Philadelphia University has a blog aimed at prospective architecture students called Built@PhilaU. The authors recently interviewed me about the meaning of architecture and the role of sustainability in the profession. Below is the interview. You can find the original interview here.
Taz Loomans of The Blooming Rock Blog loves everything about architecture, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things that she would like to see change in her lifetime.
Here, Loomans discusses some of what she loves the most about the field and what she hopes will change in the future.
Architecture means a lot of things to different people. What does it mean to you?
Architecture to me is the design of the built environment. I know this is broader than the conventional definition that restricts it to the design of buildings. But architecture to me also entails things like the design of our roads and our neighborhoods, and the way we approach natural and open spaces.
Sustainability is an important practice that many adhere to. What advice or input do you have regarding architectural sustainability?
If architecture is the way we design the built environment, then architectural sustainability is of the utmost importance. It is crucial for our current well-being, as well as the well-being of our children and our children’s children, to design and build our man-made world in a way that works in harmony with nature, not against it or in a way that depletes it. Plus, people are a part of nature whether we like it or not. We are not more powerful than nature nor can we tame nature to do our bidding. We ARE nature. And so if we design things that destroy nature, whether it be polluting buildings or using materials that deplete forests and other natural resources, we are in essence destroying ourselves. Architectural sustainability is the only way forward if we plan to survive on the planet. Architectural sustainability doesn’t just mean specifying no VOC paint and FSC-certified wood ceiling panels. At its core, architectural sustainability means designing things that nurture the planet and all its inhabitants and the children of its inhabitants. This may mean that a new building is not needed in the first place. Or that a smaller building could serve the purpose. Or that an existing building could be re-purposed to serve a new program.
What do you feel has changed in the architectural world in the past 10 years? What change do you hope to see in the future?
That’s the thing. I don’t think a whole lot has changed in the past 10 years. And I think architecture as a profession needs to change. It needs to be more inclusive. It is overwhelmingly white in the US. And it is still largely male-dominated. Plus, the architecture world needs to shift from being an aesthetic profession to a human-service profession. Architecture as art is valuable. But architecture as art without meaning is useless and often even harmful. Designing architectural “jewels” in the form of gigantic and ostentatious homes for the wealthy on greenfield land is not the pinnacle for architecture. Placing more value on designing beautiful and innovative housing for poverty-stricken people after a disaster is the direction in which architecture needs to change.
What impact do you feel young people studying architecture will have in the future?
I feel that young people have a deeper and more integrated view of sustainability than previous generations have. Young people today have grown up with the realities of “global warming” and “climate change.” There are fewer climate change deniers among millennials than there are in older generations. This change in attitude will no doubt have a positive influence on the practice of architecture. I also have hope that social justice will play a more central role in architecture for upcoming generations.
How did you become interested in this field?
I sneaked into architecture through the back door not knowing what I was stepping into. I grew up with a creative sensibility and was fond of drawing. I wanted to keep this part of me alive and choose a sensible profession, so I chose architecture knowing that it was both artistic and a viable profession from which to make a living. It wasn’t until my third year in my undergraduate studies in my theory classes that I began to understand what architecture really was. It wasn’t just about making pretty buildings, it had a profound impact on the way people lived. Ever since, I have cultivated my interest and passion about the social impact of architecture.
What project have you worked on that you’re the most passionate about?
The thing I am most proud of that I have worked on is my blog, the Blooming Rock Blog, which is an online publication about architecture, urban planning and sustainability. The articles on this blog focus on the intersection between the built environment and social justice. This blog has had a bigger influence on the way people think about the built environment than any one architecture project that I have worked on. In terms of an architecture project I am most proud of, I would say it is Filmbar in downtown Phoenix. This is an adaptive reuse project of an existing light industrial building into a small theater and a bar. This project has helped revitalize downtown Phoenix and bring a subculture of independent film to the area that didn’t exist before. It also was a great use of an empty building, which is a passion of mine – rehabilitating existing buildings to house vibrant new uses.
How does your website speak to those interested in architecture?
My website, BloomingRock.com, is intended to help the general public know more about the profession of architecture and to help the architectural profession know more about the impact of architecture on the general public. I want to educate people about the built environment and its impacts so they can demand better buildings, become more engaged and in the end have a bigger say in the built environment that they live with every day. And I want to educate people in the design profession to think more in terms of the impact of what they design on the everyday lives of people and communities.
Is there anything else that you would want people to know about your site?
The articles on my website range from explanatory and educational articles about basic architectural concepts like cantilevers and passive solar design, to opinion articles about the direction of architecture and urban development, to articles on broader topics like social capital and propinquity. It is written in an easy to read and understandable language free from professional lingo so that it is useful and interesting of people from many different backgrounds.
Tags: architecture, college of architecture, interview, philadelphia university, sustainability