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

Smart Growth, Valuable Green Ideas, Energy Efficiency Investments + Affordable Green Developments (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Boston suburbs urged to adhere to smart growth principles or face the loss of open space and dwindling water resources. 
  2. There’s money to be made in green ideas; the business landscaped has changed from risk management to chasing revenue growth opportunities. 
  3. Businesses are investing in energy efficient measures for the main purpose of decreasing rising energy costs. 
  4. Enterprise Green Communities continues support for green buildings by handing out four grants of $70,000 to Los Angeles-based affordable housing developers. 

Green Corporate America, British Eco-Towns, Wal-Mart's Solar Play, + A Green Gas Station (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. McGraw-Hill Construction released the Greening of Corporate America SmartMarket report detailing corporate America’s opinions on green building and sustainability. 
  2. Future British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has announced a plan to build 5 affordable "eco-towns," which will include wind and photovoltaic energy sources. 
  3. Wal-mart announced a major initiative to outfit 22 stores with solar power, an amount that could be up to 20 million kWh per year. 
  4. A $3 million BP gas station in South Baltimore becomes latest green building with an amazing living roof, among other things. 
By |May 12th, 2007|Affordable, Solar, Week in Review|0 Comments

The Modern Danish Interpretation of Light*house (S2)

Denmark Lighthouse Rendering Night

The images you see are for a development in Denmark called the "Danish Light*house," a collaboration between UNStudio, 3xn, and Gehl Architects.  Light*house is the winner of the competition for a new Aarhus harbor front.  In addition to the 140 meter residential tower, the project includes the ancillary buildings also on the water front.  With sub-level parking and no parking on ground level, one goal of Light*house is to create a walkable environment that draws visitors to the water.  Although details are still in general terms, starting sometime in 2008, it will be built to the newest energy standards and sustainable building practices.  Light*house will have a healthy mix of rental + owner-occupied housing; a large portion of the project will include non-profit rental housing.  When construction is complete in 2010, the project owners hope to have the harbor front in Denmark.  More pics below the jump.  Via.

Good Links:
+Danish Light*house [architecture.mnp]
+The Lighthouse of Danish Urban Development [WAN]
+3xn, UNStudio, Gehl Architects [architects]

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Sundance Channel's Big Ideas Episode #2: Build

Big Ideas Build

If you’re like me, you don’t have The Sundance Channel and you buy each episode of Big Ideas on iTunes for $1.99.  I downloaded the last episode called "BUILD" and liked it so much, I’m going to buy a copy of the video on iTunes for the first 5 people to comment in this post.  It’s really good.  In an information-packed 25 minutes and 38 seconds, the producers take us through Michelle Kaufmann’s prefab factory, the process of building a Glidehouse, Carlton Brown’s green multifamily housing in New York, the advantages of green building, the future of green building with technology, and Mitchell Joachim’s fab tree hab. 

Note – I’ll use the email that you comment with to gift the episode to you through iTunes.  This is not a Sundance promo, this is JG promoting modern, green building. 

Near North Apartments by Helmut Jahn: Affordable, Mecha Small, Green + Modern

Night Near North Apartments

Not only is this place sustainable, but rooms are small, too.  With 96 units at an average size of 300 sf, Near North Apartments (NNA) is a pretty incredible habitat for people that deserve to live in a well-designed space.  NNA is the creation of renowned architect Helmut Jahn, who designed the single-occupant spaces for limited income, homeless, and disabled persons.  You’ll notice from the images that the building generates some power through roof-mounted wind turbines, or aeroturbines.  to be precise, the building shape was conceived to maximize wind to the aeroturbines.  They were invented at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and are now being marketed through Aerotecture International

The building also uses solar thermal collectors and a rainwater reclamation system.  The water system recycles shower water to flush toilets, apparently making it one of the few graywater systems in Chicago.  NNA is located at 1244 North Clybourn Avenue in Chicago and is owned by Mercy Housing Lakefront group.  The reason I’m blogging about this structure, in addition to being an example of small, sustainable living, is because it was listed on Metropolitan Home’s 2007 Design 100 list.  Congrats. 

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