Fake Volcanos: The Newest Trend in Green Architecture

There’s something almost pagan about this new architecture trend.


In the search for iconic forms, architects often land upon strange solutions. And recently, for some reason, it’s been volcanoes. In addition to sharing a common shape, all of them are boasting green bonafides.


Most recently, Njiric+ Arhitekti, a Croatian firm, won a competition to design a sports stadium with a proposal dubbed the Blue Volcano. The building would be covered in recycled rubber, and aluminum painted blue. Lofted above, instead of a cloud of smoldering ash, there’s be a canopy of solar panels:

Blue Volcano

But the volcano thing isn’t pure fantasy: Renzo Piano, who recently completed the ultra-green California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, is in the midst of building a huge mixed-use shopping center in Italy. Sitting in the shadow of Pompei, the so-called Volcano Buono will have a green roof covered in 2,500 plants. Inside the middle clearing, there will be what’s essentially a Greek agora–a marketplace, theater, and a small pine forest. The interior will house shops, restaurants, and a hotel:

Volcano Buono

And recently, we also saw this biomass station by Thomas Heatherwick, which is meant to be covered in plants that’ll creep up the building’s facade, which will act as an enormous trellis:

Thomas Heatherwick


All of this strikes me as almost pagan in spirit. We’ve got an impending climate crisis. If you were a pagan, you’d probably build a massive eco-friendly volcano to keep the earth’s vengeance at bay. You know, like wearing the teeth of your enemies on a necklace.

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.