Harvard University - GSD (Quilian)



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    what's your word?

    Quilian Riano
    Sep 18, '06 7:31 AM EST

    This is the first on what I can only imagine will be a series of rants/thoughts/questions/requests.

    In this first such post I have a request.
    I would love to see all the words that archinecters (and others) use to describe design that innovatively engages natural, environmental, and climatic systems, and seeks to use as little resources (energy, etc...) as possible. Examples: Green, Sustainable, High Performance, Eco-Design, etc...

    If you can, also please post why you use it (even if you use it disparagingly), and what the potential positive and negative connotations are for the word you use. Finally, please give a suggestion for a word that you think might be better to describe such design?


    Well throughout the week I have had conversations with people, and it seems like there are no good words to describe the design I mentioned above. Not only that, but certain words seem to turn people off to the subject completely. I myself do not think that words like green and sustainable really convey what people want them to. For example, a doctor friend of mine who is a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility ( once told me that he didn't like the word ”˜sustainability'. Why? Well he says that it gives an impression of a “status quo” world. He is of the opinion that most people involved in ”˜environmental, green, sustainable' field are really trying to innovatively improve the ”˜status quo'. I mostly agree, although cannot find a suitable substitute.

    Furthermore, in the design field people seem to run away from ”˜green' and ”˜sustainability' labels as if they were the plague. Many of the best-known architects will engage the environment, but wholeheartedly refuse the label. I applaud them as I am of the opinion that the right word to use for buildings that innovatively engage natural, environmental, and climatic systems, and seek to use as little resources as possible, is this simple and elegant word: ARCHITECTURE. Still, I do think that we need a descriptive word for now, and I am sure archinecters have opinions on the subject.

    What is your word? Why? What would be better?

    you can post answers and get invovled in the discussion in this very blog or here

    Oh, that poor Kermit


    • Arnaud M.

      Ecosystem, Phylogenesis, Organisms, Cooperation, Collaboration, Interaction, swarm behaviour, community, biomimetics, self-sufficient...

      Sep 18, 06 9:34 am  · 

      I use biomimetic quite a bit myself.

      Sep 18, 06 10:43 pm  · 





      wave, weave, woven

      not exactly direct, but instrically related:
      Global Value
      Cheese and Rice

      also used, when being specific:

      In general, I agree there isn't a set vocabulary to discuss the type of design you are referring to, but there never is... because "THAT" type of design (like any type of any thing) means different things to different people. You'll find the words you seek, just keep burrowing through the funk.

      Sep 18, 06 11:41 pm  · 

      Hi +q, nice blog. I'll be checking it often as I am looking into the GSD for next fall MArch II, and my objectives for graduate study seem to be aligned with yours.

      Now, as for that word...

      I agree with you that walking around saying that you're doing 'sustainable architecture' really gets you nowhere, and not just because other architects will turn up their noses at you... it's just not a word charged with meaning anymore.

      But one should ask, for whom is the "word" for? If it's to position oneself in a dialogue with other architects and designers, I'm not sure it really matters that much at all. You could pick one of zircon's crafty words and just do your own thing.

      But we're architects, and we need to be able to relate to the public, to a dialogue outside of architecture as well as inside of it. After all, if you are going to have success with building your ideas about "climatic architecture", you will need to build a climate in the public realm where clients can recognize and approach you for your specific strategy of whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

      EcoLogical Architecture: a logic that gives you feedback about the environment to inform your design--that works for a discussion with architects, and the term itself is acceptable with the general public because ecology is taught in highschool textbooks (hope they were paying attention in 10th grade...).

      Site Intelligence (I think I have heard that term before) I like this one because it doesn't scream "I AM SAVING THE WORLD HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" It's simple, it just means that the building effort is collaborative, and in a funny way, the site itself is the BOSS, governing decisions on the site. Of course the architect is the spokesperson for the Site, and herein probably lies all the beauty and the ugliness of it. Not sure if you're average educated Joe would know what I'm talking about though.

      Thanks for this discussion...

      By the way, who are the professors that you are looking to work with over there? I like what Alan Berger is doing, is he accessible to architecture students?


      Sep 19, 06 4:29 am  · 

      kasa, I am not sure. On this issue, I hear good things about Mattias Schuler

      One thing that impressed me thoguh, is that even in the required History course we are learning of the post-war movement of architecture as ecology, more to follow.


      Sep 19, 06 6:45 am  · 

      one book that is interesting... and fueled a lot of my own interest in the aforementioned design is called "the spell of the sensuous" by david abram...

      it's a pretty wild book and is not necessarily the most pointed, accurate source for information-- but it brings up a lot of issues that confront architecture and environment. i reccommend it to exercise your already probing thoughts.

      by the way quilian, how are you liking gsd?

      Sep 19, 06 4:39 pm  · 

      I would say "good design" but I don't think that's any better than "Architecture". It's a shame that buzz words have become more important than actually living up to what those words mean. I guess it just comes down to doing what feels right and never blindly accepting precedent; forget the "labels."

      Sep 20, 06 1:49 pm  · 

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