VLADIMIR BELOGOLOVSKY, curator-architect
In recent times the term «green architecture» has been widely associated with projects that are sustainable, economic, and ecologically friendly. The global economic crisis has accelerated the transition of these innovative projects from being seen as intriguing and prestigious to becoming both practical and profitable. The exhibition, GreenHouse, features 12 examples of «green architecture» from around the world: Landscapes (architecture that mutates into landscape), Materials (buildings made of alternative materials), Communities (eco-communities and eco-cities), and Technologies (examples of sustainable technologies). The selected projects explore various aspects of sustainability and celebrate new ways of reaching an organic interaction between architecture and nature.
In its current stage of development, architecture and nature are in a state of conflict. Buildings unquestionably have a destructive influence on the ecosystem of our planet. They account for about a third of the world's emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning, two-fifths of acid rain-causing carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides, consume at least 40 % of the world's energy, produce up to 40% of the world's greenhouse gases, and generate 40% of world's solid waste. The scale of modern construction is so enormous that it is no longer possible not to use innovative sustainable technology. Nevertheless, we cannot reduce the merits of architecture to its ability not to cause environmental damage. That is not enough. It is architects, not ecologists and technologists, who are confronted with the task, existing since the earliest of times, of finding a form of artistic and organic integration of architecture into the environment.
In his provocative book, Landscapers, American architectural critic Aaron Betsky criticizes the very idea of any construction: «Buildings replace the land,» he writes in oversized type, «That is architecture's original sin. A building makes something new, but does not do so in a void. What was once open land, filled with sunlight and air, with a distinct relationship to the horizon, becomes a building... [that] stops air, sunlight, and views.»
The GreenHouse exhibition presents distinctive, organic architectural projects that successfully dismiss this idea of architecture's «original sin.» They stand out among other «green» projects, which tend to reduce architecture to such technological devices as utilization of rain water, air purification, use of photovoltaic batteries, and so on. Architecture is going through another revolution -technological. Never before has concern over the technological performance of buildings been promoted so widely. Such an approach leads to very concrete, positive results. Already, modern technologies are able dramatically lower the magnitude and the seriousness of the present ecological situation. Sustainable buildings and even new eco- cities, which will be self-sustained, carbon neutral, and virtually waste-free, are being designed and built in various parts of the world. There is no question that humanity will be able to put an end to further contamination of the environment.
The main goal of the GreenHouse exhibition is to demonstrate solutions whose technological aspects of construction enrich buildings and complexes by their aesthetical values and promote a means for expressing artistic images.
Technological innovations by themselves are not able to replace architectural aesthetics. No matter how drastically the world will change, no matter what level of technical advancement humanity will achieve, architects will always be confronted with the same eternal and great mission -to strive for harmony between architectural form and landscape, city, society, and nature as a whole.
«We will win only then, - says the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, -when the word 'green' will lose its connotation in the context of sustainability. In the future there will be no 'green cars' or buildings because all cars and buildings will be sustainable.»
Architecture begins only there and then, when all construction, technical, social, and other issues have been solved. Its cultural, social, and technological contexts have been changed over time, but its true task remains the same: to give poetic form to the pragmatic.
NEW YORK, JUNE 2009