Newcastle Station Clock

Newcastle Station Clock

Monday, 21 March 2011

Have You Seen how Green I am?

There have been many fads in architecture’s history. There’s been spikey buildings (Gothic); football shapes (Byzantine); ratio driven abodes (Classicism); insane blobs (Parametricism), featureless blobs; excessive gluttony (Rococo); the list goes on... They storm onto the global architecture scene, make a big noise; “change everything” then get ditched as cliché and passé a few years down the line.

But the latest fad is the one that worries me the most. Sustainability. My History lecturer on my degree course was obsessed with the modernists. He believed we were in a state of no ornament. I believe he is wrong, we are in a state of sustainability as ornament. Some argue that sustainability has become as integral to a building as structure, it’s here to say. But the problem is you don’t NEED sustainable features to make a building exist, it is a superfluous attribute that is added if you have the dollar.

We are blessed today to be in an era where it is considered ‘cool’ to build with the planets best interests at heart. But i often ask how much a turbine on top of a tower is doing, solar panels on your neighbours roof? Sure, visually they scream about your green credentials, about how much you sincerely care about the planet.

“Look what I’m doing to save the world, are you doing your bit? Hmm? No, thought not, I’m a more compassionate human being”

That’s what they’re are all saying. It saddens me that by the time I make my debut into the real architecture world, this fashion will be on the down side of the popularity bell curve. It’ll be in the ditch at the wayside pining for our attention of the architects and engineers.

I hope for all god that I’m wrong. I myself am determined not to let it slip. We can fix the world, and I know that this is an attitude born of the 60s that has remained strong for the last 50 years. Long live the hippies in the building profession.


  1. I think maybe the fad elements of the Sustainability movement will do well to die out, wind turbines and solar panels on buildings are more a sign of a guilty conscience than any real concern. Then we can get left with true concern and proper design with nature rather than this design, think about nature then try to appease nature

  2. Solar panels are actually quite effective though, the idea that they are showy about how much humanity someone has I think is a rather unfair thing to suggest. If people are going to try and be more sustainable in their lives then I don't see why using solar panels is a bad place to start. It's a heck of a lot more affordable than something like a ground source heat pump.

    I think that the materiality of design is the architects responsibility, and we should be working to reduce building footprints whatever the clients want. If it means turning a client down because they want another Chandigarh then maybe that is the ethical thing to do!


  3. This is stupid. Of course you don't need sustainable features to make a building exist, no-one with half a brain cell would ever suggest that. You ask what a turbine on a tower or solar panels on a roof do. Then you are a moron. They're producing energy because the world is running out of non-renewable energy sources. Photo voltaics are usually on the roof of a house anyway and i'm pretty sure if you were showing off something in society from society you wouldn't place it on the roof