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The Greening of Architecture

Question: How has architecture embraced the green movement?

Nader Tehrani:
Well you’re asking somebody who is a green architect as a citizen, but I’m not an expert of green architecture.  I’m also one of the people that thinking that most architects are using the banner of green architecture as a kind of soup de jour.  I think it is a serious issue.  I think that we need to think about questions of policy, questions of production in a way that is sustainable, but not everything has direct architectural consequences and one needs to remember that we are not talking about formal determinism here.  We are not talking about a direct consequentiality about a green principle and the actual form of a piece of architecture.  Imagine if you will you make a great piece of green building if you like, a great piece of architecture that is also a green building you know on Route 128.  What is the consequence of that building when the entire planning principles of the United States in a way cultivate an attitude about sprawl?  So the question of sustainability and the green movement needs to deal with the potentials of its impact on planning, urban design and architecture as a larger political effort, the architectural consequences of which have been around for centuries.  Very basic principles of a building’s orientation to the sun, the way it collects heat, the way it stores heat, the way it expels heat at night, these are well documented techniques that go back centuries and centuries.  I think there are many ways of engaging the green movement, part of them through new technologies and part of them through… actually an elimination of the very technologies that we so rely on today.  The building that we are in right now, the room that we’re in has no windows and requires a mechanical system to make it breathe.  Most buildings probably don’t need that and it depends on how we design them, but that is not an excuse not to research technologies that would advance the way that buildings work in new ways and new forms, but the linking, the direct link of determinism between form and function, between form and performance, between form and the greening movement is a myth that we also need to overcome. 

Question: Where are people working to create a more sustainable dynamic?

Nader Tehrani: 
I mean I think the mere decision to invest in our inner cities is one of those efforts.  The idea that through more density, through less public transport…  Excuse me, through less driving and more public transport, through ways of congesting if you like, our social, personal, institutional and daily lives that achieves that.  We don’t need to cultivate that kind of thing in an ever expanding domain you know in the suburbs, so sure.  I think that that is one way that we are already doing it, but that is not enough.

"Green" architecture is a kind of "soup du jour" at many firms, but the push to create sustainable buildings is an important movement.

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