Why Sustainability Has Nothing to Do with Architecture and Everything to Do with Integrity: A Lecture by Alejandro Aravena
At a lecture he delivered in April this year the 4th Holcim Forum 2013 in Mumbai, Pritzker Jury member and Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena approached sustainability from an unconventional angle. The key to achieving the “Economy of Sustainable Construction” (the title of this year’s Holcim Forum), Aravena claims, requires two things: “in this generation, more psychiatrists; in the next generations, more breasts.”
Yes, psychiatrists and breasts. How did Aravena come to this conclusion? Through his firm ELEMENTAL’s work in the earthquake- and tsunami-damaged Chilean city of Constitución, he realized that their biggest challenge for reconstructing and initiating changes in the built environment lay in the lack of integrity among decision-makers. In the lecture, Aravena proclaims: ”sustainability is nothing but the rigorous use of common sense.” By outlining a general list of points (established throughout years of designing an array of different projects in Chile and abroad), he reveals that projects that are truly ground-breaking or innovative, can and should, in fact, be traced back to general precepts that transcend sophisticated notions of architecture and the role of the architect.
Aravena contends that a person’s capacity to hold a particular view in private but abandon that view when it comes time to do business is the greatest testament to our (architects, politicians, developers, etc) endemic lack of integrity. “Integrity is, by it’s very definition, to be just one… Integrity is achieved when you are secure, and security comes from bonding.” It’s one thing to believe in the importance of building sustainably; it’s another thing to say “but business is business” while abandoning what one believes to be essential to effect change.
To a certain extent, it has been ably demonstrated that many of the hurdles barring truly sustainable practices spring from basic economic constraints. Until “sustainable” construction is cheaper than accepted and entrenched construction methods, we cannot reasonably expect that alternative practices can stand a chance at becoming commonplace. “There’s not doubt that there is a value in sustainable construction, but the way things are today we must pay a higher cost to achieve that value.” And so, through the provision of psychotherapy for the current generation, and with the focus on bonding between parent and child, it is Aravena’s hope that the improvement of the current state of affairs resides in a basic, undeniable form of education that is separate from a technical understanding of the practice of architecture and building. In stepping back and considering a much larger and formative issue, he concludes that ”the way to lower carbon emissions is through oxytocin.”
Alix Bossard shares this must-watch video that outlines Le Corbusier’s five revolutionary principles of modern architecture. Using gorgeous motion design, the video briefly introduces us to everything from le Modulor to Villa Savoye and Les Cités Radieuses. Enjoy this two-minute recap of the career of one this century’s most influential architects.
Urban explorer The Unknown Cameraman takes us inside an abandoned Futuro House, one of the roughly hundred that were constructed in the 1960s/1970s. Shot around “various undisclosed locations in New Jersey” the video shows the futuristic saucer-shaped prefabricated dwelling made of fiberglass-reinforced polyester plastic. Matti Suuronen, the Finn who conceived of the hatched house, thought of it as the ideal ski cabin (that could be plopped down and easily removed, regardless of the roughness of a given terrain).
Legendary American architect Steven Holl has collaborated again with Spirit of Space to produce two short videos on the recently completed Campbell Sports Center in New York City. While always compelling to hear an architect discuss a project, these videos integrate the architect’s narration with different dynamic shots of the building’s detail and context, thus truly immersing the viewer in the project.
The first video (above) features Steven Holl and senior partner Chris McVoy explaining the project’s inspiration, design concept and program; simultaneously, the filmmakers take us into the space and show how the new athletic facility is being used by the student athletes. The second, shorter, video (after the break) shows the building in the city, revealing the fascinatingly complex relationship between the passing subway cars, the field hockey players, the movement of shadows and the building itself.
See the second video, after the break…
Building a skyscraper? Forget about steel and concrete, architect Michael Green says build it out of wood. As he details in this intriguing talk, it’s not only possible to build safe wooden structures up to 30 stories tall (and, he hopes, higher), it’s necessary.
