Robert Adam’s rant (22 May, page 24) about architects and how “they like to pretend they know best about what’s good for society ... “ reminded me of a talk Buckminster Fuller gave at the school of architecture at Bristol university in 1965

In the question and answer session afterwards a student in the audience got up and said he didn’t feel comfortable about joining a profession that often seemed more concerned about the way things looked, than how they worked or whether they were even necessary. He asked Fuller if he applied a set of guiding principles to his work. Fuller replied, “Yes, to make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous co-operation without ecological offence or the disadvantage of anyone.”

He went on to tell his audience that for humanity to stand a chance of surviving, it had to find ways to use the world’s resources far more efficiently – using ever less energy and materials to achieve ever higher levels of performance, a process he referred to as “ephemeralisation”. He said: “The future for mankind is utopia or oblivion – it’s going to be 98% efficiencies or 98% extinctions.”

In light of the threat that global warming presents to the future of mankind, Fuller’s statement now looks eerily prescient. What relevance, I wonder, does Robert Adam’s quaint belief that he knows best what style of building is good for society have to the problem of how we reduce the impact of buildings on the global environment? The answer has to be “none”. His fiddling won’t prevent his classical Rome from burning.

John Prewer, Aspire to be Green