Potentials; Green Week part 2
Part 2 - Faculty Panel
(previously: student panel
From right to left: Thomas Schroepfer
, Preston Scott Cohen
, Leland Cott
, Toshiko Mori
, Antoine Picon
, Christian Werthmann
, and the Moderator William Saunders
William Saunders started by asking a series of questions including:
-Are we facing a global crisis, if so how can design help?
-What is the appropriate role of sustainability at the GSD?
Short response and intro by the speakers:
Mori: quoting the governator, she said that Global Warming and ecological emergency are no longer debatable. Toshiko went on to propose a cross-departmental core class to give students an immersion on ecological literacy.
Picon: five points:
-the key is integration into the curriculum
-cannot fall on the pitfalls of moralistic discourse
-go beyond the object to address larger issues from material extraction to eventual dismantling
-civil engineering and the design professions will be changed radically by the environmental situations
-as a historian asks: is growth always good?
Cott: We have to re-think the curriculum. He talked about examples of design studios he has taught that have sustainability at their core. He also talked about his practice and his latest LEED platinum project
-is this too large of a problem for a single piece of architecture to solve?
-agrees with Picon's comments on moral grandstanding.
-is today's situation really that different historically?
-concluded that architects should just continue to do whatever they want and sort out how that can help with environmental issues later.comment: I felt like Scott Cohen started off a little weirdly. What does he mean what can each individual building do: a lot! Material selection, etc... can do a lot for the environment. My belief is that it is the responsibility of each individual building to make a change. He is right, however that if there is not a major shift in the architecture and urban planning culture even the most well-meaning buildings will not be able to stop that 48% fossil fuel energy use and other resource depletion. That shift has to begin with each individual building and designer. Also, it is a different historical event because, as far as I know, there has never been an unsustainable period as long as we are just finishing. We are inheriting three generation's of uncontrolled growth and a lack of interest in the issues, this is new.
Schroepfer: He is doing research looking at green buildings and communities to see if the results actually match the initial claims of sustainability.
Werthman: He is working on the green roof at the GSD. Core responsibility of design professionals: to not make spaces that harm culture while contributing an artistic cultural expression to the built environment.
Next , there was a discussion between the panelists. The best back and forth was between Scott-Cohen and Picon. Scott Cohen started saying that maybe we are more sustainable in design studios than we think, to what Picon immediately responded with utter disbelief. Picon fired back that we are not nearly close to doing enough. He sees an opportunity to finish the modern project of a process based architecture that integrates systems and performs as a machine (in this case with an environmental agenda). Leland Cott also took on Toshiko Mori's idea of a cross-departmental core class on ecological literacy and proposed starting it right away as soon as next semester as an elective. Finally, Mori and Cott also proposed a think tank to bring together the GSD faculty and the larger Harvard community in sustainability issues.
One can only hope that conversations such as these are also happening, and will continue to happen, in faculty offices and administration hallways. One question that lingers in my mind is: why the fear of framing the issue around ethics?
Every other profession has their ethical code clear, and professional designers are afraid of even mentioning the word (as per Picon's and Scott Cohen's comments). Is it fear of going back to modernism's heroic period? Is it because architecture is intrinsically tied to market and political forces? ( but ins't that the case for law and medicine also?).
The next few years should be interesting...