Read more about Green’s ‘Case for Tall Buildings’ here and share your comments below.
On the occasion of James Turrell‘s new site-specific installation at the Guggenheim, the American artist joined Michael Govan, Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and co-curator of James Turrell: A Retrospective, in conversation about the different aspects of the artist’s singular oeuvre on view in three concurrent exhibitions in Houston, Los Angeles, and New York.
Imagine a pervious asphalt that not only significantly reduces noise pollution, but saves millions in maintenance and repairs by its ability to self-heal. Well, this type of super-asphalt is not far from being distributed world-wide as experimental micromechanic pioneer Erik Schlangen of Delft Technical University has been studying the material’s potential on a test track in The Netherland’s for the past few years.
Basically, with the introduction of small steel wool fibers, Self Healing Asphalt is capable of repairing micro-cracks and significantly extending the service life of roadways by self-healing through induction heating. Similarly, Schlangen is leading the research on Self Healing Concrete, where by infusing concrete with a harmless limestone-producing bacteria that feeds off of calcium lactate – a component of milk – the material has the potential to self-heal micro-cracks in the presence of rainwater.
A few weeks ago, investors, business leaders, real estate developers, politicians, architects, urban planners, landscape architects, experts in transportation, innovation, engineers, economists, financiers, community organizers, scientists, artists, students and those with an active interest in urban development gathered in Prague to attend the reSITE Conference. As part of the conference, Cecil Balmond– formerly of Arup Engineers and currently leading Balmond Studio in London — led a two-stage international design competition workshop to imagine the future mobile event pavilion. (Stay tuned, we’ll be posting these results soon!)
Our media partner sat down with Balmond and asked him a few questions relating to the design competition workshop. In the interview, Balmond speaks about his work with pavilions and their importance as catalysts not only for architecture, but also for the city at large. With the opportunity to experiement with materials and systems of assembly, pavilions have informed his work on larger structures. Hear what Balmond is focusing on in his research-based practice and find out more about his collaborative projects in the video.
A little over thirty years ago, Shanghai was a fairly dense, mid-rise city with no skyscrapers. Now, Shanghai has been transformed into a global metropolis with over 4,000 skyscrapers – twice as many as New York. In an attempt to capture the “diversities and eccentricities of the metropolis that is Shanghai beyond the famous skyline,” photographer Rob Whitworth and urban identity expert JT Singh joined forces to create ‘This is Shanghai.’
To mark the occasion of World Refugee Day on June 20th, the IKEA Foundation announced an important new collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Refugee Housing Unit to design a new type of shelter which will replace the outdated tents currently in use in refugee camps worldwide.
As you’d expect from IKEA, the result is a flat-packed, modular design (ideal for cheaply transporting to refugee camps) that can be assembled in 4 hours. Though it is expected to cost about twice as much, it will last much longer than the tents, which must be replaced roughly every six months – a particularly important improvement, as the average family stays in a refugee camp for 12 years.
The design also carries a number of other advantages, such as increased space and privacy, better temperature control and enough solar energy to power a light in the evening. The design is currently being tested in Ethiopia before being deployed worldwide, however, this is not the end of IKEA’s collaboration with UNHCR. These shelters are just the first part of a long-term collaboration which will hopefully provide healthcare and education – and ultimately a better quality of life for the world’s refugees.
More coverage of architecture’s involvement in refugee aid, after the break.
Zaha Hadid Architects worked together with design offices Kollision, CAVI and Wahlberg to create the interactive installation ‘Parametric Space’ for the exhibition ‘Zaha Hadid – World Architecture‘, which is on view at the Danish Architecture Centre through September 29, 2013. The installation is a fully parametric space that reacts to the visitors’ movements by changing shape and expression. Learn more after the break.
Derived from 40 years of research by architect, professor and author Jan Gehl, The Human Scale takes a critical look at the way we build and use our cities. Assumptions about modernity are questioned, as director Andreas M. Dalsgaard urges the viewer to imagine what would happen when we put “people into the center of our equations”.
