“Green House Manifesto”
“GreenHouse Manifesto” was published in Vladimir Belogolovsky’s October 2009 book, GreenHouse, which served as a catalogue for the exhibition of the same name at Moscow’s Zodchestvo Architectural Festival, held October 15-18 of that year. The exhibition showcased twelve sustainable projects from China, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In recent years, the term “green architecture” has been widely associated with projects that are sustainable, economic, and ecologically friendly. The global economic crisis has accelerated the transition of these innovative projects from being viewed as intriguing and prestigious to practical and profitable. The GreenHouse exhibition features examples of green architecture from around the world in these categories: Landscapes, architecture that mutates into the landscape; Materials, buildings made of alternative materials; Communities, eco-communities and eco-cities; and Technologies, a selection of sustainable examples. The featured projects explore various aspects of sustainability and celebrate new ways of achieving an organic interaction between architecture and nature.
Currently, architecture and nature are in a state of conflict. Buildings unquestionably have a destructive influence on the ecosystem of our planet. They account for about one-third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning and two-fifths of acid rain-causing carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. They consume at least forty percent of the world’s energy, produce up to forty percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, and generate forty percent of the world’s solid waste. The scale of modern construction is so enormous that it is no longer possible to ignore sustainable technology. Nevertheless, we cannot reduce the merits of architecture solely to its ability to prevent environmental damage. That is not enough, for architects, not ecologists and technologists, are charged with the task of finding a form for the artistic and organic integration of architecture that also preserves the environment.
In his provocative book, Landscrapers: Building with the Land, American architectural critic Aaron Betsky criticizes the very idea of any construction: “Buildings replace the land,” he writes in oversized type, “[and] that is architecture’s original sin. A building makes something new, but does not do so in a void. What was once open land, filled with sunlight and air, with a distinct relationship to the horizon, becomes a building… [that] stops air, sunlight, and views.”
The GreenHouse exhibition presents distinctive, organic architectural projects that successfully dismiss this idea of architecture’s “original sin.” These stand out among other “green” projects, which tend to reduce architecture to such technological advances as the utilization of rainwater, air purification, photovoltaic batteries, and so on. This is not to say that the technological revolution taking place in architecture is not a positive development. Never before has the performance of buildings been of such concern or promoted so widely, already leading to very concrete, positive results. Modern technologies are able to dramatically lower the magnitude and the seriousness of the present ecological situation. Sustainable buildings and even new eco-cities, which will be self-sustained, carbon neutral, and virtually waste-free, are being designed and built in various parts of the world. There is no question that humanity will be able to put an end to further contamination of the environment.
However, technological innovations alone cannot replace the aesthetics of architecture. No matter how drastically the world changes, no matter what level of technical advancement humanity achieves, architects will always be confronted with the same eternal mission–to strive for harmony among architectural form and landscape, city, society, and nature as a whole. The main goal of the GreenHouse exhibition is to showcase technological solutions that enrich buildings and complexes via their aesthetic values and promote a means for this artistic expression.
“We will win only then,” says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, “when the word ‘green’ will lose its connotation in the context of sustainability. In the future, there will be no ‘green cars’ or buildings, because all cars and buildings will be sustainable.”
Architecture begins only there and then, when all construction, technical, social, cultural, and other issues have been solved. Its contexts have changed over time, but its true task remains the same: to give poetic form to the pragmatic.