From hemp and cork buildings to energy-efficient council housing, the climate crisis got us thinking laterally
In architecture as in the wider world, 2019 was the year of climate (as of course every year should be). Enlightened architects have been working for decades on making buildings consume less energy while they are being used – on heating and ventilation, for example. They are now taking seriously, at last, the matter of embodied energy, which is the environmental cost of the materials and processes that go into building something in the first place. A group of leading figures signed Architects Declare, which expressed their commitment to tackling climate emergency, but they found it hard to agree how to achieve its aims: should architects design airports? Should they ever use concrete, a high-emissions material, ever again?
Every year, nowadays, is also Housing Year, which should continue to be the case until the far-off day when the British housing deficiencies of quantity, quality and affordability are properly addressed. The Stirling prize went to Goldsmiths Street, a thoughtful, energy-efficient residential development commissioned by Norwich city council. It was pointed out that, in at least some continental countries, public housing of this standard is the norm rather than exception. But, still, the award of Britain’s top architecture prize to council houses was an affirmation that this country should aim high, too.
A reminder of how low it is possible to aim was provided by the row about the Baylis Old School development in south London, where children from social housing were excluded from the play space offered to owner-occupiers. There are also, aiming even lower, continuing examples of permitted development rights housing – office blocks converted into tiny, badly planned homes thanks to a Conservative policy that allows developers to avoid normal planning controls. Perhaps our new government will do something about it. Oh. Perhaps not.
Read on >>>> Source: The Guardian Rowan Moore’s best architecture of 2019