INTERVIEW: 8 Questions with Architect Tom Kundig

May 7, 2018 by  
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Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects is one of our favorite architectural firms, championing the fight for sustainable design. Founded in the late 1960s, the firm has created a collection of structures that rise from the ground as natural extensions of their sites, acting as bridges between nature, culture, and people. We sat down with principal architect Tom Kundig who shares his thoughts on his design process, what it’s like to be a Seattle-based firm, where he finds his inspiration and more. Read on for our exclusive interview with Tom, as well as a look at some featured projects that are as green as they are gorgeous! Inhabitat: Many well-known architects make it a point to establish offices in large cities, but even with your success Olson + Kundig  operations remains in the (arguably) more remote Pacific Northwest. What impact do you think being a Seattle-based firm has had on your work? Tom Kundig: Not entirely sure. I’m sure there are impacts that we are not aware of – are we ‘mysterious’ because we are remote, or are we ‘removed from the action’? My guess is that it might be both, but the most important consideration is how we do our work.  In a large landscape like the Pacific Northwest – and in a relatively large city like Seattle that is connected internationally – we might have the best of both worlds. Irregardless, our work is context based – cultural, environmental, craft, tectonics, and so forth – and we are in an ideal location where all these elements converge. Inhabitat: Are you concerned about environmental and social sustainability in your buildings? If so, what role does green building play into your work? Tom Kundig: I am absolutely concerned about it. And I’m not speaking strictly of the environmental, because the process of building and what’s required to maintain a building consumes not only a significant amount of natural resources but also has a huge influence on cultural and social sustainability. Ultimately architecture is cultural and social – it is shelter at its most basic human level, and within the spirit of that notion, it is a deeply humanistic endeavor. Inhabitat: What do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability? Tom Kundig: The greatest challenge is designing to an authenticity that recognizes the true issues of sustainability, not just treating it as a checklist of items or simplifying it to accommodate to scorekeeping. Sustainability takes on a true, holistic understanding of all the implications of a design. Inhabitat: You were the sole N. American representative in Toto Gallery MA’s “Global Ends – Towards the Beginning” an exhibit that hopes to inspire architects to break away from the architectural uniformity resulting from past movements. Modernism has clearly been the most dominant and continues to permeate design – what are your thoughts on its value today? Tom Kundig: Modernism at its core is a humanistic value. It is about shelter , about culture, and about equality, safety, and nurturing for a better future for EVERYBODY. Unfortunately today, many of these values have been lost in stylistic fashion.  I am hopeful that the next movement will be about a meaningful search for a humanistic architecture . This is an idea that will never go out of style. Inhabitat: Why do you think sustainability remains largely outside of theoretical discussions of architecture?  Sustainability can be clever, innovative, it can justify designs, but by in large it is not a realm of theoretical review.  Themes such as space, aesthetics, and cities are constant avenues for debate, speculation, and experiment, but sustainability still seems thin. Thoughts? Tom Kundig: Sustainability has been relegated to the ‘science’ side of the practice, both by the practitioners and in academia. Architecture at its core is the  intersection of the rational and the poetic. If architecture , academics and practitioners can embrace that idea and respect the two realms of the practice, this question would not have to be asked. Unfortunately, the question is a good one.   Inhabitat: Can you tell us about the house you grew up in? Tom Kundig : It was a 1918 classic two-story bungalow with a porch facing the street. However, it was its location near a large city port that had more effect on my childhood than the house itself. Spending my formative years in and around the lake cabins of the areas probably had the most impact on my career. Inhabitat: Who inspires you? Tom Kundig: So many architects , both living and dead, inspire me. It’s difficult to list. But certainly, individuals within the architectural, art and music realm are the most inspirational. And when I speak of artists, what I’m focusing in on are those willing to truly put their souls on the line for their art.  They are working ‘out there’, many times without a net, vulnerable to the second-guessing of polite society, bureaucrats, academics, and mainstream media – it’s a lonely place to be. Inhabitat: What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for? Tom Kundig: I hope that my work is meaningful and it that it resonates in people’s lives – architecture at its core. + Olson Kundig Architects

