Why starchitects aren't embracing green design

Do green buildings look worse than their carbon-emitting counterparts? That’s what art critic Kriston Capps argues in an article appearing in The American Prospect.

“The field of architecture is experiencing a design crisis, with clients ranging from private owners to cities demanding that architects prioritize sustainability above all else — as if design itself were an obnoxious carbon-emitter,” Capps writes. Capps is adamant that urban landscapes are being polluted with “LEED certified and certifiably hideous” buildings, but the story is short on examples.

The central question that Capps seeks to answer is why many “starchitects” and established architecture firms across the country shy away from green design:

“[T]he most lauded design projects in recent history have made virtually no attempt at sustainability. “Look at the architecture of the last 15 years,” says James Wines, a professor of architecture at Penn State University and the author of Green Architecture. “It’s been more flamboyant and more wasteful than it’s ever been before. To build any of these buildings by Frank Gehry, it takes, what, 60 to 80 percent more metal and steel and construction than it would to enclose that space in a normal way. So you’re talking about incredible waste. Mind-boggling waste.”

Clients, meanwhile, are choosing function and efficiency over form, but they’re being met with resistance from architectural leaders. Capps sees the green movement as an opportunity for architecture to reinvent itself and “marry the built and natural environments,” thus resolving that fundamental tension.

What do you think: Are green buildings necessarily uglier than conventional buildings?

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