Sustainability isn’t a trend but must be adopted as a lifestyle especially with the human race having driven the earth to become unwell. It is not just about planting a bulk of trees. It is about a lot more than that; it is about up-cycling. It is about giving back to nature what we took from her. However, prioritizing sustainability does not necessarily mean compromising on aesthetics. A beautiful looking building can be sustainable. A dynamic building can be sustainable. 

These 10 architects explored below have contributed hugely to encourage the current generation to green in all aspects of life. 

1. James Wines

“The 20th century began with architects inspired by a new industrial and technological era. I can understand that it was inspirational in 1910, however, this does not make any sense in today’s post-industrial world, with IT and ecology”- James Wines

Pioneering sustainable design and organic architecture, Wines is also dedicated to sculpting among many other art forms. He believes in creating spaces of communication by a merger of environmental art and architecture. His firm’s experimentation is oriented towards “living” urban spaces, such as town squares, open spaces, parking lots and motorways. A notable project “Sea and Islands Expo ‘89” in Hiroshima, features the Four Continents Bridge which combines various types of vegetation from different continents across the world.

Wine worked with the concept of “inversion, provocation and re-defining reality”. His innovations led to the design of a black light bulb that does not emit light, instead, it comes from the bulb housing that disrupts spatial perception and challenges our reactions to the environment and conventions. Driven by the urge of bringing about positive changes in people’s lifestyles, James has successfully created influential sustainable designs. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIId5Lb8t1E –We are swamped by shapes you can make with a computer.

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2. Ken Yeang

This Malaysian architect, ecologist, planner, and author has received countless achievements in Green Architecture. Coining the term “Eco-mimicry” that describes the process of designing buildings to imitate the properties of nature, Yeang believes that “If you don’t imitate nature, you’re going against it”. 

Ken designed the “bioclimatic skyscraper”, the high-rise that performs as a passive low-energy building responding to its location and local climate. Its orientation, surrounding vegetation, the response of the structure to this vegetation is what makes it sustainable. He was also an admirer of visual aesthetics and believed that unpleasant looking buildings are rejected by the public without a second thought. The Singapore National Library was awarded the highest rating (Platinum) under Singapore’s Green Mark system and is one of his most celebrated projects.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IHac-khwLE –Saving the world by ecological design.

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3. Didi Contractor

A self-taught architect based in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, India, with no formal training in architecture, Didi has specialized in mud, bamboo, and stone structures. Didi Contractor aka Delia Kinzinger comes from an artistic background with her parents being painters causing her to realize her true passion very late in life which is Architecture. She has been practicing sustainability for about three decades. She mastered the art of handling her three star materials and there was no going back. 

Her green practice belies the appearance of her designs that work in a Yin-Yang harmonious relation with nature. Not dynamic, her structures grow from the earth and blend into nature. She believes to give back to the environment what we took from it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmksF4-DYrw –Didi contractor; Marrying the Earth to the building- A documentary.

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4. Glen Murcutt

With an extraordinary career run, Glen started off about 50 years ago designing simple, Modernist buildings turning to his country’s traditional building concept of  long, narrow buildings, sustainably built set on stilts and positioned to take advantage of the sun and winds for heating and cooling, and with open floor plans to ensure good air circulation. 

Once popular only in Australia, Murcutt today has a reputation all over the world being a recipient of the Pritzker Architecture award in 2002. Glen’s work is known to be “tempered by the land and climate of his native Australia,” and his project the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre is considered a masterpiece. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYEbgU7xZHA –Belonging.

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5. Renzo Piano

Piano’s remarkable episode in the field of architecture was when he went on to become a Pritzker Prize-winning architect and a landmark in sustainable design for a low-profile natural history museum and research facility marquee project; The new California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park,   the largest public building ever to attain a LEED Platinum rating.

Renzo Piano doesn’t modify the surroundings to adapt to his building but builds structures that adapt to the surrounding. He lets his imagination soar then incorporates eco-friendly elements into the resulting designs.  “Understanding the nature, respecting flora and fauna, placing properly buildings and installations, exploiting light and wind” is what drives Piano in the completion of his own projects.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RgMot4BoXs –An interview.

