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Book review of The Greening of Architect

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Journal of Architectural Education
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The Greening of Architecture: A Critical History
and Survey of Contemporary Sustainable
Architecture and Urban Design
Vandana Baweja
University of Florida
Published online: 06 Mar 2015.
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To cite this article: Vandana Baweja (2015) The Greening of Architecture: A Critical History and Survey of
Contemporary Sustainable Architecture and Urban Design, Journal of Architectural Education, 69:1, 121-122, DOI:
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10464883.2015.989005
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Downloaded by [University of Florida] at 12:27 06 March 2015
The Greening of Architecture:
A Critical History and Survey
of Contemporary Sustainable
Architecture and Urban Design
Phillip James Tabb and
A. Senem Deviren
Ashgate, 2014
216 pages, 215 black-and-white
$54.95 (softcover)
The Greening of Architecture: A Critical
History and Survey of Contemporary
Sustainable Architecture and Urban Design
is a historical survey of architecture’s disciplinary engagement with
environmental discourse starting
with the rise of the modern environmental movement that began
in the 1960s with the publication of
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962.
The Greening of Architecture traces the
paradigmatic transformation of green
architecture and urbanism from its
beginnings, as a set of remedial practices to offset the negative impact of
architecture and urbanism, to more
holistic multidisciplinary practices
that engage ecology through systemic processes. The book, vast in its
scope, is a linear chronological narrative organized along decades—1960s,
1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
The introductory chapter
situates how environmental and
architectural histories intersect.
Although “green architecture” is
a relatively new term, the authors
argue that architecture and urbanism
have a long history of environmental
adaptive strategies beginning with
ancient Greek civilization. The
second chapter on the 1960s chronicles how the prevalent modernist
architectural practices were questioned by environmental discourses
as environmentalism entered public
consciousness. The authors locate
texts from the disciplines of architecture and urbanism, such as the
Olgyay brothers’ Design with Climate
(1963) and Ian McHarg’s Design with
Nature (1969), within emerging environmentalism. Design with Climate
was a manifesto for an alternative
modernism that questioned the universality of a fossil fuel–dependent
architecture. Design with Nature proposed a system through which tracts
of land that needed to be preserved
could be distinguished from land that
was most suited for development.
The third chapter addresses
how events such as the demolition
of Pruitt-Igoe and the OPEC oil
embargo impacted architectural discourses and practice in the 1970s. The
chapter chronicles how the renewed
interest in research on solar architecture, fueled by the OPEC crisis,
produced a range of responses that
included the development of active
and passive solar technologies, optimal urban configurations to harness
solar energy, off-the-grid projects,
and solar communities. Research on
solar architecture—supported by
Congress’s Solar Energy Research,
Development, and Demonstration
Act—led to significant progress
in the application of active solar
technologies with advances in solar
collector designs. Institutional
projects—such as the Colorado
School of Mines (1975) by Anderson,
Mason, and Dale architects and the
Celestial Seasonings Headquarters
Building (1977) by Joint Venture
Architects—were at the forefront of
innovations in active solar technology. Developments in active solar
technology were directed at improving solar cell efficiency and reducing
cost, in order to make active solar
technologies mass consumable.
