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Sustainable Design
 
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
This is a question that often makes me ponder. I suspect that many members of our community firmly believe that beauty and sustainability can not go hand in hand.

I hope that this is not true. Let's do a check.
Khushboo Priya
Responses
 
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Hi Khushboo,

Welcome to the forum. I have a suspicion that you might have encountered the works of a Delhi based architect by the name of Mr. A. B. Lall. His work examplifies the ethos of sustainable architecture that does not compromise its aesthetics.

I believe that he makes sustainability beautiful by being self-conscious of this perpetuated myth (which you have mentioned) and designing buildings that counter it. Among his work are several SOS Villages in the hills and a new development alternatives building which will be coming up soon.

A distant example away from home is the architecture of Hassan Fathy. There are others such as Laurie Baker as well. You must, however, first define what do you mean by 'beautiful' and 'sustainable', for your and our sake. There have been paradigmatic shifts in the understanding of both terms. It is very difficult for me to suggest any examples of beautiful sustainable architecture without any parameters. I have placed the above-mentioned architects and their work under this category simply by my understanding of what is beautiful and what is sustainable.

Best,
Abhishek Mathur
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
This modern word "sustainable" has a lot to answer for. To me sustainable means any architectural design which is appropriate within a specific environment, climate, culture and economy. So can vernacular or traditional sustainable architecture be beautiful? Yes.

But, I suspect "sustainable" refers to the modern attempts to limit waste and through the excessive use of fossil-fuels in the construction, operation and maintenance of buildings. So can modern sustainable architectural design be beautiful? Maybe, because it is a form of neo-vernacular.
Frank John Snelling
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
I believe that yes, sustainable buildings can be very beautiful. If you are concerned with the specific place or material, then have a look at the paper structure designed by Shigeru Ban. They were somewhere temporary, but beautifully designed, sustainable, and which were not only limited to short span structure but included a spatial structure also. So, I believe that not only the vernacular materials, but materials like paper can be used in sustainable buildings, which can beautify the building.
Megha Shroti
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
I am currently trying to design a building which is 'generally' believed to be the epitome of 'beauty' and 'modernity', a MALL.

But I wish to make one which not only symbolises beauty for all, but one which is also environmentally sustainable. Well, I don't know how I would achieve it, but I hope at the end of it I'll reach a point where the image of the mall and the aesthetic of sustainable building practice find a comman ground and acceptance by all.

Though I cannot test its acceptance and/or appreciation from the comman man as this is only my thesis project, I would surely put it up here for your comments.

Meanwhile, I hope you all could give in your individual ideas or examples of (possibly) architectural structures which have in some manner brought together these two words: sustainability and beauty.
Khushboo Priya
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Hi! Khushboo.

As Abhishek wisely said, we should define their meaning. Beautiful is an English word which has a wide range of
meanings specially related to Aesthetics. In 18th century, three categories were defined for Aesthetics : "Beautiful", Picturesque and Sublime. Beautiful refers to fit and inclusivistic propotion. As "Beautiful" differs from "pretty" for humankind, it is more than just appearance. A. Alison ( d. 1820 ) believed that beauty would be generate through harmony between form, function and scale. On the other hand Picturesque, as it is obvious from its root, refers to picture and visual
aspects of building, although this term is often used for natural landscape ( since it was invented in dawn of
British Romantic movement). "Sublime" , is a property that makes a building or scene significant, or different from others, when it causes us to fear, adore, surprise, or enter us to an imaginitive or symbolic world.
"Sustainable" refers to a long life after the building is built. But it does not tell us of "How will it be resist the changes and forces of time?". Two method was adopted from
ancient times :
1- The power or patron of building, or the responsibility to environment that the building itself does.
2- Maintenance, or continuous repairs and readaptation by the people or users

The first method, is very costing both in money and worker, and many times the purpose of the building fades after a while and may be the next client diminishes it. The second, fortunately does not need so much money, requires the purpose for its maintenance, or the interest for its users to repair it. This interest or "Value" includes user's feeling, belief and culture related to the building, to determine whether it is valuable or not,beautiful or not. Normally, a building could survives and sustains that could maintain its value. For being sustinable a building must have a reasonable composition of the treble
categories of "Aesthetics" plus an expectable fortune.
Peiman Amini
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Khushboo,

The concepts of beauty and sustainability are as alike as "chalk and cheese" and should should not be confused with one another. You cannot have 'an aesthetic of sustainable building practice'. But you could have 'a code of (sustainable) building practice'.

Plus, "Sustainability" as a concept is not automatically an aesthetic. In fact sustainablity is simply a modern jargon word for "maintainability".

Any building which needs a constant supply of energy to function is not a sustainable building. To my way of thinking, a sustainable building is one which has the fewest moving parts (ie minimal powered equipment) because the design is adapted to WORK WITH and not AGAINST the environment and climate.
Frank John Snelling
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Hi,

As a part of my thesis project, which happens to be a 'green shopping
centre', I was looking at examples and case studies of buildings
which use not just their internal layout and servicing to reach a
green end, but which use their external facades to reach a green end
and at the same time are visually appealing to the spectators.

