FALLEN OUT WITH SUSTAINABILITY

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Seriously. Sustainability is not a real word. It is common sense re-packaged as a buzzword and sold off as the latest earth changing idea.

That just about sums up the over consuming attitude of human beings in the twenty first century. Here, have a bottle of water for £1.50!

Sustainable design is a phrase invented by a generation of guilt ridden people, digging themselves out of their previous gullible adoration of a bunch of crazy egotistical ‘modernists’ who selfishly indulged in creating bigger than life artworks, loosely disguised as buildings, urban sprawl, and townscapes that didn’t make any natural sense.

I was born in Britain in the late 80’s. This means that I grew up in this ‘sustainability’ retrofitting, oh-the-high-rises-were-awful, lets all learn from our mistakes era. Sustainability has become this key word that is supposed to explain how the world can change for the better and how we can right all the wrongs. And yet, my generation quite simply just accepts that this is common sense. No need to feel guilty, no need to invent phrases and re-package the obvious into a grand scheme to end all problems. Sustainability is just common sense.

If people want to live more effectively, healthily and joyfully - grow your own vegetables, or get them from nearby; be near a source of water, have greenery all around you; build buildings with lots of light but enough shelter, that keep you warm or cold depending on what country you’re in, but passively; provide outdoor spaces, parks, places for people to enjoy and relax; provide a systematic transit system or walkable distances, and well thought out infrastructure.

There’s a reason why there are several ‘zero carbon city’ schemes cropping up. It’s because it’s easy, simple, we have the technology and it makes common sense. Not because it’s ‘sustainable’.

Do you want to live/work/socialise in a building that is overshadowed, has no views, faces north or requires an obscene amount of electrically run technology just to heat, light and ventilate it? No, didn’t think so. Stop calling it sustainable design then. Just call it common sense and human nature.

ARCHITECTURE & FEMININITY

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With the recent success of the Architects’ Journal Women in Architecture Awards last month,  the outrage over the 21 all male speakers at the RIAS Convention this month and stumbling upon Parlour archiparlour.org – it made me remember and revisit it. Hope you enjoy my insight into how I’ve found femininity in the architecture profession.

The more I learn about architecture the more I realise and accept that my designs are actually quite feminine.

In my five years of studying and working I have been pretty cautious and somewhat scared of designing what I like - organic shapes, curves, ornamentation, soft colours, delicate designs, subtle and elegant details. I’ve tried to train my brain to think and design along the lines of my co-workers and fellow students. Tutors always claiming the concept isn’t bold enough. It’s taken time, and trust in my self and my own opinion to understand that what I like and naturally aspire to design isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

Near the beginning of this term in a lecture about Adolf Loos I realised that being a modernist (of which we are all victim to, given our time) is to degrade ornamentation and reject nature. He was responsible for training generations of budding designers into thinking that clean and simple was the answer. Nature represents femininity. Nature is delicate, pretty, organic and subtle. It could be argued that abolishing ornamentation is to get rid of the feminine.

Without ornamentation, buildings wouldn’t have personalities, would they? Even Adolf Loos created a fairly ornamental bedroom for his wife despite being the man that proclaimed that ‘ornamentation = crime’. Is this because ornamentation is a feminine attribute or is it because architecture should be free from ornamentation, in order that personality can be injected into it by each of the individual occupiers?

My analogy is this : I have never dressed prettily, flowery, girly or frilly. I like my staple clean cut items, my mono block colours, my simple pallet. But I always always brighten this up, funk it up, or punk it up for whatever the occasion requires or my mood takes me with jewellery and accessories. I inject my personality and ornamentation into the outfit.

As a society, generally speaking we no longer express our wealth and status through our fashion. Sure, clothes can still be more expensive and of a higher quality, but there are no longer detailed, delicate folk dresses. Men no longer wear inner coats, outer coats, jackets, belts, suspenders, waistcoats and a pocket watch. We have modernised our fashion, throwing out the ornamentation to some extent.

This is a similar situation within architecture. We no longer spend extortionate amounts of money on a gold leaf and intricately carved marble lobby. It’s simply constructed and then interior furnishings are purchased to ‘jazz the place up’.

So do I have a right to criticise modernism, blame it for the lack of feminine ornamentation and suggest that the industry is more masculine when I myself walk around wearing examples of modernist design and the effect of de-ornamentation?