The A+D Museum in Los Angeles recently hosted a panel discussion for their new sci-fi inspired “SOUPERgreen” exhibit. The architects involved wanted to challenge conventional sustainable design trends by adopting an aggressively technological approach to LA’s urban landscape. The featured designs were futuristic visions of how green design can radically transform a user’s experience through city infrastructure, and nature itself. The result is a “souped up” vision for green development where technological innovation is embraced as an extension of the earth’s natural cycles and human imagination.
The discussion provided fascinating insights into the architects’ visions, their critiques of the current state of green design, and the future direction of sustainable architecture. The panelists included ARUP principal Erin McConahey, David Hertz of Studio of Environmental Architecture, Lance Williams of the USGBC, Wes Jones of Jones Partners, Doug Jackson of Doug Jackson Design Office, Randolph Ruiz of AAA Architecture, and Steven Purvis of APLSD design. Topics raised by the panelists and audience ranged from how to push beyond the limits of prescriptive green architecture (which lead to some heated discussion about the LEED rating system), to how the commodification of the housing market estranges homeowners from greater responsibility to their community’s environment. The panelists were passionate, and wildly intelligent individuals whose experience on the frontier of green design made for an engaging, and thought provoking discussion.
Doug Jackson kicked off the night by explaining that the goal of the exhibit wasn’t to create a “technicality-based architectural vision,” but rather to bring the viewers into an imagined reality that expands conceptions of architectural function and aesthetic. David Hertz emphasized that hiding or discreetly integrating the green components of a building is a timid architectural stance, and that these materials should be embraced and even dictate the design itself. Erin McConahey added that the function of exposed building mechanics should be “immediately understood” by viewers. This exaggerated showcasing of green technology would serve as a catalyst in the process of encouraging the spread of sustainable design. Wes Jones likened the concept of the exhibit to a “souped-up hotrod,” where existing components of urban architecture and infrastructure are repurposed to better serve the user and the surrounding environment.
The first design was Randolph Ruiz’s ‘Stead (Sustainable Technology Experimental Agricultural Dwelling) which featured a unique sun-shading façade, a photovoltaic array, as well as an enormous rooftop hydroponic farm. The six-acre industrial building (which actually exists in the San Fernando Valley) collects millions of gallons rainwater a year, which is then used to produce a variety of crops by urban farmers who live on-site. The adaptive re-use of an existing structure provides a unique alternative to the “vertical farming” trend that requires excessive amounts of new building materials.
Wes Jones’ design was an innovative response to the daunting problem of Los Angeles’ traffic and (sub)urban sprawl. By capitalizing on the use of vertical space above highways, his ELOV (extra-low occupancy vehicle) house is part sci-fi parking garage and part luxury living pad. The house’s interaction with the highway is an important feature, and it harnesses much of its energy from passing cars as they roll over special electricity generating speed bumps. The ELOV car itself is half the width of a smart car, yet long enough to accommodate two people. The cars are meant to ease traffic congestion on Los Angeles highways, while addressing the lack of parking space in the city. Its display was presented as a massive comic strip, which had a futuristic, post-green revolution narrative, alongside detailed specs of the ELOV transportation/housing model.
Steven Purvis’ Eat Me! is a food production powerhouse that incorporates an intensive kinetic aquaponics system, as well as ample living space for resident urban farmers. The three-story structure houses a mini-ecosystem, in which a chicken coop, aquaculture tank, and hydroponic crops work together to create a synergistic circuit that feeds the residents. Considering the rising price of oil and our petroleum-based food industry, this design is disconcertingly salient.
Aryan Omar’s “I’ll Huff and Puff and Blow Your House Down” is described as “the ugliest house on the prairie.” The modular home is spiked with a series of VAWTs that harness the abundant wind energy of the desert and it has been sun-faded for an industrial look that evokes the image of a cowboy shoot-em up film set in the year 2150. The design might just catch on with the Joshua Tree crowd.
Doug Jackson’s Uneasy Green building makes use of renewable technologies to realign its users with the rhythms of nature. The design is a parasitic addition to an existing skyscraper on Wilshire Boulevard, and is cantilevered on the building’s roof. Its display panels are illustrated by an anime-style comic, where two doves narrate the building’s features to a naïve cartoon girl. The building’s sunscreen is made of flexible solar panels that react to sunlight and wind, creating a constant change of view and power production that takes direct cues from the weather.
To see all the designs in person, check out the A+D museum in Los Angeles before SOUPERgreen ends on the 14th of April.