There was a recent article in the New York Times reporting that therapists are seeing an increase in disputes over being “green.” One partner may feel the other is not doing enough to save the environment or a parent may make decisions that affect the entire household; issues that put strain on a relationship in an attempt to do good. (If you’re interested in reading the article it can be found here.) After reading the article, I thought about how as architects and designers we often try and manipulate social behavior by way of the spaces we create and how these strategies can be changed to incorporate sustainability.
”Primitive Hut” by Abbe Laugier.
Image source: http://www.usc.edu.
If we consider buildings prior to the mass deployment of HVAC systems that seal the inside of buildings from the outside environment, conditions such as temperature, light, smell and sound were driving factors in how people interact with each other and their built environment. The hearth made the house a home, it was the place that was not only a source of heat but for daily gathering and sharing. Architecture has long been considered a struggle for light; some of the best regarded and most emulated works have ingenious methods of achieving the proper balance of letting just enough light in and keeping harsh solar radiation out – the birth of the window. These are but two of innumerable examples of the qualities that have been eliminated by the mechanical processes that control our indoor environments. Early ideas of the roots of architecture have always been embedded in the natural environment; take for instance the depiction of the “primitive hut” by Abbe Laugier in the eighteenth century. Today in the twenty-first century we now struggle with returning to the idea of the natural world as integral and not exiled from our buildings.
Thus the challenge becomes not only how do we design our buildings to be more sustainable, but how do we make sustainability work towards manipulating the experience of the spaces we design and the activities/interactions that take place there? Do the interactions of white collar workers across America change because we eliminate sick building syndrome? Do modern families once again sit together in peace to share dinner and discuss the day’s events without the interruption of television, Facebook, texting or telephone calls? Well that’s another issue altogether, perhaps discussion for another day.