One such example was the Arab Centre in Paris, though it no longer
works as it was aimed to, but it still was a try.
Khushboo Priya
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Khushboo,

Why doesn't the Arab Centre in Paris work as originally intended?

Can I guess that the air-conditioning systems have ceased to work properly?
Frank John Snelling
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Hi,

The curtain wall that you can see in the picture consists of intricately worked out, openable apertures. These worked more or less like a camera lens aperture.

They were intended to open and close according to the radiant intensity of light, and the failure to cope with this technique led to the failure of the whole idea of what I would call, 'Beauty and sustainability'.
Khushboo Priya
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
True.

Hi-Tech buildings have nothing to do with sustainability or beauty. :)
Frank John Snelling
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Does thought have to be linear to be logical? Or does non-linear mean unorthodox? :)))
Frank John Snelling
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Before answering the question of whether sustainable buildings can remain beautiful or not, I think that we have to know whether the ones who constructed it were looking for a mainly sustainable building or a building that is both sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.

In case the engineers and architects chose the second choice, it would still not be enough for the building to remain beautifull unless it was constantly maintained.

The role of maintaining beauty in a sustainable building falls on both engineers and architects from the past and engineers and architects in the present.
Ahmad Tabari
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Maybe the original question should be looked at the other way round. :)))

If a building has beauty there will always be people who are interested enough to maintain that beauty.

Whereas, a building without any beauty will be harder to maintain as no one will be interested enough to upkeep.

For myself when I speak of beauty I mean a building that is appropriate to and comfortable within the contexts of culture, climate and environment. And within these parameters sustainability is in conceptual harmony with beauty.
Frank John Snelling
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
There are some examples here that I think are beautiful and substainable:

www.edouardfrancois.com

Edouard Francois is a French architect who works with substainable design and activly questions the role of architecture.

Hope you like it. Peace to you and all those connected to you,

Benjamin

Benjamin Martin
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Hi Khushboo,

Take a look at the work of Emilio Ambasz
on www.ambasz.com
Some work of SITE, ie: James Wines, et al.

I think it was Abhishek who mentioned Mr.Lall of the ABC Laurie Baker.
For people working inIindia you could also look at the work of Chitra Vishwanath, Jeeth Iype, some very fine work being done at Auroville, and though I think his aesthethic sense comes from his own little planet, Jaisim of Fountainhead as well. And trust me, this will only be a start. the more you dig, you'll discover people all over the world doing some fantastic things, albeit silently and so might not have websites :-)
Congratulations on this brave endevour, an eco-mall sounds like an excellent plan. At least it's either that or back to souks ;-)
Oh, and by the way, it would be interesting to explore whether a sustainable building is one that does not need regular maintenance or whether it might be one in which all the components can be easily, locally and cheaply replaced as and when required.

luck,
Snehal Gada
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Oh, and speaking of sustainable spaces for commerce, take a look at Fabrizio Carola's medine herb market. Might not be quite what you expect, I think it's beautiful and it sustains itself while allowing for brisk business.
Snehal Gada
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
" SIMPLE IS BEAUTY "
Amirul Asyraf Ahmad Nawir
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
" SIMPLE IS BEAUTY "
not neccessarily...this is purely a modernistic overview. but i think we are way past modernity. even postmodernity.
T C
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Beauty is subjective - sustainability is objective.
How long is a piece of string?
Nishu Ellawala
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Sustainable buildings, towns (humans?) are beautiful.

Beauty achieved includes superb professional skills, including ethics of esthetics.

Take, for e.g., a persian dessert town before the age of the steam machine (nothing against the steam machine though), fed with fresh water by quanats, air conditioned by wind towers, pools and gardens, fruit drinks on the rocks (ice-quanehs), etc., etc.

Try to use todays technics (so called low- and high-technologies whatsoever), with maximum skill and dedication and the result will be highly satisfying.
Ben Huser
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
When sustainability factors in the issue of future generations, then sustainable buildings can not be conclusively argued to be beautiful. In a twisted way, sustainability implies the ability to have a contract with the future, but this is impossible since the future tastes are unknown, moreover, the question of beauty implies a shared standard, which cannot be known, for the future generations. So, yes and no.
Bernard Mugwima
Can sustainable buildings be beautiful?
Hi Khushboo,
To start with, lets take sustainability. From what I undersatand of "sustainability" it is the making of a building most apt in the context, be it climate, topography, energy consumption, etc.
So if the building is sustainable, that sincerely means it has served its function. So looking from the perspective of usefulness and functionality the building is surely beautiful.
Lets put it the other way. If a bldg is sustainable, it must be sound in its function and uses. And if functionality is how you define beauty then it is beautiful.
So it becomes necessary to draw a line demarketting the boundaries of beauty and sustainability.
Rakesh Kumar
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