Clad in Black from head to toe, donning a pair of oversized, black framed glasses, lean and jumpy, messed hairdo, a boe-tie for the men, flowing locks for the women, a moleskine in hand and marker in the pocket. Thats how a quientessential architect looks like. Or rather then, you can be assured of unstoppable creativity and eccentric ways. Black has always been the color of architects. Nothing else is as stark, as chic and never will give away the frumpiness that comes after long hours in studio, or the largely sleepless nights! Architecture has always been an attempt at iconic expressions and the stamp of the civilisations, about art that ties in technology, it has never been only about shelter. As materials were discovered and structural technology harnessed, the zest and variety in the construction of buildings kept evolving. Nature or the environment were never the limiting factors. Right from the stone-age till now what I would call the Oil-age. Like Dr Jonathan Trent, of NASA, told me the other day, “Stone-age didn’t end because we were out of stone!”. He is right in his belief that nature will never be a limiting factor for man’s use of resources, it would only challenge the boundaries of the construction materials and use. When fossil fuels are beginning to be projected as depleting, its time for another round of exploration and discovery. Only this time, its all about innovation.
Innovation is defined as bringing something new to the table, in layman’s terms. And very apparently marrying Architecture to the Environment is the innovation in the next generation of buildings. Ken Yeang, the master architect feels that tying the building with all its systems to the hinterland will help in making it very natural. Am a little concerned then about the hinterland! The massive volumes of air/waste generated by my fellow beings is bound to have an adverse effect on the so called pristine hinterlands. In that case energy that we consume and give out needs to be precariously balanced with the environment. With that we can aim at starting what Prof. Kishnani, calls the virtuous cycle of green. Wherein the energy, water and all other systems work as closed loops. Active systems and Passive systems are in summary what run a piece of architecture, a building. For that we need the right proportions of Einstein and Corbusier, read a sceintist and an architect. Because in the end the focus is on innovative architecture.
The United Nations Environment program has a budget that runs into a few billions, that are earmarked for scientific progress and discovery that will assist in the making of a very nimble footed construction industry. That is the next challenge considering the huge amounts of environmental resources go into the manufacturing of the gazillion products made for the industry. In terms of ranking, the interiors, then the envelope and then the structure in the same order have a carbon footprint. And hence tackling the issues each one poses in the same order would be an intelligent start. After the iconic aspect of a building the most important is its indoor quality. The Interior spaces thus have a potential and a large influence in the general scheme of things. The industry is just about getting out of its nascent stages and clearly a lot of interest and input from various other bodies will be required. When I say NASA has an interest in Green Buildings, that they are finally looking at more earthly ventures, it means something. The idea is for innovation to thrive, an integrated approach is but for, essential. There are unfortunately no two ways about it.
When I find sustainable lines of clothing like Green Owl, or sustainable lines of jewelry, stationery, cars, computers, footwear, cosmetics, plastics, its a revelation into the potential and the gains for the entire world in turning green. Its not just the Building sector. Its the new phenomenon.
Green is the new Black. However its not Black ofcourse.
P.S. Happy singapore Green Week!