Tag Archives: sustainable

Small Actions to Save the World

Architecture claims to remedy some of the world’s major problems. On the turn of the twentieth century it meant to solve the hygienic conditions of the increasing urban population, and it rapidly lead to the mental welfare. Nowadays, one of the biggest concerns of the world is the sustainability. Many contemporary architects note the importance of designing sustainable projects. All in all, the truth is that architecture is still a problem instead of a solution. Buildings pollute a lot and passive sustainability measures are not enough to solve the energetic problems, while active measures are still expensive for the average client.

However, not too many architects realise that they can do better. Apart from the sustainable design whose drawbacks ought to be discussed with clients, architects can also take some decisions regarding materials. They can for instance choose the materials according to certificates of good environmental practises. For example, there is an outstanding certificate for wooden products called FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Basically, it certificates that all the stages of the industrial process have followed the basic principle of the sustainability. It is that the extracted goods are less than the existing ones, and that extraction follows measures which are respectful with the environment. The FSC certification includes the surveillance of the forest care, the timber extraction and the wooden products by a company which is not related with the process.

Clients do not know or do not care about this. It is actually difficult to get to know which certificate is really excellent and which one is just rubbish. There are even certificates which do not follow measurable requirements and yet others which allow the companies to certificate themselves. Deeming the worth of such a thing is a new task for the architect since he must choose the materials of his project. In doing so, he could take a small action which helps the world.


Thinking up the wheel

Pierre Menard is a French writer who tackles the writing of Don Quixote well over the beginning of the 20th century. He could have simply adapted the work to his ongoing reality, but he did differently. His work copies exactly a number of pages of the original book. That is absolutely amazing, since the Cervantes’s Quixote was written around 1600, while the Menard’s one was written in modern times. The meaning of his words is, thus, another.

This fiction was made up by Jorge Luis Borges, and it illustrates how a particular invention can take different applications along the history. Sometimes the humans have forsaken inventions because the society had found disadvantages or incoherencies on them. There are a lot of examples, namely the banning of firearms in Medieval Japan, although they had attained an important development within the archipelago. However, when Japan readopted the fire weapons later they still served as a way to kill people, and there was not another issue involved in their running.

Let’s go back to Pierre Menard’s Quixote. Have there ever been inventions which have been retrieved for completely different applications? The answer is yes, and the best example I can find is the wheel. I figure out that both the ancient Mesopotamian craftsmen who made pottery and their warrior colleagues who used to fight with chariots wouldn’t have imagined the current usages of the wheel. Neither the clocks mechanism nor the wheelchairs were original uses of the wheel, let alone the weights we insert into the barbells. Similarly, some eggheads were overwhelmed by the naked architecture of Le Corbusier and they blamed him for forgetting the teachings of the Ancient Times. They couldn’t compare the Greek’s Parthenon with his buildings, although the temple has served as a model to them. The architectural elements have been reinvented. Hence, the whole meaning was another.

Along the centuries, the academic architecture has copied the same models among a not too wide range of styles. However, societies have created a lot of different elements and devices which were useful to solve common problems. For instance, mud bricks were useful where there was a lack of stone blocks. Nowadays we can order stone almost wherever we want to due to the globalization, so the initial drawback doesn’t exist anymore.

Incidentally, we are talking about thinking up the wheel again and writing Don Quixote one more time. Regarding mud bricks, certainly they aren’t needed to build houses in the first world, but now we know they own an astonishing quirk as for keeping thermal comfort. This fact could have not been primordial centuries ago, since there were more important problems to deal with. Lots of traditional solutions are awaiting their rediscovery. Probably, we can’t even imagine how valuable most of them could be in the current world.

‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ or how to forget the whole thing

Someone told me once it’s better off considering things as a whole from the little ones. While perusing ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ I realized how important little things are when they shape a solely endless row. What is more, the relationships between territory, history and society were revealed crystal clear, and all of them lie in a large number of very little things, according to this Jared Diamond’s book. I do recommend it to everybody, but especially to architects, since its reading may be quite a fresh one.



Surely many people are tired to hear that the architecture was traditionally made on the basis of its landscape and that sort of things. That argument has usually become why some current architects reject technology in order to work with local materials such as mud and stone, and that is commonly made from environmental preservation. By and large, the book explains why each landscape drives to each society, and architecture is a part of a society. Old hat by now.

But the histories of the societies change because of invasions from mightier ones, which convey new powerful technologies and occupy the territory differently. That technical stuff is carried with from far places since the Antiquity. Even the Romans got the marble from relatively far quarries, isn’t it? The issue is that Diamond recognizes native societies are usually used to dispose well of a territory from its resources management, while the conquerors often press it by new crops, cattle, technology and the like. The clearest example given is Australian history. I think it’s the same with architecture. Traditional architecture uses local resources, whereas foreign one requires alien materials. Therefore, the costs and the environmental pressure are higher.

But something makes no sense. So to speak, shall the humankind return to the Medieval Ages so that not to destroy the world? In other words, should the architects forget the modern ways to do architecture? Clearly they shouldn’t, right? Diamond illustrates how a civilization grows up due to other civilizations contacts. Architecture also develops due to improvements and ideas from around the world. At any rate, how to save the world? Would we find a great solution in time for the climate change? What about the rising of the population? What about__?

I think nowadays there is no solution to these questions, since they all are big ones. They lead to discussions as overwhelming as dull. Meanwhile, the world is dying. Let’s follow Diamond’s lead. History is a large concept which lies on simple facts. Architects have got the big picture to get their own concept, but it doesn’t help with daily stuff many a time. So let’s focus on the little things such as the natural heat, the width of the facades, the windows size and so on. Those things we can handle with easily at work. Also, those things both technic and landscape provide. Never mind whether high-tech is used instead of local types as long as it works, and vice versa. Eventually, we could find out a new way to occupy a territory in a sustainable way like our ancestors did before. The main goal is the big picture, but it isn’t the daily hit at all.