Alberto Biagetti, Italian designer invites us into his home, a space that has become the ultimate private gallery.
The Louisiana Channel at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark shared with us their video, titled ‘Snøhetta – Memories of Architectural Landscapes,’ which captures the inner and outer landscapes of Snøhetta. The 30-minute tour features one of the heads behind it all – Norwegian architect Kjetil T. Thorsen, who reflects upon some of Snøhetta’s major landmarks such as the Alexandria Library, the opera house in Oslo and The 9/11 Memorial Pavilion on Ground Zero in New York.
From the very beginning in the 1980′s, Snøhetta’s architecture has been inspired by landscapes, both natural and urban. ”Landscapes are a massive force”, says Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, co-founder and director of Snøhetta: “And they are masterpieces, which architects can be inspired by.” To view more of Snøhetta’s work, please visit here.
The latest in NOWNESS‘ In Residence series features a look into the home of Piero Lissoni, co-founder of Italian design firm Lissoni Associati. Externally inspired by the way that children draw houses, the interior of the home is filled with what Lissoni calls a ‘contamination’ of different ideas and objects. Nevertheless it is stylish and a beautiful accompaniment to the spectacular rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside.
Highly regarded as both an academic and practitioner, Wolf Prix is an architect’s architect. He’s also a Guinness World Record holder. (The Busan Cinema Center boasts the world’s longest cantilever roof). We sat down with the Austrian architect and learned that not only does he welcome the unforeseeable results of rule-breaking, but he also borrows models of strategy and organization from soccer:
“Of course nowadays the architect as a single genius is over. I think we have to learn how to communicate and work in a team. Therefore, I just rearranged the organization of our office along the idea of the football team, FC Barcelona. Barcelona plays a beautiful game, very clever and very intelligent—they always play in a triangle system and then Messi or Xavi breaks the rules and plays street football with unforeseeable rules. This is the way we work in our office and this is the way that we design.”
He founded COOP HIMMELB(L)AU in 1968 (with Helmut Swiczinsky) and in 1980 the office published “Architecture Must Burn!” a manifesto which extolled the virtues of an architecture “that bleeds, exhausts, that turns and even breaks.” From its inception the office has pushed the boundaries of practice through its use of complex forms, communicated using a variety of media and materials. Their projects represent an embrace of imbalance, disquiet, distortion, fragmentation and chaos.
The title of one of his latest lectures (“In two days tomorrow will be yesterday”) aptly encapsulates Prix’s approach to time and space.
He gained international recognition when his firm’s work was featured in the 1988 MoMA show “Deconstructivist Architecture.” The show marked what curator Philip Johnson described as the “pleasures of unease” and highlighted the work of six other architects in addition to COOP HIMMELB(L)AU— Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenmann, Bernard Tschumi and Daniel Libeskind. The curators brought together this diverse group of architects to showcase the commonalities between projects that harnessed previously unexplored potentials of the modern movement.
“We always wanted to get through with our radical ideas. No compromising on one hand; on the other hand, if you build large projects you have to think in real terms as well.”
Prix’s architecture has employed advances in technology to create public spaces that challenge tradition and convention. COOP HIMMELB(L)AU’s more recent projects include The Busan Cinema Center, Musée des Confluences, BMW Welt, and Dalian International Conference Center. He has taught at the Universität für angewandte Kunst (University of Applied Art) in Vienna, Harvard University, the Architectural Association, Columbia University and other prominent schools of architecture.
Shigeru Ban Architects shared with us their timelapse video for their latest construction, the IE Paper Pavilion. Made up of 173 paper tubes, this temporary structure is located in the grounds of IE’s Madrid campus and will be used to host executive education events and other activities. The structural design is eminently efficient. It took only two weeks to build, is based on sustainability objectives, and there was a requirement that it be a temporary construction. For more information on the project, please visit here.