My post earlier this week for Digging in the Driftless about has started me thinking about my impetus to devote myself to green design. I returned from my time abroad on fire with ideas about how Americans could reshape our residential architecture to be more like the places I had visited. I wasn’t interested in making houses in the Midwest look like a cottage in Cornwall or a bungalow in the Philippines; I wanted to emulate those buildings in the way they suited the lifestyles of their occupants. I wanted to make the houses I designed behave the way those homes had. I enrolled in a master’s program at a school known for its growing focus on sustainability. When I got there I found a small cadre of other students who had chosen it for the same reason but, much to my surprise, a large number of our cohort had no interest in sustainable design. To misquote Elizabeth Bennett, their feelings were so different that in fact they were quite the opposite.
The field of green architecture is changing very rapidly at the moment. In fact, its funny how rarely the words green and architecture are used in conjunction by anyone who is focused on that second word. Architects are accepting the idea of sustainability only grudgingly and seem to feel that they are being forced to tack on compromises to their designs which may “be good for the planet” but will hinder the overall aesthetic. This is an attitude shared by the majority of my fellow design students and, I suspect, by the majority of our peers currently practicing. At the same time interest in and demand for sustainable design has blossomed in the public perception, spawning articles, documentaries, magazines and websites. This popular movement really only further entrenches a large number of designers in their resistance to sustainability. Most ironically, the enthusiastic cadre of young professors who worked so hard to integrate green ideas into every facet of my MArch program often only made my classmates want to put their fingers in their ears and yell “la la la.” Humans are a highly illogical species.
Oddly just as I was thinking all this I came across this book at the library. Ten Shades of Green: Architecture and the Natural World, by Peter Buchanan deals with a lot of the issues I was just internally pondering/grousing about. I’ve barely worked my way past the introduction (its slow going when you have to transcribe every other paragraph into your design notebook) so today I’ll quote mainly from the excellent preface by Rosalie Genevro. Expect to see more of this in the near future.