I have to say it’s an exciting time to be practicing architecture. Yes the economy has put all sorts of new pressures on us and challenges in our path. But the mainstreaming of environmental considerations is delivering architects much more enlightened clients and an abundance of new products, materials and strategies that will allow us to create bold new designs.
The early years of the green architecture movement largely produced buildings that single-mindedly wrestled with the technical issues of energy and resource conservation while neglecting larger design issues. As a result sustainable architecture gained a reputation as being clunky and funky. This led the next generation of designers and builders to try to hide their efforts, often placing solar panels or water catchment systems behind screening elements.
There is now emerging a new wave of green design that is treating the unique materials, systems and strategies of sustainable building as opportunities that can generate new and exciting forms. It took architects a while to figure out that steel from the industrial revolution would allow them to break from classic proportions of masonry columns and beams, and that steel could lead to magnificent new forms. Today we are we beginning to see new structures that embrace and express our new building blocks. Let’s look at the beauty of what is possible when we choose to celebrate rather than hide our green.
Renzo Piano’s California Accadamy of Sciences integrates photo-voltaic panels to form an energy-harvesting sunshade.
Glenn Murcutt uses water-harvesting tanks as bold forms to compliment the pure geometries of his buildings.
This stunning Vertical Park by Jorge Hernandez de la Garza intends to infuse the city with much-needed green space in the form of a modular skyscraper made up of a series of stacking units. The solar-powered structure contains sky-gardens in addition to spaces for living and working, and recycles all of its own water.
Michael Jantzen’s Sun Rays Pavilion, consists of 12 massive columns that rise out of the earth like giant crystals reaching for the sun. Appropriate, because the acutely slanted building relies on the sun’s rays alone for power.
Designed in the shape of a drop of water, the Water Building Resort intends to become the first building ever to convert air into water with the help of solar power. It’s south facing facade made of photovoltaic glass will harness solar energy, allowing light to pass through. The northern facade features a latticed design for ventilation as well as Teex Micron equipment that will convert humid air and condensation into pure drinking water.
This new school of art, design, and media at Nanyang Technological University takes advantage of advanced green room technologies to add much needed structure while preserving scarce open space.
Vicent Callebaut’s Lilypad is a true amphibian – half aquatic and half terrestrial city – able to accommodate 50,000 inhabitants and inviting the biodiversity to develop its fauna and flora around a central lagoon of soft water collecting and purifying the rain waters. This artificial lagoon is entirely immersed, ballasting the city. It enables inhabitants to live in the heart of the sub aquatic depths.