Sunday, February 18, 2007

A New Green World

Spurred on by a recent correspondence from my friend Big Gav and an excerpt he enclosed from Bruce Sterling's Viridian Manifesto, which boldly and correctly intuited the best strategy for making Green Design a reality (before it's too late) was not through moralizing, or regulating or abstractly theorizing but through presenting the change as...attractive, glamorous and seductive!! Now, this approach--or its marketing terminology--might not sit well with the groups that are already committed to life-affirming, sustainable design ("deep Greens, Amish, people practicing voluntary simplicity, Gandhian ashrams and so forth"), but they're already on board--it's the rest of the world which, for a variety of reasons is not.

Yes, Gav, yes Bruce, sexy it is. The single biggest mistake that has been made in the attempt to sell the Green Agenda was to frame it as a high-minded, pleasure and ego denying act of parsimonious sacrifice. Abundance and stewardship are not antithetical propositions. Eden was not spartan.

I realize that many well-intended persons will be shocked by this notion, but despite the looming environmental, political, social and economic catastrophe, the solutions to this great crisis are at hand and they look great. The one departure I'm going to make from Bruce's vision is where he describes this glamorous direction as "unnatural," although this may only be a bit of a semantic difference, as one could interpret his intention as man-made, which this effort will certainly be.

But enough talk aleady--let's have a look at fashionable salvation. As more than one visionary has been to heard to remark, world-changing begins in the home. Not to bludgeon our audience with statistics, but did you know that nearly half the world's greenhouse gas emissions are the result of our, well, horrible architecture? Not that it's the architects' fault, exactly, what with the weight of tradition and the inertia of design, etc. We do not advocate the lynching or burning in effigy of any practicing architects: some of them have even owned up to this miserable state of affairs.

Others are at the forefront of the new wave of glamorous green design. Let's take a look at what they've come up with. One truly renaissance kind-of-guy, Eugene Tsui, has founded a school of design that uses nature as a starting point, but then takes his creation on an absolutely stellar trajectory.


tsuihs2
How's this for a modest little self-starter?



Quoting from Eugene's most excellent website, we find this description:

This structure is based upon the world's most indestructable
living creature--the Tardigrade, with its oval plan and parabolic top it utilizes the same structural principles nature employs in creating an astoundingly durable design. Internationally touted as the world's safest house, it features an oval reinforced concrete foundation over a series of large perforated drain pipes that immediately dispel any water built up and heaving from the soil or sudden flood conditions.


There's no need to mention New Orleans at this point--at least not in the spirit of recrimination & accusation. Let's just assume that we didn't really know what we were doing before when we set out to build our homes. Of course, now that we do, there isn't much room left for such excuses, but let's keep this happy tour moving right along, shall we? Here are a few more views of this remarkable house. From the outside it might look somewhat formidable:

house31


but once inside, you can see just how cozy a family could be:


For those interested in detailed descriptions of how what I'm about to lay on you is even possible, visit Mr. Tsui's website:

The house has proven itself to be cool in the hot summer months and warm in the cold winter months, all without mechanical air conditioning and heating machinery.

There was one interesting sort of warning about this house, under the heading "Ecological Requirements": None.

The owners were gradually educated about the benefits and advantages of a nature-based, ecological approach to designing their home. They grew to support this ecological attitude especially if it meant a cost savings and a simper way of maintaining the home.

You see? No preaching, no hairshirt. Just fun in the sun in an indestructible, zero-emission, life-friendly house.

Before we leave Mr. Tsui, let's try to remember that the guy designs everything, not just groovy, planet-saving houses.



domes01
There are schools,





office buildings you don't see everyday


and, as if what he's already doing weren't quite astounding enough, there's something he calls the Ecological House of the Future. (Not to mention furniture, pottery...)



And (lastly, the bus is waiting) there's Eugene Tsui's large-scale planning vision. Wouldn't Cleveland change its self image if its skyline looked something like this:

hapoli1


Alright, everybody back on the bus; next stop other visions of the same sunny, sexy future. (We're also going to let some of the cats out of the bag on how cheap all this is going to be.) See you next time on This Gorgeous Green World.

1 comment:

Derek said...

Hey IC,

Great new blog.... I'll be sending the link around to my friends here in New York and my architect brother in Washington. An environmentally-concerned animator in Daniel Pinchbeck's circle was recently wondering, in an e-mail to me, what could be done to promote sustainability on this planet. Here, surely, is a large part of the answer.