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INTERVIEW: Designer Daan Roosegaarde on smog temples, space trash, and what’s next

May 22, 2017 by  
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We’ve built cities that do us harm, according to groundbreaking Netherlands designer Daan Roosegaarde . Along with his team at Studio Roosegaarde , he’s tackling the pollution we’ve generated in our metropolises, through the power of design . Roosegarde’s Smog Free Project is currently touring China—their most recent stop is Tianjin —and Inhabitat spoke with Roosegaarde about the project and how design can help us shape a cleaner, more beautiful urban future . Check out our interview after the break… INHABITAT: What inspired you to tackle the problem of city pollution with design? ROOSEGAARDE: I’ve been working on landscapes of the future in the last five years, making dance floors which produce electricity when you dance on them, or bicycle paths which are charged by the sun and glow at night. I love to make public spaces which trigger people in a poetical or pragmatic way. Three and a half years ago, I was being triggered by Asia and its curiosity towards the future. On Saturday, I could see the world around me in Beijing on my 32rd floor room, but on Wednesday and Thursday it was completely covered in smog . It was a wake-up moment. I knew it was bad but it’s something different when it’s visual. Governments all around the world are investing in clean technology , electric cars, or more bicycle sharing programs, but that takes quite a long time, like 10 to 15 years, to make an impact. I wanted to make something that has an impact now. Delhi is actually worse, in India. You’re sort of trapped in a bubble which is pushing on you, which is suppressing you. You feel nauseous at the end of the day. It’s weird that we created cities which do harm to us, which are almost like machines. And again it’s not just Beijing. Every big city has its problems with pollution. It’s a global issue. INHABITAT: When did you start to realize that design could offer an answer? ROOSEGAARDE: Two days later, I remembered when I was a boy, a long time ago, I always had to go to these boring children’s parties. I was playing with plastic balloons, and when you polish a plastic balloon with your hand, it becomes static: static electricity, and it attracts your hair. I can remember when I was like eight years old I was mesmerized by that. It’s like an invisible force. It is a gift from nature. So that memory pops up out of the blue, and then the idea came: what if we could use that kind of principle to build the largest smog vacuum cleaner in the world, which sucks up polluted air, cleans it, and releases clean air . So at least we have local parks where people can experience clean air. We made a very, very simple animation the day after, and then we started to talk with the indoor air purifying experts who’ve been working on this for 20 or 30 years. We made a lot of prototypes and tests and a year and half after that moment we built the first one in Rotterdam . This project is self-commissioned. We spend our own time, money, and energy at the studio. No client is going to call me and ask, “Can you make a Smog Free Tower?” So that’s also part of innovation : you launch your own projects, and now people all around the world are coming and calling, they want to be part of it. We’ve proven that it works. It’s really important to keep investing in your own ideas. INHABITAT: As you’re traveling through China, what do you hope people take away from the tour of the Smog Free Project? First the local people, and then also the government officials that see the towers? ROOSEGAARDE: What we want to achieve is two things. One, it’s a local solution on a park level: to create these bubbles of clean air in the city. And that has been proven quite effective: 55 to 70 percent cleaner than the rest of the city. This week is very, very important for us because we’re launching independent scientific research done by the Eindhoven University of Technology with Professor Bert Blocken, a renowned expert in fine particles. They have done extended measurements and research, and this week we’re launching a report which proves the impact and effect of the tower on the local scale: it collects 70 percent PM 10 and 50 percent PM 2.5 on the park scale level. So that’s very positive. And that’s an independent study from a university, you can’t buy them. And it’s being validated now, being peer reviewed and will be published in the coming months. So the idea was to create local places where people can feel the difference, where they can smell the difference, and where they can experience the future. The second goal is to start a conversation. To say, “hey guys, students, makers, scientists, whomever, what do we need to do to make a whole city smog free?” So we did Smog Free Workshops and the response has been great. We had a girl who made fashion which changes in color when the smog level is too high. We had a Beijing designer who made a sort of wearable greenhouse, like a backpack, so you can breathe in clean air from the plants you’re carrying with you. This has been really great to activate the discussion. The final solution in that way is government with a focus on clean air, electrical cars, green technology, etc.; that’s top down, but we