Literally "Going Green": I Am Lost in Paris

By Abbie Gentry

Being “environmentally friendly” and “going green” are prominent themes in the world right now. Television commercials are devoted to encouraging us to live healthier by walking or riding a bicycle rather than driving a car to decrease the effects of pollution. Advertisements and signs are posted throughout cities and on buses to kindly remind us to recycle. Activists will stand on street corners or congregate on college campuses to hand out flyers to anyone who will listen about the importance of conserving energy, water, and natural resources by taking simple, easy measures such as taking shorter showers, turning off the lights when leaving rooms, et cetera. It, of course, does not stop there. This theme has, as it should, strongly affected architecture.

Sometimes, “going green” can develop a whole new meaning. Francois Roche’s project, “I Am Lost In Paris,” intrigued me because of his creativity through his choice of materials. While he makes use of strong materials such as concrete and steal, his design also includes living walls of ferns infused with an array of glass beakers. These beakers capture sunlight to illuminate the interior while also functioning as a harvesting system of water for the ferns. “The ferns are wrapped around the structure and fed mechanically with a liquid mix of bacteria and need no soil base to grow. They get their nutrition drop by drop through 300 glass beakers full of especially prepared bacterial chemical culture mix while rainwater is collected to water the plants” (Wallpaper). This “wild” strategy of architecture is just one way to design sustainably.
Sustainability is not simply about using recycled materials, wind turbines, and solar panels. Sustainability also means thinking logically and economically. This means using local materials when possible to reduce the cost and energy necessary for transporting materials. This means considering every single design detail very carefully and making sure that everything has a function and, if possible, can be multi-functional. I’ll refer back to the apples diagram that I mentioned in an earlier post about the Design/Build studio that I took this past summer. My professor, Dan Harding, constantly reminded us that one should constantly have the “apples” or “needs” at the forefront of your mind at all times because time is money. Therefore, in order to hit all of the “apples” with the “arrow” of time and money, you must constantly be adapting your perspective. When one is focused on the necessities of a design, the rest follows. Beauty is discovered through creativity and when you find a simple, elegant solution.
Last year, Clemson University was fortunate to receive architect Chad Oppenheim as a guest speaker. I found his lecture to be particularly inspiring because he is very young to have accomplished so much and to have designed so many buildings in the United States as well as abroad. He is very creative but it is evident that he is a disciple of the phrase, “form follows function,” because everything in his designs has a purpose. He is very concerned with sustainability and always incorporates local materials, roof gardens, wind turbines, and the use of solar energy in his buildings whenever possible. His motto is to build “with the land,” not “on the land.” This means that he is careful to first study the environment because he wants to compliment the beauty of the location. His designs are symbiotic with nature and regenerative rather than destructive. He wants to create pleasurable and enjoyable architecture because he believes it is all about the feeling, space, experience, and best living environment.

(Photograph of a few of Chad Oppenheim’s projects)

Francois Roche, Dan Harding, and Chad Oppenheim set excellent examples for the younger generation of rising architects for how to approach architecture. If we follow their lead by designing with purpose and sustainability, the world will be a healthier place for our future generations to enjoy. There is an African proverb that says “ the earth is not ours but something we hold in trust for future generations.” Because the world belongs not to us but to the future and because we are merely the caretakers for now, it is our duty to protect the environment and to build (literally) a healthy future.

“‘Lost in Paris’ house, by R&Sie architects.” Wallpaper*. 6 February 2009. 20 November 2012. Web. <http://www.wallpaper.com/architecture/lost-in-paris-house-by-rsie-architects/3071>

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