Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stefan Behnisch: The beginning of a new era

Stefan Behnisch is a leading figure within sustainable architecture. He has received many international distinctions including the Global Award For Sustainable Architecture 2007. Behnisch Architects will take part in WOOD 2010.

What are your views on the call for the Architecture of Necessity?

At Behnisch we think that architecture has to be responsible towards our societies and fulfil their needs. Since the early nineties we have been committed to contributing to a more sustainable built environment. A more sustainable built environment has to take into account the cultural, topographical, geographical and geopolitical background. We have always tried to achieve an innovative, more responsible architecture, an architecture that responds not only to the human needs, but also to our environmental necessities.

Does the Architecture of Necessity entail a compromise on style and form?

The answer to that question would be not now. Historically, whenever there has been a new aspect to architecture it has required, at the beginning, compromises regarding the form and architectural appearance. But once we master the subject it becomes fully included as one discipline out of many in architecture. Considering the Eiffel Tower for example. At the time it was considered a great achievement to build high buildings and towers, and here this new aspect became formally very prominent. I would argue that in the early eighties a building like say the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank marked the end of this type of structural area. Today we have new aspects to architecture such as environmental and human responsibility. There is no need for very form-driven architecture since we have very satisfying content in architecture which will dominate the appearance of all buildings. Once we master the topic of sustainable architecture, its new aspects will become part of the overall concert of architectural disciplines. So it will influence style and form - I don’t like the term style and architecture too much, though - and will demonstrate the new content in architecture and thus open up a vast new field also for formal aspects of architecture.

Do architects have responsibility when it comes to sustainability and sustainable development?

Definitely yes. Architects do have responsibility here. Considering the fact that our built environment is responsible for roughly 30 % of our energy use, this is the widest single field in our cultures and societies where we can influence sustainable development.

Is the call for an architecture of necessity relevant, what can it achieve?

It is relevant, it is a topic that has to be in everybody’s mind. We are at the beginning of a new development, a new era, where our daily life will be dominated by the acknowledgement that our planet has limited resources, that our atmosphere can no longer cope with the level of energy waste we have had in the past. So each and every move, each and every call for a more sustainable environment is necessary and helpful.

Given the lack of results of the Copenhagen Climate Summit are we running out of time to try and change our environment?

Yes, the Copenhagen Climate Summit was a huge disappointment, especially considering the fact that in the last three years more capital has been destroyed than would have been necessary to change our whole planet to a more sustainable economy. National egoisms and conservative economic considerations are still ruling politics. It is irresponsible and outright stupid. I hope that our politicians will discover very soon that a proper way of using our environmental resources is not only a burden, but also a chance. If we do not master the subject within the next few years, the costs for the following generations will be unbearable and most of our states will run the risk of going bankrupt.

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