want to move bottom up and tackle all of that, and we meet in the middle and that creates impact, that creates change. From these sessions, from one at Tsinghua University in Beijing, new ideas popped up like the Smog Free Bicycle . The bicycle sucks up polluted air, cleans it, and releases it as clean air. The technology is similar to the Smog Free Tower. Beijing was a cycling city 10 or 12 years ago, and that completely disappeared because everybody wanted a car, and everybody now is in a traffic jam and it’s polluted. But the bicycle is a powerful cultural icon. So we want to bring back the bicycle and upgrade it in the celebration of the bicycle in the fight against car pollution. This is also part of the Smog Free Project; it’s the next big idea we’re spending time and energy on. It’s been intense, it’s a politically-centered topic, it’s something new, people have to get used to it. Everybody has opinions about it. Very few have proposals. But step by step we’re creating impact. INHABITAT: I heard about the Smog Free Bicycles and I wanted to ask about those: how the idea came about and the also a little bit more about how they work. ROOSEGAARDE: The idea of enhancing bicycles has been around for a while. For example, Matt Hope , a Beijing artist, worked on it years ago, and before that some other artists as well. So we did the workshop with him in Beijing, and with students from Tsinghua University. They have a lot of bicycle sharing programs like Mobike, and so that’s where we got the idea and thought what if we could take it and push it further. The bicycle releases clean air in area around the face. We don’t want to work with masks or anything; it should be a kind of plug-in to the existing bicycle. Why not, right? We came so far with making crazy ideas happen, this should be doable as well. What is fascinating with innovation, with new ideas, is that in the beginning, there are always some people—most of them are enthusiastic but there are always some people who say, “It’s not allowed,” or “You cannot do it.” But you know what happens now with the Smog Free Project, I have top officials from the government coming to me, and saying, “Oh that’s a good idea, why didn’t you do it before?” I’m saying this with a smile; it’s one of the things about innovation, and you have to go through it, but that’s good, that means you are changing something. You are changing a mentality. But you have to fight for it. INHABITAT: Last year the China Forum of Environmental Journalists suggested that the Smog Free Tower in Beijing wasn’t doing its job effectively. What do you think of their findings? ROOSEGAARDE: I read that. It’s quite difficult, because I’ve never met the people, and I’m curious what they based on findings on. I think it’s really good people are engaged with the project, and are thinking about it, and are discussing it: what should be, what shouldn’t it be; so I think that’s positive. We knew the tower worked, and we now have the scientific data to back us up. And yeah, let’s keep on pushing what is possible. But basically, the idea is very simple: build the largest vacuum cleaner in the world, so of course it works. I find it hard to grasp how it could not work. What I think is, everybody has opinions, but let’s work at proposals. INHABITAT: Based on discussions around the tower, do you think you’ll change the design of the tower at all or do you think it’s working well for the goal you have for it? ROOSEGAARDE: We’re not changing the design of the tower. Why would I? No, we’re going to keep it like this. The name and design are going to stay like this. I think maybe in the future, I’ll have some new ideas. We want to make it run on solar panels , that’s an important one. And we’re designing bigger versions for larger public spaces. There will be new versions, but this one that we have is perfectly fine. The design is based on Chinese pagodas, Chinese temples. So there’s also this history element in it, and the Chinese love it. When they visit here they lovingly call it the Clean Air Temple. But I think your question is valid. One tower will of course not the solve the whole problem of a city, that is very clear. I think the goal is to create these local clean air parks, and at the same time educate people, to say hey, what do we need to do to make the whole city smog free? There’s a lot of work to be done. We shouldn’t wait for government. We shouldn’t wait for anyone. INHABITAT: You’ve devoted a lot of creative energy to smog and pollution in the last few years. But recently you’ve turned your attention to space trash. Why do you think this is a serious issue, and how can design help solve the problem? ROOSEGAARDE: When you start something new, you always start as an amateur. You start to read, to learn, to talk with the experts. Now I can say I’m an expert in smog after three years, which is great, but it’s always nice to be an amateur again. So now I’m an amateur in space waste . There are millions of particles floating caused by satellites crashing. And it’s a big problem, because if particles like these hit an existing satellite, the satellite goes down, and no more Facebook, no more Inhabitat, no more mobile banking, and nobody really knows how to clean it. And it’s going to get worse. If we continue like this for the coming five to 10 years there will be so much pollution we won’t