Architecture of Sustainability

Monday, May 15, 2006


It seems that we as a culture are prone to forget, constantly needing to re-learn and re-invent the lessons from the past. What struck me about the conference was a sense that reunifying design (or aesthetics) with sustainability was really a return to our past. In the USA – maybe more than other parts of the world - the last fifty or sixty years have been about space (an abundance of it), speed (the wood frame with stucco), and savings (more, better, faster). These luxuries – or imperatives – along with our newfound technological prowess have allowed us to ignore the past. This ain’t your father’s Chevrolet, right? We now must break out of that paradigm and enter into a new one (or a new version of an old one).

If there was one argument that the conference made, it is this: if we build well then we are building sustainably. In this context, to build “well” means:

  • To build beautifully
  • To build economically and efficiently
  • To build appropriately for the context
  • To build appropriately for the climate
  • To build using the best of our current technology

The conference did present several built examples of this; Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner’s Genzyme office building in Boston, Grimshaw’s updated pineapple shed (a brilliant resuscitation of an historical idea in an absolutely novel form), Morphosis’s NOAA building, to name those top of my mind.

Obviously, the challenge is to design more to this criteria, this raised bar, and get them in the ground.


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