Architecture of Sustainability

Friday, May 05, 2006

the urgency, the architect role, and the possibilities...

Architect Ed Mazria's presentation kicked off the conference with a sobering look at climate change and the role of the built environment in the consumption of fossil fuels. Call it a reframing of the problem to remind architects of their influence -- and responsibilities. It's nothing less than a call to action, one that was reflected in the AIA's sustainability position statement (adopted by the AIA board in December 2005). A transformation of the profession and education is upon us; it will need to be fast. The challenge to the schools: Start a transformation by including a carbon neutral challenge as part of every studio problem statement. A middle session on measurement and metrics tackled LEED and other rating systems. Whatever its misconceptions, LEED sparked a market transformation in this country and opened the door to the conversations this conference is framing. Will Bruder's lecture to close Thursday's proceedings was a poetic bookend to Ed Mazria's crisis portrait. Bruder, who just taught a studio at Harvard this semester, said that he would never teach another studio without including the carbon neutrality challenge. He talked about some past, recent, and new projects, including what looks like a really interesting mixed use project on the boards for ASU in Tempe. There was lots of talk about collaboration on Thursday; in the coming days, I hope we'll get to talk about what that really means and how the profession can learn it and live it more completely. It's important to focus on the climate crisis and the energy strides that it will take to let architects help get us out of that crisis, but the design community will need to address sustainability on many levels at the same time. Human health, water supply, community survivability, and issues of mobility, transportation, and density are intimately connected to the energy/climate crisis.


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