even be able to launch missiles anymore because they’ll be damaged by particles. Space is endless, and then we have planet Earth floating here, and somehow we were able to trap ourselves in a layer of space pollution. How are we going to explain that to our grandchildren? That’s insane. So what the Smog Free Ring is for Beijing, and what the Smog Free Tower is for China, can we apply that thinking to space waste? I don’t know how and what or when. I’ve had several sessions with space scientists. It is a problem, and somebody needs to fix it. And that’s been fascinating. So that’s the next adventure. For me, a project like this not just about technology or ideology. I’m a trained artist, so for me it’s about the notion of beauty, or of schoonheid. “Schoonheid” is a very typical Dutch word that has two meanings. One is like the beauty of a painting that you look at and then get inspired. But it also means cleanness, like clean energy, clean water, clean air. That element of schoonheid is what I’m striving for. When we design cities or a product or a car or a landscape, schoonheid should be part of the DNA, and we should really start making places which are good for people. This is the big idea we’re aiming for, and in a way all the projects we’ve been talking about are sort of prototypes or examples. INHABITAT: Your work often explores relationships between humans and technology, but you have also been critical of all the time we spend in front of screens. How would you describe a healthy relationship with technology? ROOSEGAARDE: I think it’s bizarre that we’re feeding into our emotions, our hopes, and dreams into these computer screens. We’re feeding this virtual cloud: Facebook, Twitter. And somehow our physical world is almost disconnected from creative or innovative thinking. Most of the physical places are suffering from pollution, floods, you name it. And that’s sort of weird. Our ideas, our money, our focus is online. I would love to connect these worlds again, the virtual and the analog and really say, “Hey, how can we use technology—and design, and creative thinking—to improve life and make places which are good for people again?” Is it George Orwell, are we reducing human activity, or is it Leonardo Da Vinci, where we enhance ourselves as human beings via technology? If you read like Bruce Sterling or Kevin Kelly, they have been talking about that for many years, which I really, really like. And I hope that the prototypes or projects I’ve made somehow contribute to that way of thinking, of enhancing yourself and exploring yourself. At the World Economic Forum, they had Top 10 Skills research about the future skills you and I need to become successful. Number three is creativity, number two critical thinking, and number one is complex problem solving. What I think will happen is that as we live in a hyper-technological world, our human skills: our desire for knowledge, our desire for beauty, our desire for empathy, and our desire for interaction, will become even more important because that is something robots and computers cannot copy or do for us. I believe we will have a renaissance of the arts and sciences . I hope again that the things I do contribute to that trajectory. INHABITAT What are three major things you’d change in today’s cities to make them more sustainable? ROOSEGAARDE: I think I mentioned it with schoonheid: clean energy , clean water, clean air. And maybe the notion of circular: food  should not be wasted but become food for the other. Most of all I hope it’s a city which triggers me, where I feel like a citizen and not just a taxpayer. I’ve been thinking of Marshall McLuhan in the past few weeks. In Vancouver, I gave a TED talk, and quoted McLuhan who said “On spacecraft Earth there are no passengers; we are all crew.” We’re makers; we’re not just consumers. And so how can we make landscapes which trigger that kind of mentality? That’s what wakes me up every day at 6:30. And again, my designs are in that way not just designs or art installations but really very concrete proposals of how I want the future to look like. It’s been great to work with designers, experts, and engineers to make it happen. I think that’s good to mention because sometimes the focus is a bit too much on me, but we have a great studio in Rotterdam where 16 people are working really, really hard every day, and without them I could never make it happen. INHABITAT: What’s next? Do you have any plans for future projects in the works? ROOSEGAARDE: We’re working on the redesign of Afsluitdijk Dike, it’s a famous 32-kilometer dam in the Netherlands that protects us from drowning and dying. What you should know is dikes in the Netherlands are as holy as cows are in India. Now after almost 80 years the dike is in need of renovation, and the minister of infrastructure , Melanie Schultz, commissioned my studio to enhance the iconic value of that dike. And that’s going to be great. We’re going to make kites in the air, which connected with a cable generate electricity. We’re working with light-emitting algae. We’re launching three more new projects in September, October, and November of this year. + Studio Roosegaarde Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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INTERVIEW: Designer Daan Roosegaarde on smog temples, space trash, and what’s next

