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Architecture of Change: Sustainability and Humanity in the Built Environment

Edited by Kristin and Lukas Feireiss. Dornbirn, Austria: Zumtobel Lighting, 2008, 304 pages, $75.

Reviewed by David Sokol

In 2006 Austrian lighting manufacturer Zumtobel hired Aedes Architecture Forum—a Berlin-based exhibition and advocacy organization that editor Kristin Feireiss founded in 1980—to develop the Zumtobel Group Award for sustainability in architecture. The San Francisco Federal Building by Morphosis and Schaich Bergermann Solar’s Solar Updraft Tower won highest accolades in the prize’s Built Environment and Research and Initiative categories, respectively. Architecture of Change celebrates these two projects as well as the program’s runners-up, which were nominated by a quartet of experts.

Architecture of Change: Sustainability and Humanity in the Built Environment
Image courtesy Gestalten
Architecture of Change: Sustainability and Humanity in the Built Environment
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Here, the honorees are organized into three chapters. “Efficiency in the Everday” features “sustainable intervention into everyday urban and rural life”; “Aesthetics of Performance” ruminates on the aesthetic potential of ecological performance—that sustainability is an opportunity for new architectural expression rather than a feat to be hidden behind conventional clothing; “Didactics of Engagement” highlights organizations and individuals, like Architecture for Humanity and Engineers Without Borders, whose contributions to the environment range beyond a single project. Although many of these buildings, which combine beauty and sustainability in a variety of locales, make for unsurprising award winners and contest entrants, together they form a competent snapshot of sustainable architecture in the mid-2000s. Equally handy are the essays that introduce each chapter. These pieces neatly synopsize the positions of famous contributors including Saskia Sassen, Matt Petersen, and William McDonough, and tackle other big-picture problems in easy nuggets.

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