Friday, April 6, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 127



Exhibit reconnects man's architecture 
with nature

By Ken Fountain
Senior Staff Writer

In the 21st century, architects around the globe will increasingly turn away from the Modernist style of the last century and adopt principles from aboriginal cultures, such as Native Americans, in designing buildings that are in harmony with their surroundings and promote ecological sustainability.

So says Robert Morris, architect and lecturer at UH's Gerald D. Hines School of Architecture, when he explains Ten Shades of Green, a travelling exhibit showcasing environmentally responsible buildings. The exhibit on display in the college's first-floor exhibition space through April 20.

The "Ten Shades" refers to 10 principles the exhibit's organizer, the Architectural League of New York, chose as the criteria for a "fully green" approach to design. Among those criteria are: low energy usage with high performance; using replenishable energy sources; "embodied" energy in the building's design; buildings designed for long life spans of 50 years or more; "loose fit" buildings that are able to adapt to different uses than originally intended; the health and happiness of the building's occupants; and how the building fits within its immediate surroundings and community.

According to Morris, the 10 shades are really overlapping extensions of three key principles of environmental awareness: reduce (consumption of resources), reuse and recycle.

Ten Shades of Green, an exhibit showcasing environmentally responsible buildings, is on display at the College of Architecture Building through April 20.

Pin Lim/
The Daily Cougar

The exhibit features models of nine large-scale buildings in Europe and Australia, and photographic images of four North American houses, which embody the 10 principles to varying degrees. Several computer terminals provide an interactive look at the buildings' designs.

According to Morris, it's no accident that most of the designs are European. While the ideas behind sustainable design evolved out of the American counterculture of the 1960s and '70s and were given governmental backing by the Carter administration, they were virtually scrapped when Ronald Reagan became president in 1981.

However, in Europe, which has a higher population density as well as older cities which place more constrictions on designers, those principles caught on and, promoted by the governments there, flourished.

According to Morris, the building which most epitomizes the 10 criteria is one on the Jubilee Campus of the University of Nottingham in northern England, by the London architectural firm of Michael Hopkins & Partners. The building makes use of a large, open stairway at one end and a sloped ceiling to aid in ventilation, reducing the need for a large, mechanical air-conditioning system. It also uses a great deal of natural lighting, reducing electrical costs.

The architectural styles of the 20th century tended to emphasize form over function, using large machines to make buildings conform to the latest trends. In the coming decades, the buildings will be designed to act as machines themselves.

"The greatest benefit will be remaking the connection between man and nature. That connection is innate in us, but since the Machine Age, we've somehow lost the connection. We're now beginning to close that loop, and we're going to end up with an ethic not unlike that of the Native Americans, but using more modern technologies and materials," Morris said.

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