INTERVIEW: Linda Greer and Clean by Design are creating a cleaner fashion future

April 16, 2015 by  
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Natural Resource Defense Council’s director Linda Greer is spearheading the way to a cleaner fashion future. Greer is leading fashion’s “toxic avengers” in a bid to clean up the toxic fashion industry in China through the Clean by Design initiative. Ecouterre recently caught up with Greer to discuss how she aims to reduce water usage and the heavy pollution that accompanies fast fashion for a greener industry. Click below to read more. READ MORE> Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: China fashion industry , china pollution , Clean by Design , ecouterre , fast fashion , inhabitat interview , linda greer , Linda Greer NRDC , nrdc , toxic China fashion industry , toxic fashion

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INTERVIEW: Linda Greer and Clean by Design are creating a cleaner fashion future

Meet the man who grows chairs (and tables and lamps)

April 16, 2015 by  
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Gavin Munro doesn’t just grow trees, he grows furniture . Making one piece of furniture can take decades using traditional methods, if you consider the time it takes to grow the tree. What if you could incorporate the growing of the tree into the process? By growing the tree into the shape you want, you avoid the energy-wasting consumption of fuel for chainsaws and other logging equipment, not to mention all of the tools you don’t need to produce the furniture . This is just what furniture designer Gavin Munro has in mind. Read the rest of Meet the man who grows chairs (and tables and lamps) Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “green furniture” , art furniture , chair design , crop grown furniture , full circle furniture , furniture design , furniture grown in field , furniture grown like crops , gavin munro , green furniture building , grown chairs , grown furniture , grown tables , table design , tree chairs , tree lamps , tree tables

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INTERVIEW: Architect David Benjamin on Building The World’s First Mushroom Tower at PS1

July 11, 2014 by  
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You may have heard the riddle about mushrooms being the only rooms with no walls, but David Benjamin is flipping the script on the old joke with some incredible mycotecture built from mushroom bricks! The architect and his firm, The Living , are pushing the boundaries of design by experimenting with biotecture, blurring the lines between biology and built environments. Their latest efforts have culminated in the world’s first tower made from fungus , which debuted at MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York last week. We recently had the chance to pick Benjamin’s brain about the future of mycotecture (mushroom architecture) , the benefits of biological buildings and what inspired this innovative new Hy-Fi tower in Queens. Read on to see what the biotect, innovator and director of the “Living Architecture Lab” at GSAPP has to say. Read the rest of INTERVIEW: Architect David Benjamin on Building The World’s First Mushroom Tower at PS1 Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: biotecture , buildings made of mushrooms , David Benjamin , eco design , fungus bricks , fungus tower , green design , inhabitat , inhabitat interview , innovative architecture , living architecture 3:47 ecovative , MoMA PS1 , moma ps1 mushroom building , mushroom brick , mushroom bricks , mushroom buildings , mushroom tower , mycelium , mycelium bricks , mycotecture , PS1 , sustainable design , the living

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INTERVIEW: Julie Torres Moskovitz Discusses Passive Houses & Her New Book ‘The Greenest Home’

March 17, 2014 by  
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Read the rest of INTERVIEW: Julie Torres Moskovitz Discusses Passive Houses & Her New Book ‘The Greenest Home’ Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “sustainable architecture” , eco design , eco home , fabrica718 , green architecture , Green Building , green design , green home , greenest home , inhabitat interview , interview , julie torres moskovitz , passive house , passive houses , passivhaus , PHI , PHIUS , Sustainable Building , sustainable design , sustainable home , the greenest home , tighthouse        

