudio Lucchin & architetti associati    

Photo: Alessandra Chemollo

The four underground floors were built after an initial stabilisation of the area with micro poles and a reinforced concrete structure. The rooms are distributed around the central void; starting from the top the first two floors host classrooms; the third floor hosts the workshops and the last one is a utility room.

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Photo: Alessandra Chemollo

Naturally, light was one of the major issues of the project. Glazed surfaces, large skylights and glass walls of the rooms help flood the internal spaces with natural light.

Cleaa Claudio Lucchin & architetti associati    

Photo: Alessandra Chemollo

According to the architects this project 'highlights the unexpected potentialities of underground architecture, challenging the limits of sustainability culture as we thought so far, as well as contemporary design in historic centres'.




 









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