Why Sustainability Has Nothing to Do with Architecture and Everything to Do with Integrity: A Lecture by Alejandro Aravena
At a lecture he delivered earlier this year at 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.”
“I have a lot of big plans for the gallery, but every idea is an experiment; I don’t necessarily want to enforce what it will be, but rather find out what it wants to be.” This is how Thomas Ermacora described his vision of the Lime Wharf Gallery, a largely hidden series of spaces squeezed between Vyner Street and Regents Canal in the middle of Hackney’s burgeoning creative quarter.
Ermacora hopes the gallery will become an “accelerator of change through culture”, bringing arts, technology and social enterprise together for projects which generate optimism for the future. All of these traits made Lime Wharf Gallery the perfect space to present “Future Fitting.” This evening of talks, orchestrated by Ermacora and Lucy Bullivant (editor of the new webzine Urbanista), focused on urban design that has the foresight and flexibility to deal with the needs of the future.
Read about the ideas presented at the Future Fitting event after the break…
Inspiration is a funny thing: when you need it is nowhere to be seen, and just when you’re not expecting it, it can blindside you in the least convenient of places. Here’s ten inspirational TED talks for architects (in no particular order) from people with broad and unique views on architecture. Some might enlighten, educate or even enrage you – at the very least they should get those creative juices flowing a little better.
Take-in these ten TED talks after the break…
Emerging Voices is an award developed by the Architecture League of New York that annually selects eight practitioners in a juried portfolio selection. Award recipients are selected from the disciplines of architecture, landscape design and urbanism and display the sensibility of the profession in light of the larger issues related to the built environment. This year’s selection includes: SO-IL, PRODUCTORA, Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects, MASS Design Group, graciastudio , dland studio, DIGSAU, and cao | perrot Studio.
Details after the break.