Interviewed by Ahmad Zohadi
Assosiate Professor of Architecture – AUS, UAE
How would you define in your own words ‘sustainability’?
Sustainability is about performance. Sustainability is not only about good buildings but about outstanding building design that can have lasting effects on users. It should not be measured in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) Green Building Rating System certification but on quality. It is about the quality of natural light and ventilation, efficiency of space, use of resources as well as economy of means. It is about innovation and invention of smart outcomes. Usually the simplest solution is the most sustainable. Successful sustainable buildings are those that invent systems and consistently tackle the issue of design effectiveness from the outset of their design process to implementation. This process should not only be environmental but social and cultural. The most sustainable buildings are the most enjoyable to use.
Should sustainability be controlled by government / global legislation or should it rely solely on architects’ ethics and why?
A form of minimal legislation is necessary to ensure that those 95% of architects who would be driven by profit than ethics can engage in fundamental environmental awareness. We should find ways to measure or agree on the quality of architecture more than just its numerical value. At the end of the day bad buildings are not sustainable but short-lived. During times of economic crisis the ethical instinct of architects is normally high. It is now a good time to talk about sustainability as means to improve our urban context as well as change our perception.
Can sustainability be compatible with experimental / progressive / innovative design and why?
Yes it can. If a design is not innovative and forward looking it is not sustainable. Sustainability requires new ways of thinking and new methods of operation. Research in new material innovation and detailing, massing and orientation of spaces, and economy in resources can be part of a progressive way of thinking. Now building should do more than one thing. They should be about enclosure and response to the surrounding environment as well as tools for continuing engagement with participants and society at large.
Will you decline a commission if your clients declare that they are not interested and they will not pay any additional cost to your sustainable design and why?
It is always possible to achieve the best outcome in any project even with limited means, resources or ambitions. Sustainability should not rely only on client requirements but on the architect’s ability and duty of care. It is a required tool than an optional outcome. This responsibility should not only be restricted to the client but it should address society at large. If we link our projects to a wider audience and to the city itself we have more chances to achieve a more holistic and balanced condition.
It is astonishing that in the last five years or so, almost everybody claims to be ‘sustainable’. Do you think that the world is really now so much more sustainable and why?
Sustainability is now claimed to be embraced by all. Maybe we should not talk about sustainability any more but about the quality of architecture in terms of light, comfort and experience. The world is not necessarily more sustainable but we are more sensitive to its fragile existence and its vulnerability. The most sustainable building is no building at all. But assuming that we need architecture then we need to make it so it fuses with our daily lives and needs.
Describe your ideal sustainable design.
My ideal sustainable design is a unique design concept and realization that incorporates a system of interconnected parameters consisting program, tectonics and site dynamics leading to the formation of a place of environmental, cultural and social relevance. The ideal sustainable design should be about quality and appropriation of means. Form, space and tectonics should be contemporary and responsive to existing conditions as well as flexible to adapt to future scenarios. As such this design should be simultaneously about specificity and wholeness.
© Published by 2A Magazine, Issue 11