The Magazine of AIA Minnesota
January - February 2007
Vol. 33 No. 1
Gotta Have It
A few years back, someone—I can’t remember who—asked me to name four or five things I couldn’t live without. The answers came easily: Diet Coke, air-conditioning, Tylenol PM, and my CD collection. I’m not exactly proud of this list—I would have preferred to say bicycle, library card, and Naked Juice—but there it is. Fast-forward to the present, and my cell phone has been upgraded from convenience to true necessity. Oh, and with my MP3 player always close at hand, I’ve nearly forgotten what CDs look like.
But after assembling this forward-looking issue, I imagine I’ll be setting my sights a little higher in the years and decades ahead. For example, I know that if I ever live or work in a space in which a wall serves variously as a wall, a window, a light source, a TV, a communication device, a touch screen, a digital artwork, and a sound system, I’ll never go back to just a plain old wall. Who in their right mind would? And the magic wall is just a drop in the bucket. The smart buildings of the future will adjust—even change shape—in response to changing conditions outside (wind, temperature, sunlight) and inside (e.g., number of occupants). Once we get a taste of buildings that recognize us and adjust to our preferred settings for visual and acoustic privacy and thermal comfort, we’ll wonder how we ever did without.
Likewise, in the not-so-distant future, when the effects of climate change have multiplied, carbon-neutral, zero-emission buildings (page 42) that generate their own renewable energy will be the only acceptable way to build. In fact, sustainable design may become a redundant term, since all design will, by necessity, be centrally concerned with renewable energy and environmental stewardship.
In his feature article on a future course for architectural practice (page 38), Thomas Fisher, Assoc. AIA, highlights two sustainable projects—Druk White Lotus School in India’s Himalayan Mountains, by the multinational firm Arup Associates, and Calhoun Photography Studio in New Orleans, by Minneapolis firm Shelter Architecture—that are designed for extreme environmental conditions. “What makes the Arup project noteworthy,” Fisher writes, “is how the designers used the school not just to do a lot for people who have very little, but also to demonstrate how we might all have to build in the future, when energy and water resources are as scarce in the rest of the world as they are in the high-altitude desert of Ladakh.” Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Shelter is helping to rebuild a celebrated studio that was destroyed in the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. The new studio’s first-floor gallery is designed to allow floodwaters to pass through, should disaster strike again.
Photographers Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick Calhoun and the teachers and students at the Himalayan school can appreciate how indispensable the right kind of architecture can be. Soon enough, sustainable design will be something none of us can live without. I just hope there’s eco-friendly refrigeration in the future. My Diet Coke has got to be ice cold. Christopher