GREEN ARCHITECTURE


GREEN ARCHITECTURE
   Perhaps the most current of architectural movements today, Green architecture refers to ecologically sensitive construction that takes into account new environmental concerns and the psychological needs of people, who are seen as increasingly divorced from nature. This architecture is characterized by an energy-efficient organic design that blends into its natural surroundings. Like Critical Regionalism, Green architecture is typically made from local materials and takes into account its cultural context, but with an increased emphasis on energy-saving design and technical features that aid in the conservation and preservation of the earth's dwindling resources. Although nature-centered architecture is receiving a new emphasis now, it is not a new idea but can be found throughout history. In the early 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in Bear Run, Pennsylvania, from 1935 to 1939, was constructed atop a waterfall with local stone, wood, and concrete in the form of a series of horizontally oriented porches, patios, and open-plan interior spaces covered by continuous glass windows.
   Although stylistically different from Wright's work, the rural churches of Wright's student E. Fay Jones in Arkansas are built upon these nature-centered principles. His Thorncrown Chapel (1980) in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is made from thin pine timbers that cross each other to create a diamond-shaped support system for the glass walls. Rising from its wooded surroundings with a sharply gabled roof that directs the viewer's eyes upward, the chapel is spare in its modernism, yet with a subtle spiritual symbolism. The scale of the building is not overwhelming, as Jones instructed that no material be used that could not be carried into the wooded area by two men. Modeled on the late Gothic church of Sainte-Chappelle in Paris, the style of the Thorncrown Chapel is sometimes called "Ozark Gothic."
   Renzo Piano, known for his High-Tech architecture, has also begun to focus on more "green" designs in his structures. In 1991 Piano was commissioned to design the Tjibaou Cultural Center in Nouméa, New Caledonia. With the advice of local Kanak peoples, Piano used native materials to create a series of 10 beehive-shaped structures joined together by a "spine" of low horizontal buildings that recall a native South Pacific village. These beehive structures are open at the top, giving an unfinished appearance that symbolizes the continued evolution of the Kanak peoples toward their final destiny, an idea central to Kanak belief systems. Using sophisticated technology within a traditional aesthetic, this structure alludes to both the past and the future and is sometimes called "eco-tech" architecture.
   Jean Nouvel's Foundation Cartier, built in Paris in 1994, is also a highly technical structure, but in this case it is one that responds to the remnants of nature found in its urban context. Built on a busy, wide street, its esplanade boasts a line of cedar trees planted by François Chateaubriand, which are framed within a glass curtain wall constructed in front of the structure. The building itself is made from multiple layers of glass curtain walls that extend beyond and above the glass "box" of the actual building, thus blurring the distinction between interior and exterior space in a more sophisticated way than mid-century glass structures could achieve.
   The next step in Green architecture is to increase efficiency in heating, cooling, water use, and lighting in these buildings to better preserve the earth's resources, while at the same time improving the quality of life with less expensive housing and increased levels of comfort in both the exterior and interior environmental ambience of these structures.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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