Star architects seem to care more about aesthetics and brand than they do about the planet
In the construction industry we are responsible for some heinous crimes against the planet. We know this without the need to resort to easily available quoted figures for CO2 and landfill. Even if we shun the facts, the targets and regulations that we are duty bound to meet clearly pertain to reducing climate change.
Yet these checklists are largely met with reluctance and often some scorn. The celebrated medal-winning British architects largely ignore the prescient issue of the planet’s ill health. But we never hear that our industry leaders as grandstanding climate change deniers either. So what’s going on?
The other side of the spectrum can be just as frustrating - the judgemental hair shirt brigade, convinced that it’s only good if it hurts you
By deduction it must be that those prize winners consider that the clinical pursuit of aesthetic finesse and brand identity is important beyond all other considerations. What a state of affairs.
One of the problems may be that the other side of the spectrum can be just as frustrating - the judgemental hair shirt brigade, convinced that it’s only good if it hurts you. The architecture they generally produce is too often visually painful and generally marginal. Why do our green experts accept these exceptional commissions for wild-flower centres and tree museums? Surely their concern for the planet means that they should be pursuing the mainstream developers whom they judge harshly from the sidelines.
The only way to practice responsibly is to get stuck in with the worst of them, roll your sleeves up and put your head down. We need Noah-like determination. So please let’s all be aware of the implications of what we do and be unbendingly ambitious to do it better. Let’s stop celebrating these glittering vacuous baubles and understand that the fourth virtue of architecture should be a building’s harmony with our beleaguered planet.
Andrew Waugh is director of Waugh Thistleston Architects