REPOST: How Architecture Should Adapt to Climate Change

With the planet’s climate rapidly changing, architects must begin designing homes and buildings with deeper understanding about weather patterns. This article published on TIME has interesting insights on this issue:

Ever since humans left their caves, providing shelter has been the focus of their architectural endeavors. Perfecting the art over time, we have come to think of buildings as permanent. When we build, we do it for eternity. Still, whenever disaster strikes, buildings invariably burn, flood or collapse. We have seen a lot of that in the news lately. Grenfell Tower, hurricanes Harvey and Irma and Maria, the Mexican earthquakes, to name a few. Confronted with the fragility of our structures — and the ever-growing power of the elements they face — we start asking questions, search for solutions and, inevitably, turn to architects for answers.

It can give one hope to see the hands-on interventions that architects have provided in the immediate aftermath of disasters. Some have turned shipping containers into shelter for evacuees and refugees. Others have transformed otherwise-disposable paper tubes into partitions in relief shelters and repurposed gymnasiums, into entire concert halls and churches. Several have built structures halfway so their future residents can complete them according to local needs. Still more have provided indoor play spaces for young children after nuclear plants melted down.

Architects have also been engaged in optimistic longer-term solutions. On the hurricane-exposed coast of the Atlantic, a group of architects has developed catastrophe-mitigation strategies that seek to work with the environment, rather than against it. (One team is led by OMA, the firm where I work.) Instead of reinforcing protection against flooding, they accept the reality of sea level rise and incorporate it into the design. Building is confined to safe areas, while vulnerable areas become buffer zones.

Though useful as they might be, the real effect of such ideas remains an open question. Certainly, they raise awareness of global catastrophic risk. But how are they to be applied in existing, densely populated urban areas — the way that now more than half of the world’s population lives? In the end, such projects mainly expose the deficiencies in the way cities have been planned, from a time when responding to climate change was not an issue. It will take more to address these issues than clever solutions devised by architects and other specialists. What is at stake is not so much how to find solutions in our struggle against the elements, but why we are at war with the elements in the first place.

Read more HERE.

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