Designing buildings to meet their environmental context should be a basic skill (meet the solar hemicycle of the Second Jacobs House for example, or so much vernacular architecture), but for some reason in the earlier part of the modern movement the whole idea of designing shelter to fit its context was shunned as unfashionable, and now in the later part is forced upon us as all but compulsory – but with little understanding of what exactly it might all mean, and far too little architecture that even does what it purports to.
“When in doubt plant a shrub” – or (these days) whack in a bloody wind turbine – or do some complicated bloody calculation – that’s about all so much of the dubious modern mantra amounts to to make the latest unattractive box conform to the latest “green” fashion.
Oh, and a lengthy sermon on the often imaginary benefits of all the extra expense.
Frank Lloyd Wright reckoned that the job of architecture is “to make human life more natural, and nature more humane” – a job description that needs neither fashion nor compulsion to succeed, but which these days is made more difficult by both.
The bloggers at the Architecture + Morality site have a lengthy meditation on the problem which, if you’re at all interested, is worth your time to contemplate. As they say,
A fair question. And why is the compulsion behind “designing green” killing what is – or should be – mostly just basic environmental common sense?
Much of what is considered responsible design is already green and has been so for the last 3,000 years. Siting the building to maximize natural daylighting and breezes while reliably sheltering occupants from the elements was fundamental since not doing so would make life indoors extremely unbearable and a threat to health. Stale air, excessive heat, mold, water-borne diseases, and smoke inhalation from cooking fires were the consequences of from a failure to design according to traditional 'green' principles.
If designing green is nothing new, how come is it seen as the next big thing?