Are Starchitects Resistant to Environmentalism + Humanitarianism?

LA Times

There’s an opinion piece by Christopher Hawthorne in the LA Times about the potential absence of star architects, lazily referred to as ‘starchitects’, from the realm of humanitarian architecture.  When I say humanitarian architecture, I’m referring to such causes as environmentalism, poverty, or illness, etc.  Hawthorne laments the lack of a green Rem Koolhaus, smacking on about Peter Eisenman as the villain of green and Zaha Hadid as careless of anything other than her legacy.  To quote:

But it also means that the leaders of this new movement, who tend to be rather bland as media personalities, are overshadowed by older architects and designers far less interested in sustainability or fighting poverty — and far more experienced at attracting attention and wielding celebrity. In the last 20 years, the most appealing figures in the profession have cultivated a decidedly apolitical, even defiantly cynical outlook…

Among the green generation, who is heading up the charge? Well, nobody, really. This may be the first movement in architectural history whose followers are more famous than its leaders. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom are well-known fans of green design. Among green designers, on the other hand, we have the ambitiously principled (read: sorta vanilla) Cameron Sinclair, who leads Architecture for Humanity; the great, greatly mustachioed and soft-spoken Shigeru Ban; and William McDonough, who is beginning to project an Andy Rooney vibe.

Now, for my own thoughts…I’m not an architect, so I’ll let the pros chime in, but I will speak to the issue from the perspective of a developer or business owner that retains an architect for a project.  First, isn’t the person paying the commission the one fueling the star architect ego, egos that brazenly design with no thought for the world that the structure will occupy?  Doesn’t money dictate direction?  If I want a green building, and it’s my money, I’ll find the right person for the job.  Don’t these people have a grand stage because it’s been given to them?  Second, it seems like the leaders of the green movement aren’t singular figures, but they’re large firms such as SOM, Foster + Partners, FXFOWLE Architects, and Murphy/Jahn Architects.  It seems like it takes a village to raise a humanitarian building, not an individual. 

But, is this a contradiction with the architectural archetype in Howard Roark.  Are these starchitects just modern day Roarks?  But wouldn’t Roark try to use new materials and methods like green building + low-income architecture, etc.?  Matter of fact, as I recall, Roark did build a low-income project.  Tell me what you think…

By |July 9th, 2007|Affordable, Materials, Modern architecture, News|0 Comments

MiniHome: Ultimate Sustainable Mobility

Sustain Minihome

This is the Sustain Minihome, a green, urban RV for the modern-day recreationists.  When you see this, you won’t believe how much functionality and comfort can go into a mere 325 sf.  To get the real feel of it, go check out the HGTV video of Andy Thomson’s miniHome (the designer).  Nice.  I’m pretty sure this is going on the Christmas wish list.

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By |July 6th, 2007|Nature, Prefab|2 Comments

The Greenest Home in San Francisco – Clipper House by LORAX Development

The Greenest Home in San Francisco - The Clipper House

I read an excellent article about San Francisco’s Clipper House by LORAX Development in Solar Today magazine and wanted to share some info about it.  The Clipper House has become a showcase for residential sustainable features, basically showing off everything but the financial case for green building.  The 2,600 sf home was designed by John Maniscalco/Architecture, Inc., and was completed in the summer of 2006.  For a cool $1.9 M, you could probably purchase this incredible home–often referred to as the Greenest Home in San Francisco. 

If you do, here’s what you’re going to get:  1.7 kw DC photovoltaic array with BP Solar panels installed by SolarCity (total cost $16,700, net AR $11,543); 64 sf of solar thermal glazed collectors by Heliodyne ($6,750); warmboard radiant heating system using PEX tubing ($50,000); rainwater-catchment system by Wonderwater Inc. ($25,000); hemp carpets colored with vegetable dyes; low-VOC paints and caulks throughout; energy-efficient windows and doors; hardwood floors made from 100-yr-old TerraMai railroad ties from Southeast Asia; FSC-certified kitchen cabinets; Richlite kitchen counters made from recycled paper products; recycled blue jean insulation by Bonded Logic; 50-year warranty James Hardie fiber-cement siding made partially with fly ash; and recycled plastic and wood Trex composite decking.  The Clipper House certainly prioritizes energy-efficiency, properly sourced sustainable materials, and indoor air quality.  Real nice. 

Good Links:
++Pushing Boundaries, Advancing a Market [Solar Today]
++520 Clipper in Noe Valley: Smart, Green, Luxe [LORAX – PDF]
++Clipper Street Green Home Facts & Images [LORAX]

Group 41, "CONTAIN Your Enthusiasm"

Hybrid_seattle

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about container architecture, but there’s a good reason to do it today because I’ve received a tip on Joel Karr and Group 41.  This San Francisco-based architecture firm is issuing a innovative project challenge.  Here’s how it works:

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By |June 28th, 2007|Container Design, Materials, Modern architecture, Solar|1 Comment

The Science Barge by New York Sun Works

Energy1k

This is unusual, but incredible, in a weird way.  The Science Barge is a sustainable urban farm powered by solar, wind, and biofuels, and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water.  It’s a mobile illustration of growing food in the city with no pollution or carbon emissions.  Check the solar panels and small wind turbines.  I’m thinking this is another illustration of the savvy behind solar and wind power for residential use.  Via Archidose.

TheScienceBarge

By |June 25th, 2007|Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Nature, Solar, Wind|0 Comments

Thoughts on The Clean Tech Revolution (Updated)

Thecleantechrevolution So I received from HarperCollins a copy of Ron Pernick + Clint Wilder’s latest book called The Clean Tech Revolution.  I’m a big enthusiast of renewable technology because it has the potential to change the world of real estate and green living.  Preliminarily, let me say that this book is an incredible read.  Seriously.  It’s smart and approachable.  To get an idea of the breadth of the book, here are the chapter subjects:  solar energy, wind power, biofuels and biomaterials, green buildings, personal transportation, smart grid, mobile technologies, water filtration, creating your own Silicon Valley, and clean-tech marketing.  And the book is geared towards individuals, investors, corporations, and governments alike. 

The authors are Clean Edge guys and they know what they’re talking about.  The research put into each topic is unbelievably thorough.  The Clean Tech Revolution is not some chump book by someone that just recently jumped on the green bandwagon (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  The authors talk about the tipping point of green brought about by six C’s–cost, capital, competition, China, consumers, and climate.  These six things have come together to make clean tech something of a revolution that will occur over the next 20, 30, 40 years plus.  It’s pretty exciting.  In each of the chapter categories mentioned above, the authors identify several companies to watch.  For instance, the authors say we should keep an eye on the following companies in the ‘green building’ chapter:  Aspen Aerogels, Clarum Homes, Cree, The Durst Organization, Interface Engineering, Ortech, PanaHome, Rinnai, Turner Construction, Wal-Mart Stores

Update:BusinessWeek published an extensive review over the weekend saying, in part: "But what sets Pernick and Wilder’s book apart is its focus on the business benefits of going green, from money saved by building eco-friendly corporate headquarters and lowering heating and cooling bills, to money earned by startups committed to creating clean technologies. Other books, magazines, and Web sites tend to include clean-tech and green business within a spectrum of other lifestyle, political, environmental, or design topics."

I’m not going to give away too much, but I’m really impressed with this book.  Actually, I’ve got two people in mind that I want to pass a copy to, and they’re not getting mine. 

By |June 20th, 2007|book, Energy Efficiency, Gadgets, Materials, Solar, Water Efficiency, Wind|0 Comments