Creating a climate-responsive structure has many prerequisites but factors like the overall performance of a building, sustainability, using passive sources of energy, local and the most suitable materials according to the climatic conditions, and analyzing the context around are the most crucial ones.  

Prominent architects react differently to the climate change crisis as per their site context or design style, but the end goal remains the same- an efficient and environmentally friendly structure. Here is a list of famous architects who created sustainable masterpieces that are all different in design, technique, and philosophy, yet have the same intention and purpose.  

1. Charles Correa 

One of the pioneers of sustainable architecture, Charles Correa designed structures that could function independently of active sources of energy. Ahead of his times and visionary par excellence, he envisaged structures that would inherent passive building techniques and created them flawlessly. He never built glass buildings and focused on creating open to sky spaces in his layouts that would bridge the gap between the built and environment. Giving an environmentalist twist to the phrase “forms follows function”, he derived a new term “forms follows climate” emphasizing the fact that the form or profile of the structure is imperative of the climatic conditions surrounding it. 

Some of his sustainable masterpieces include the tube house, Kanchanjunga Apartments, and the National Crafts Museum. For the Kanchanjunga Apartments, he adapted the principles of vernacular architecture of old Indian bungalows like verandas and used modern materials like reinforced concrete along with cantilevered terrace gardens. Charles Correa also introduced a new construction technique called the “slip method” enabled to construct a central core, consisting of lifts, would become the main structural method for resisting lateral loads. 

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Tube House, Gujarat ©

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Concept of the Tube House, Gujarat ©

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Kanchanjunga Apartments, Mumbai ©
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Kanchanjunga Apartments, Mumbai ©

2. Laurie Baker 

British-born architect Laurie Baker dedicated more than half of his life constructing sustainable buildings in India. He not only created houses, institutional buildings, and hospitals using passive techniques but even incorporated low-cost construction methods and materials. He showcased brick jalis in his design along with exposed brickwork, rat-trap masonry, filler slabs, and vastly used local building materials for construction. Staying true to vernacular theories, he built his buildings affordably and with passive measures. His notable work includes the Indian Coffee House, Centre for Development Studies and the Laurie Baker Centre. 

Almost all of Laurie Baker’s structures inculcate these unique, easy and sustainable methods in his construction methodologies. 

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The vernacular buildings of Laurie Baker ©
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The vernacular buildings of Laurie Baker ©
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The vernacular buildings of Laurie Baker ©
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The vernacular buildings of Laurie Baker ©

3. Norman Foster 

Norman Foster, a British architect and the founder of Foster + Partners, recognized the need for creating structures that would respond well to the indisputable worry of climate change. Addressing the fact that buildings consume more than half of the energy generated in the world, and cause half of the world’s carbon emission, the teamwork around designing structures that would cater well to this social dilemma.  

An avid believer in sustainability, he announced a zero carbon and zero waste city- Masdar, in Abu Dhabi. A first of its kind, he vouched that Masdar would set new benchmarks for the sustainable cities of the future. Based on the traditional planning techniques of a “walled city” and combining them with present-day climate-responsive techniques, the city was created. A high density and mixed-used city would be car-free with a maximum distance of 200-meters to the closest transport spot and amenities which would lead to zero-carbon emission. Since Abu Dhabi has extreme climatic conditions, shaded walkways and narrow streets will create a pedestrian-friendly environment. Surroundings contain wind, photovoltaic farms, and plantations to make the city self-sustaining.  

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Masdar City, Abu Dhabi ©
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Masdar Institute at Masdar City, Abu Dhabi ©
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Masdar Institute at Masdar City, Abu Dhabi ©
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Masdar Institute at Masdar City, Abu Dhabi ©

4. Ken Yeang

“Good architecture is green architecture, but green architecture isn’t necessarily good architecture.” 

A Malaysian architect, Ken Yeang has created extraordinary green and sustainable buildings as a response to climate change. He believes that an ideal green building is one that integrates the natural environment at three levels: physically, temporally, and systematically. A career known for contributing to the goodwill of earth and nature, his prominent works include the National Library at Singapore, Eco Tower in London, and the Solaris Tower in Singapore.  

A “bioclimatic skyscraper”, the Solaris Tower is one of Ken Yeang’s most prominent designs. Varied elements like a continuous ecological spiral ramp with deep overhangs and concentrations of shade plants create ambient cooling of the façade and a vertical organic landscape establishes a refreshing shade cooling effect. Along with that the building also has a solar shaft, an eco-cell, and a naturally ventilated grand atrium.

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Solaris Tower, Singapore ©
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Solaris Tower, Singapore ©

5. Glenn Murcutt

Pritzker award winner, Glenn Murcutt is an influential Australian architect who has been inspired by the traditional buildings in his country and applied those principles to create climate-responsive structures. Inspired by the way that the wool sheds in New South Wales take full advantage of the winds for cooling and sun for heating, he built sustainable houses. Along with that, his houses used open floor plans for air circulation. He believes that a building that takes away the humidity via pipes connected to a chamber below the building, can drop the temperature enormously! Using such innovative techniques, he built the Australian Islamic Center, Moss Vale Education Centre, and the Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre.  

Glenn Murcutt says, “I’m not interested in sustainability at all. I’m interested in responsibility because it needs to go beyond sustainability. So, when we design buildings, we’ve got to use materials logically, appropriately, related to place, related to space, related to the aspect, and also to understand prospect and refuge in our design. So, the design has to be logical but beyond logical it needs to be poetic.”   

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Magney House ©
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Simpson-Lee House, Wahroonga ©
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Australian Islamic Centre, Melbourne ©
Donaldson House, Sydney ©

A solid response to climate change is not an “option” anymore but the need of the hour and these legendary architects have taken us one step closer to the world of sustainability. We can learn, adapt, re-invent, innovate, and create new techniques for the fight against climate change.   


Aishwarya Khurana is an architect and creative writer, who likes to express herself through humor, words, and quirky ideas. A design enthusiast, butter chicken lover, and music junkie, she loves to read and write about art & architecture and believes that nobody can defeat her in a pop-culture quiz.