Climate change is a design challenge unique to the 21st-century. Despite scientists sounding the alarms for over a century now, climate change is only receiving attention somewhat proportional to its magnitude since recent times.

Among the most notable drivers of the climate crisis is architecture, now producing thirty-six percent of the global carbon footprint. This contribution is a combination of the twenty-eight percent of carbon emissions generated by operational emissions, and the rest comes from embodied carbon – which accounts for manufacturing building materials, transporting them to construction sites, and the construction process. Architects, over the past few decades, have proposed numerous methods to combat these emissions, each with a unique and systematic approach.

1. Bjarke Ingels And His Plan For A MasterPlanet | Climate Change

Founder of BIG, Bjarke Ingels and his team have come together to write a guidebook for combating climate change known as the Master-Planet. The approach divides environmental problems into ten sections. Ingels encourages a unified and planet-centric approach at a time of divisiveness and indecisiveness. One of the largest deterrents to climate-centric architecture has been scalability. Ingels believes that focusing solely on individual structures can be very limiting. Instead, a more dynamic and accumulative plan to action with global cooperation can prove that a sustainable human presence on planet Earth is attainable with existing technologies.  

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Sketches from the architect’s master plan for a more sustainable planet ©Bjarke Ingels.- GQ Magazine
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Sketches from the architect’s master plan for a more sustainable planet ©Bjarke Ingels. – GQ Magazine

2.  Håkan Nordin Concludes Plastic As Part Of The Solution

Plastic can help create more energy-efficient products that reduce the need for fossil fuels, argued Håkan Nordin, head of sustainability at flooring company Bolon. Nordin, a former climate activist who co-founded the Swedish branch of Greenpeace, called for a re-evaluation of plastic, which he describes as a resource-efficient material. Nordin believes that by making plastic usage circular, we can manufacture it without negative climate impact. Construction plastic’s durability makes it a more sustainable component when compared to heavier materials that require more energy during manufacturing.

3. Moshe Safdie Promotes More Versatile Architecture | Climate Change

Architect Moshe Safdie, the founder of Safdie Architects, encourages fellow designers to be more proactive in their approach to the climate crisis. In design terms, new buildings must withstand predicted temperature fluctuations over the next few decades in a sustainable manner. When the climate gets worse, hotter and colder, then architects must respond by being more versatile. This versatility involves cutting down on operational energy by re-thinking spaces that are not usable without heat or air conditioning throughout the year. Examples of countering such surges are visible in Safdie’s proposals in the forms of retractable shading canvases, green-house balconies, and a rainwater fed waterfall.

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Jewel Changi Airport is designed like a greenhouse and filled with thousands of plants across stepped interiors. Rendering courtesy ©Safdie Architects
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Jewel Changi Airport glass shell and waterfall design. Rendering courtesy ©Peter Walk Partners Landscape Architects

4. Daniel Libeskind on Human Megacities

Daniel Libeskind, the founder of Studio Libeskind, promotes the idea and challenge of creating megacities that are sustainable but also human. Most sustainable projects provide countermeasures to temperature surges while rarely considering the social impact. According to Daniel, the challenge is to incorporate human scale and ambition into future cities. This solution would involve developing public spaces that coordinate with the living realm, allowing everyone to pursue their potential by empowering them.  

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Symbolizing human-caused climate change in Sculpture ©
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Symbolizing human-caused climate change in Sculpture ©

5. Chris Precht On Bringing Wilderness Into Cities | Climate Change

Chris Precht, the co-founder of Beijing studio Penda, and Precht, is known for incorporating urban farming systems into buildings. Precht believes that cities should learn from wildernesses by designing spaces where residents find solitude. Precht thinks that the secret to sustainable climate change countermeasures lies in developing structures that guide their users’ emotions towards sustainable practices. Such practices involve encouraging users to grow their food and thereby delaying gratification to teach real patience and consideration.  

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The Farmhouse © Precht
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The Farmhouse ©Precht
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The Farmhouse ©Precht

6. Kjetil Trædal Thorsen On Planning For The Armageddon

 Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, the co-founder of Snøhetta fears for the future of our world as global warming, takes on the title of the climate crisis. He warns that architects need to use their skillset to brace the world for a new reality. Despite the market availability of affordable, sustainable alternatives, Thorsen reminds designers of the possibility of a “failed future” and Armageddon situations. The eco-friendly and carbon-negative designs of today must be able to withstand a global temperature surge of up to three to four degrees in case our actions are unable to meet our optimism.  

10 Famous architects reacting to climate change
Snøhetta’s ZEB Pilot House, which produces enough power for itself and an electric car. ©Paal-André Schwital
10 Famous architects reacting to climate change
Snøhetta’s carbon-positive Powerhouse Brattørkaia. ©Ivar Kvaal

7. Kate Orff On Approaching Architecture From A Stance Of Activism 

 Kate Orff, the founder of SCAPE, believes that making places beautiful is no longer sufficient. A landscape architect by profession, Scape designs spaces that combat climate change and are climate-resilient. Kate does this by translating the global impact of human agency into something positive using an activist stance. By promoting activism in architecture, she designs to bridge nature and culture, sociology, and ecosystems.

10 Famous architects reacting to climate change
Living Breakwaters ©SCAPE

8. HMC Architects On The Significance Of Resolutions

 HMC Architects compounds the urgency of the ongoing climate crisis by releasing a seven-resolution action plan for climate change to work toward the reduction of greenhouse gasses caused by the architectural practice. This manifesto includes a myriad of environmentally responsible tactics that build into a strategic framework that highlights ways to measure, plan, and reduce the firm’s carbon footprint with the overarching goal of zero-carbon architecture.  

10 Famous architects reacting to climate change
Shunde Hospital of Southern Medical University ©David Wakely
10 Famous architects reacting to climate change
Quail Hill Community Center ©Dave Fennema 

9. Michael Pawlyn On The Employment Of Biomimicry

Michael Pawlyn, the founder of Exploration Architecture, believes in employing computational design tools to allow architects to mimic the natural world in a multidisciplinary field known as biomimicry. By replicating nature’s methods that have developed over millennia, designers could re-think building typologies and find solutions that use resources much more efficiently. This research includes radical approaches to construction like growing structures on slender steel rods by electrodeposition of minerals. 

10 Famous architects reacting to climate change
The Biomimetic Office mimics the structure of a spookfish’s eye 
©Exploration Architecture
10 Famous architects reacting to climate change
The Biorock Pavilion to be grown by electro-deposition of minerals 
©Exploration Architecture

10. Jesse Keenan On Reforming Architectural Education | Climate Change

Dr. Jesse M Keenan, a professor at the Tulane School of Architecture, believes that architecture schools should update their curriculum to teach upcoming designers to respond to the climate crisis. At this point in history, this change is no longer advocacy but an acceptance of the facts. This expansion of the curriculum must include the evaluation of the lifecycle of materials, optimization of supply chains, and designing within the parameters of a predetermined carbon equivalent footprint.


Aasiya is an aspiring creative professional with a Masters in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University GSAPP. She is an avid feminist, climate change activist, and an amateur guitarist. The excitement of knowing that proper design will help meet an individual’s requirements is the only sentiment she holds as her own.