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VIDEO: Inhabitat Interviews Janine Benyus, Author and Founder of Biomimicry 3.8

October 30, 2013 by  
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In 1997, biologist and innovation consultant Janine Benyus , released her first book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature .  In this publication she coined the term ‘ biomimicry ‘ and laid the groundwork for an emerging discipline that looks for innovative solutions to pressing global problems by emulating nature’s designs and processes. Since her book’s release more than 15 years ago, Benyus has evolved the practice of biomimicry research through numerous initiatives, including Biomimicry 3.8  — an amazing organization providing business consulting, professional training, and education on what humans can learn from the genius of nature that surrounds us. Though biomimetics is technically not a new idea, the relevance of this field has become increasingly apparent over the past few years as we’ve come to realize that Mother Nature is one of the universe’s most successful and time-tested designers, and we have much to learn from her. Watch our video above to hear from biomimicry pioneer Janine Benyus as she chats with us about some of the incredible innovations that have come from Biomimicry, such as velcro , solar power , and more-efficient wind turbines . + Biomimicry 3.8 + Biomimicry coverage on Inhabitat + The Biomimicry Manual + CalTech Uses Biomimicry To Design Better Wind Turbines Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “wind power” , biomimetic inspiration , biomimicry , biomimicry 3.8 , biomimicry and sustainable design , biomimicry design , biomimicry expert , Biomimicry Institute , CalTech , Caltech Field Laboratory for Optimized Wind Energy , design inspired by nature , design that mimics nature , FLOWE , green design , inhabitat interview , Janine Benyus , jill fehrenbacher , John Dabiri , sustainable design , The Biomimicry Institute , vertical axis wind turbine        

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VIDEO: Inhabitat Interviews Janine Benyus, Author and Founder of Biomimicry 3.8

INTERVIEW: Julie Torres Moskovitz Discusses Passive Houses & Her New Book ‘The Greenest Home’

October 16, 2013 by  
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INTERVIEW: Ray Anderson on Climbing the Mountain of Corporate Sustainability

September 7, 2013 by  
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Ray Anderson is more than just the founder and chairman of the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpeting , he’s also the grandfather of corporate sustainability. In 1995, Anderson embarked on a mission to remove Interface Inc. ‘s impact on the Earth completely. Below, we talk to the carpet mogul about his new book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist , and explore the story behind his quest for sustainability. Read the rest of INTERVIEW: Ray Anderson on Climbing the Mountain of Corporate Sustainability Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: carpeting , climate chate , corporate responsibility , green business , green carpet , green homes , inhabitat interview , interface , modular carpeting , ray anderson , Sustainability , wal-mart        

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INTERVIEW: Ray Anderson on Climbing the Mountain of Corporate Sustainability

INTERVIEW: Mark Wigley on Greening Architecture Schools

August 11, 2013 by  
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Buildings account for almost half (48%) of all greenhouse-gas emissions annually. This oft-repeated statistic highlights what many architects and designers have long realized: the building industry has a profound impact on the state of our environment. But is environmental awareness really making enough inroads into the curriculum of design schools, in the places where it could potentially have the most impact on the future of the industry? While environmental design isn’t nearly as entrenched as it should be into the core curriculums of design schools, students seem to be clamoring to learn more about this topic and are demanding new classes and are shaping their own academic paths. To discuss the future of greening architecture schools, we sat down with Mark Wigley, dean of Columbia’s GSAPP , to talk about the changes currently taking place. Read on to hear what Mark Wigley has to say about sustainable design. Read the rest of INTERVIEW: Mark Wigley on Greening Architecture Schools Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Columbia , columbia architecture faculty , Columbia GSAPP , Columbia School of Architecture , inhabitat interview , INTERVIEW: Mark Wigley On Greening of Architecture Schools , Mark Wigley , Mark Wigley Jill Fehrenbacher interview , Mark Wigley On Greening of Architecture Schools        

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