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6. Chitra Vishwanath

Stylish structures can be affordable and eco-friendly; proves a very efficient and pioneering Green Architect, Chitra Vishwanath. She combines modern-day techniques with vernacular wisdom and creates extravagant designs with low carbon footprints.   

Creating spaces that use natural resources consciously reduce waste, her firm BIOME based in Bangalore, India has over 500 projects in India and Africa. Chitra indulges in working with local materials and strives to create self-sufficient designs by harnessing rainwater, sun, and wind. Her preferable materials are compressed, stabilized blocks and rammed earth which is effective for load-bearing structures.

Her team believes that “Eco-friendliness cannot be a fashion statement but a way of life”. She continues to use this ideology and implement it in urban settings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMiekG0IJfM –Ecological Architecture.

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7. William McDonough

McDonough’s buildings are designed to function for a predetermined lifespan, after which they can be demolished and its various parts can be used as core design solutions for different projects. He engages himself in creations that have impacts on the bodies and the world with healthy materials that took him a lifetime to investigate, but he came out victorious. 

Up-cycling materials being his motto, William believed that materials should be composed of “technical” and “biological nutrients.” (Technical nutrients consist of materials that can be reused in a closed-loop industrial system, while biological nutrients refer to materials that can break down to reenter the environment.)

Through his successful experiments in the field, McDonough has changed the way Architecture is perceived; in relation to the environment. “What I’m trying to look at is how we make humans supportive of the natural world, the way the natural world is supportive of us.” -William McDonough

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pg6OxQ7vOg –Design as Optimism.

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8. Thom Mayne

“We will hold to that which is difficult because it is difficult … and by its difficulty is worthwhile.” –Thom Mayne

This Pritzker Architecture award winner has ideologies different from most architects out there. He believes that a building does not have to look a certain way or meet specific standards to be considered green and sustainable. Thom hopes that people don’t consider LEED standards the final word for sustainable architecture.

Some of his works include the San Francisco Federal Building and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite operations center in Maryland, incorporating green roofs, solar power, and thermally efficient outer-wall designs. Mayne sets a statement with each project and continues to abide by his own definition of sustainability, not needing any validation. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-onVz1D_uc–Architecture is a new way to connect the world.

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9. Eric Corey Freed

Having practiced sustainability for over 20 years, Freed has helped thousands of companies monetize sustainability by showing them how to cut their real estate operations costs in half. His book, “Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies” was a bestseller with over 200,000 copies in print. Eric is considered a figurehead in the field of Architecture; named by San Francisco Magazine “Best Green Architect” in 2005 and “Best Visionary” in 2007. 

He worked on the principle of creating structures that blend seamlessly with their environment, reflecting characteristics of site context. Eric mostly works as a consultant for major firms and advocates for innovative approaches to be incorporated into the design. “In the near future, everyone will measure their impacts,” says Freed. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QIxj0AC-R0 –The future of Green Architecture.

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10. Peter Busby

Peter has been a pioneer in educating people and demonstrating new techniques to use natural resources and energy more efficiently, his work focusing mainly on catering to people’s needs. “Our work should combine aesthetic, emotional, cultural, social, and environmental missions,” he says. Busby was mentored by the sustainability guru Ray Cole, and he preaches that green design is always part of good design. 

Dockside Green, a mixed-use community in Victoria, Van Dusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre and The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, are some of his notable works. Busby is a reputed “power catalyst in the growth of the green architecture movement”. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM-PJv9n2bc –The search for zero carbon impact.

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Pallavi Nayak
Author

Currently pursuing Architecture, Pallavi is in her final year of B.Arch. Being a passionate Architecture student,she’s developed a vast technical and hand-based skill-set. Finally, having had time this lockdown, she revoked her love for reading about the field which ultimately led her to believe that “Form does follow Function”.

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