From Vitruvius followed by Alberti and Laugier to Semper, and many others who have communicated many notions and theories within Architecture through their writings deemed the primitive hut as the origin of buildings. All of them largely argued that the primitive hut was the product of human needs against the changing seasons of nature and that it is where humans by imitation started building more combinations and arrangements to shelter themselves.
But most certainly not anyone acknowledged and pressed the fact that maybe that was also the origin of human estrangement from the environment. That is the critical point when humans anticipated themselves distinct from other animal species, the most superior among all and ultimately as someone who can control nature, as someone capable to and dominate it as per their exigency.
It would not be wrong to say that in this marathon of superiority, we have traveled a definite long way. From the time humans made something to save themselves by the effect of climate to affect the climate to an extent that we are not far from that irreversible impact, from which we neither can save the planet and consequently nor ourselves. And Greta Thunberg would probably agree as while expressing herself in the TED Talk – ‘The disarming case to act right now on climate change,’ Greta states:
“ That (Climate Crisis) was something that we humans created by our way of living… I remember thinking that it was strange that humans, who are an animal species among others, could be capable of changing the Earth’s climate…Because if we were and if it was really happening we wouldn’t be talking about anything else.”
Who is Greta Thunberg?
A 15 years old girl (now 18), who commuted her vague middle-night anxiety into a worldwide movement by calling for an urgent change. Greta Thunberg began a global movement to address the complex politics of climate actions and the phenomena itself. The start happened within the walls of a classroom when a bunch of kids was shown a few documentaries about global warming and climate change.
After which she couldn’t go back to normal ever again, as the visuals from those films were stuck into her head, followed by a period of depression when she was 11. She stopped eating and talking, this switch in her routine in a very short period became evident to her parent’s eyes. And, the global movement initiated within the home, when her parents after a discussion about her anxiety took some steps towards the same cause.
Greta Thunberg skipped school in August 2018 and spent her day outside the Swedish Parliament. In sixteen months, since she addressed the heads of state at the U.N, she became a source of inspiration for 4 million people to join the climate global strike. Later, on 20th September 2019, there was the largest climate demonstration in human history. Greta became a breathing example of phrases like age doesn’t matter, voice out your thoughts, and being different means you are not special.
Her larger argument was always on the lines that when everyone keeps saying that climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all, then why nobody is functioning under the spectrum of sustainability crisis and essentially seeking a difference. To her, there is no grey area when it comes to the climate crisis and initiatives towards sustainability. To her, the fact is very clear: if emissions have to stop, then the emissions must be stopped, it is either black or white.
Greta Thunberg and Architecture?
The discipline of Architecture has a direct relation with the climate crisis. As our buildings don’t lie in isolation, they are built in the environment. It is that layer which by its boundaries define the interior and the exterior and creates an impact on both of them. As per the stats, the construction sector contributes to about 23% of air pollution, 50% of climatic change, 40% of drinking water pollution, and about 50% of landfill waste.
In separate research by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the construction industry accounts for 40% of worldwide energy usage, with estimations that by 2030 emissions from commercial buildings will grow by 1.8%.
Though the crisis in hand requires more attention than it holds, there exists a large community within the profession of Architecture, which has been working in direct relation to the cause Greta is seeking an effect, that is people working with and in the spectrum of green and sustainable building. To mention a few representatives, they come out to be Laurie Baker, Ashok. B. Lall Architects, India, Perkins+Will, Chicago, Foster + Partners, London, Chitra Vishwanath, India, Nikken Sekkei, Tokyo, and SHiFt Studio by Sanjay Prakash.
Many other architecture firms and leading architects engage with environmental factors on a preliminary stage to make climate-responsive structures but all of them in some way or other acquire similar belief systems and patterns, which falls on similar lines of Greta’s approach for the movement.
- Embracing bioclimatic spatial design techniques
This is a way of designing the building based on its surrounding, that is local climate, by ensuring thermal comfort using eco-friendly methods and hence saving conventional energy.
- Preserving water resources
This includes the consideration of various factors which can have an impact on the natural water resources within the building area and hence exploring ways to improve water efficiency and management from a design aspect.
- Minimizing Waste Discharge
This aspect becomes one of the central factors from the very starting to the end of the project and even after the building gets operational inhabited by its users.
- Retaining the environment green
This includes the design interventions which help in preserving nature, by enduring wildlife and land quality by providing an intensive focus on the arrangements of various essential elements in the building.
- Contemplating all life phases of buildings
This includes the beforehand identification and consideration of all the elements and factors that can create an impact on the socio-environmental qualities of the building.
Undoubtedly, if Greta ever decides to join architecture and decides to make buildings, her approach would be on similar lines where being the world’s youngest climate activist asking for a difference would work towards the different kinds of architecture which will bring a positive change in the crisis. “This moment does feel different”, says Al Gore, the former Vice President of the United States who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his decades of climate advocacy.
Hope Against Hope?
But as Greta says people start talking about hopes at the end, let’s make it a little more real and stop attentively falling for hope. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome OCD and doesn’t operate like many others when it comes to emotional sensitivity, she dislikes crowds and she can’t be distracted or faltered. This is followed by what she describes as selective mutism, which is she speaks only when she thinks it is necessary. Where others smile to neutralize the gravity of the situation, Thunberg is withering. And, henceforth, she doesn’t speak the language of hope.
“Oceans will rise. Cities will flood, millions of people will suffer.
I want you to panic, feel the fear I feel every day, and then act.”
— Greta Thunberg; Ordinary teenage girl with courage against power
- Vitruvius, Cesare Cesariano, and Carol Herselle. Krinsky. 1969. Vitruvius De Architectura . München: Fink, Print.
- Alberti, 2007 .Leon Battista. De Re Aedificatoria.Tres Cantos: Akal, Print.
- Laugier, Marc. 1755. An Essay on Architecture, Printed for T. Osborne and Shipton in London.
- Time. 2021. Greta Thunberg Is TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year. [online] Available at: <https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/>.
- The Year of Greta. 2021. The Year of Greta. [online] Available at: <https://theyearofgreta.com/>.
- TheHill. 2021. How Greta Thunberg’s autism helped make her the world’s most important person for 2020. [online] Available at: <https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/468091-opinion-activist-greta-thunbergs-autism-doesnt-hold-her-back>.
- Thuneberg, A. 2019, The disarming case to act right now on climate change. Available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2QxFM9y0tY> .