The emergence of postmodern
discourse is addressed in the fourth
chapter on the 1980s. This chapter
synthesizes the cultural responses
to the placelessness of modern
architecture and urbanism with environmental solutions to the problems
produced by modern architecture
and sprawl. The next chapter in the
book, on the 1990s, examines how
the Brundtland Report, published
in 1987, transformed architectural
practice in the 1990s. Sustainable
development was first defined in
the Brundtland Report, titled Our
Common Future, as development that
“meets the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of
future generations to meet their own
needs.” 1 Consequently, architecture
and urbanism emerged as the key
areas of intervention to achieve sustainable development. This chapter
chronicles multiple technological
responses to sustainability such as
the rise of digital technologies to
achieve economies of environmental performance, experiments with
tectonic expressions of sustainability, emergence of the eco-technic
paradigm, the simultaneous rise of
low-tech building types, and the
emergence of environmental assessment rubrics such as Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED). This chapter is based
on the premise that architecture
absorbed the idea of sustainability
largely as a technological solution to
achieve efficiencies of environmental
The further development of
green architecture and urbanism in this century constitutes the
chapter on the 2000s. The authors
propose that achieving sustainability required diverse strategies at
different scales, from the molecular
composition of building materials to
regional transportation systems. This
complexity led to the engagement
with different disciplines to generate heterogeneous discourses on
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sustainable architecture and urbanism. As a response to the imbalance
between anthropogenic activities
and earth’s regenerative and carrying
capacity, new nature-inspired biological paradigms—cradle to cradle,
biomimicry, and ecological design—
entered the field of design. Along
with the development of new paradigms that redefined architecture’s
production and consumption cycles,
the authors trace the evolution of
green architecture and urbanism
as empirical domains of enquiry
through the development of performance matrices—the carbon cycle,
ecological footprint, and zero net
energy (ZNE)—that define and measure “greenness.” The penultimate
chapter is a brief account of global
developments in green architecture,
which is followed by a chapter that
sums up the book.
The relationship between architecture and sustainability is largely
defined by applied environmental,
construction, and material sciences.
Architectural histories that explore
architecture’s relationship with
the histories of environment, such
as Peder Anker’s From Bauhaus to
Ecohouse (Louisiana State University
Press, 2010), constitute a small and
expanding field. This book fills an
important gap by presenting the first
broad history survey of green architecture. The book’s most important
contribution is its synthesis of
cultural and environmental histories of architecture. It is a valuable
and much needed addition to the
disciplines of architectural and environmental histories.
Vandana Baweja is an Assistant
Professor in the School of
Architecture and the Sustainability
Program at the University of Florida.
She received her PhD in history
and theory of architecture at the
University of Michigan in 2008. She
was trained as an architect in New
Delhi and received a master’s in the
history and theory of architecture at
the Architectural Association (AA)
School of Architecture in London.
Her research focuses on the history of tropical architecture along
the networks of the British Empire.
She has presented her work at several conferences nationally and
internationally. She was awarded
the Oberlin-Michigan Exchange
Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2008.
1 World Commission on Environment
Development, Our Common Future (Oxford and
New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).
Broadcasting Buildings:
Architecture on the Wireless,
Shundana Yusaf
MIT Press, 2014
352 pages, 77 black-and-white
$29.95 (hardcover)
From the title, I thought this was a
book about buildings for broadcasting from. But it’s not—it’s about
architecture on the radio, architecture as a subject for broadcasting.
If what distinguishes architecture
from building is its capacity to be
spoken about, to draw language
into its orbit, then the question of
the medium becomes important. A
journal article, like this, differs from
an impromptu conversation. And
in the history of new media, radio
offered a radically different means
of representing architecture and the
built environment. Though it robbed
architecture of its visual and material
properties, the disembodied voice
of the speaker inside the listener’s
home turned out to be a singularly
effective means of asserting the symbolic function of architecture, and of
re-creating its aura. In the plethora
of studies on architecture’s relationship to its media of representation,
Yusaf takes a topic that no one has
looked at before and has written a
clever and perceptive account of
architecture broadcasting in the early
years of radio.
The book is about the British
Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC’s)
architecture programs during the
first eighteen years of its existence.
Halfway through, there is a remarkable statistic: that for every two
programs about visual arts—painting and sculpture—there were nine
about architecture and the built
environment. And there were twice
as many programs about architecture and the environment as there
were about literature. By 1939, the
BBC was broadcasting one program
a day that had something to do with
architecture or the environment.
Furthermore, these programs heavily favored topics having to do with
modern architecture and design.
Without doubt the BBC’s attention
to architecture was to the advantage
of architects, turning them into
public intellectuals in a way that they
never had been before, and giving
authority to a profession that still
struggled with its association with
trade. But at the same time, architecture and design topics clearly served
the interests of the BBC. It is the
story of this mutual relationship that
Yusaf unfolds so well, while at the
same time explaining why the BBC
chose to favor modernism, thereby
adding a dimension to the account of
prewar modernism in Britain that has
not been told before.
The BBC, under its first director general, John Reith, sought to
include “people previously left out
from the notion of public” (11), and