22 May 2009

Only Beautiful is Sustainable

The best thing I learned at the recent AIA Convention in San Francisco:

'If it's not beautiful, it's not sustainable.'

If the community doesn't embrace a building, the building will not be saved or preserved when the time comes. Unaesthetic buildings will not last and are unsustainable even if they have a LEED rating...


Mark Miller Toyota, Salt Lake - LEED Gold Rating
I will be the first in line to tear this building down when the time comes. Very unattractive.

Salt Lake Public Library - No LEED Rating
I will be the first in line to preserve this building when the time comes. GORGEOUS - my favorite library of all the cities I've lived in.

So which is the more sustainable building?


Reuben said...

Reminds me of this post about how a major flaw of the LEED rating system is that it doesn't take context or location into account.

Th. said...


You make a very good point. It's my favorite library too. It was the hardest thing about leaving Utah.

Will said...

Amen. Since I basically live on college campuses, I think a lot about how aesthetics support the longevity of and commitment to buildings. Beautiful areas of campuses are preserved, cherished and defended. The ugly sections have no friends.

derekstaff said...

As an employee of the SLCPL, I very much wish that the library were more environmentally friendly and energy efficient (not very sustainable at all for heating and cooling, I'm afraid). But yes, it is a gorgeous place to work, one which succeeds in its goal of creating a dynamic social and learning environment. The community will certainly sustain the building; but if the building is ultimately not sustainable in terms of energy, should it be sustained?

Good thing that being beautiful and sustainable are not mutually exclusive. I recently took my wife to NYC for a graduation present, and while there, we visited Hearst tower, and received a very entertaining lecture on the sustainable features of the building. It was fantastic.

Patricia said...

"Only beautiful is sustainable."

I like the idea. And I like that many people can share awareness of a building's beauty, like the SLCPL. I've attended a few functions there and felt wonder walking through it, because of the space it creates and not just because of the language bank found therein.

But surely there's a tug of war in the architectual world over the definition of the abstract concept "beautiful"? There is nearly everywhere else.

L-d Sus said...

An excellent point. On the engineering side of this topic, "durability" is discussed as being sustainable. But durability of materials must be matched by durability of form and function.

Some related books:

How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand


The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton

francis said...

Spring is right around the corner-it's a great time to look into all the latest research and benefits of clean and renewable geothermal energy-it makes a lot of sense tapping into the earth for this super efficient and sustainable answer to our energy problems.