XI - XII 2005
The present oil crisis has allowed professionals to dust off old ecological paradigms and has fostered the appearance of multiple architectures that call themselves sustainable. The concern for ‘green’ issues started out as a marginal matter but is now a growing social and economic imperative, and the official certification of a project as ‘ecological’ – issued by a wide variety of
associations and endorsed by different national and international awards and
recognitions – has become a distinction that both the large established offices and the small emerging studios endeavor to obtain.
Sustainable Design. Six works by important firms embrace the ecological creed in their design process. In Germany, Sauerbruch & Hutton complete the Federal Environmental Agency in Dessau, a complex that is proposed as an example of sustainable construction, and Foster reaffirms his well-known ecological awareness with a Fuller-inspired library for the Free University of Berlin; in France, Lewis raises, with the help of nature, a school complex for Obernai, and Lacaton & Vassal draw inspiration from greenhouse construction to build their social dwellings of Mulhouse; and in the United States, Holl turns an aseptic program such as that of a water treatment facility into a public and mediatic icon in Connecticut, while Ban experiments with recyclable and demountable elements in his New York travelling museum.
Sauerbruch & Hutton
|Views and Reviews
Architectural Cinema.The melancholy realism of Aki Kaurismäki and the fertile fantasy of Tim Burton offer, coinciding with the release of their latest films, spatial and social lessons to architects.
|Art / Culture
|Eternal Masters. The feature film on the figure of Louis Kahn, directed by his son, and the exhibition devoted to Dominikus Böhm at the German Architecture Museum at Frankfurt, recover two virtuosos of the archaic.|| Francisco de Gracia
Kahn, My Architect
Böhm, Mystic and Redeemer
|Renewed Landscapes. A collection of five volumes on five aspects of the construction of the landscape and Peter Buchanan’s selection of ten ecological buildings come to fill the existing void on the subject.
Aranda, Pigem & Vilalta
Renzo Piano, Three Museums. The Italian architect has become a world reference in the field of museums. Presented here are his three most recent completions: an undulating art center devoted to Paul Klee close to his birthplace in Bern, an extension of Meier’s complex for Atlanta’s High Museum of Art and a museum for a private collection in Dallas.
|Technique / Style
Field of Waves
|To close, the recent urbanistic crisis of Marbella has highlighted the uncontrolled development and real-estate explosion that the Spanish landscape is experiencing as a symptom of economic well-being (be it in the coastal, rural or urban contexts). In contrast, the essay describes some of the small landscapes that César Portela has conceived recently for this native Galicia.||Products
The cost of the black fuel boosts the value of the green tag. After two decades of reasonably cheap oil, the spectacular increase of the barrel price in the past years has strongly reactivated the political and professional interest in the energy behavior of buildings, resulting in a fast-paced flourishing of legal initiatives and requirements, with a variety
of measures that go from technological regulations to sustainability tags, and a collection of stimuli
that go from financial subsidies to symbolic rewards. Architects can no longer ignore this professional landscape, and if the larger architectural firms have been the first to incorporate ‘green’ messages in their communication strategies, even the more modest studios shall have to keep in mind the new environmental agenda in their design procedures and assessment habits.
The material prosperity of the eighties and the digital revolution of the nineties shaped a scenario of boundless personal and formal freedom in which individual emancipation from social discipline and even biological limits ran parallel to an unsuspected spreading of forms oblivious to conventional or constructive constriction. Today, the soaring prices of energy and global warming force to review our priorities – springing from the double awareness of the scarcity of resources and the planet’s incapacity to absorb the residues of human activity –, and us architects have to take up the urgent challenge to develop an aesthetic of construction and an urban ethic in tune with the changing times, and which can go beyond the modern paradigm of growth and industry, but also beyond the postmodern syndrome of timelessness and nostalgia.
In the pursuit of this goal we have encountered more failures and frauds than successes, so it is not easy to avert skepticism. From the poor formal quality of the ecological architectures that were so popular in the seventies in the heat of the two oil crises of that decade, to the cynicism of the last crop of ‘sustainable’ skyscrapers set forth as examples of green architecture, there are more reasons for despair than for hope. Buildings are responsible for an important fraction of the consumption of energy and materials, and territorial models are a key variable in transport costs, but neither architects nor planners have a decisive influence on the global results in any of these fields. And even so, each plan and each project that is drawn out of environmental awareness redeems its author and rescues all of us from fatalist impotence and passive acceptance.