ContentServer.asp-2 - Essay What does sustainability look like Green architecture as an aesthetic proposition URSULA SEIBOLD-BULTMANN Erfurt Germany In

ContentServer.asp-2 - Essay What does sustainability look...

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DOI 10.1179/030801807X183614 © 2007 Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. Published by Maney on behalf of the Institute INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, 2007, VOL. 32, NO. 1 3 Essay What does sustainability look like? Green architecture as an aesthetic proposition URSULA SEIBOLD-BULTMANN Erfurt, Germany In 1603, Giovanni Campani alias Cesare Ripa – man of letters and erstwhile Lord High Steward at the court of Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati in Rome – had the considerable satisfaction of seeing a new edition of his book Iconologia into print. 1 While the first and second editions, of 1593 and 1602 respectively, had come as humble booklets without any pictures, this ambitious third edition formed a comprehensive and fully illustrated dic- tionary of hundreds of allegorical personifications, ranging from A (as in Abondanza ) via O (as in Opulenza ) to Z (as in Zelo ). Some of these figures – both male and female, young and old, beautiful and grotesque, clad fashionably or in rags – are shown writing, playing music, riding a lion and so on, but most pose quietly with two or three objects, plants or animals as identifying attributes. Ripa’s Iconologia was meant for the use of poets, historians, painters, sculptors and other potential allegorists. It quickly became the standard hand- book on the subject, remaining hugely influential well into the eighteenth and even nine- teenth centuries. However, as may be inferred from the state of the world today, it lacked one particular personification, namely Sustainability . In other words, we have never been encouraged to imagine her in the flesh. So, in the absence of a clear idea of what such an approach to the world might look like, it is difficult for us to be charmed – let alone seduced. Instead, Sustainability is so often associated with words that provoke both fear and a bad conscience (like ‘climate change’, ‘resource waste’, or even ‘armed conflict’) that we tend to imagine her as something stern, ugly and threatening. Is this fair – and is this why it still proves so hard for her to find a place and footing in the present? EMBODIED VIRTUE If we assume that virtues, vices and other less certain qualities need to be clearly imaginable – embodied, that is – in order for us to come to grips with them, it would seem to be a good idea to correct Ripa’s oversight and try to visualise sustainability. I suggest that, in our search for inspiration, we should look first and foremost to architecture. This is not to say that today’s built environment can be called particularly sustainable; on the contrary, in Western industrialised nations it is responsible for perhaps fifty per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions. 2 However, for about the last thirty years, and starting with architects like Bruce Goff and Paolo Soleri or with Frank Gehry’s early work, architecture has also provided a wide range of examples of sustainable development which memorably manifest the green ethos that went into building them. One of the most recent and most stunning of these is the new headquarters of the German Federal Environmental Agency
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