Emily Pilloton

MARK WIGLEY Interview from BLDGBLOG

by , 04/14/07

Mark Wigley, Columbia University Architecture, Volume Magazine, Columbia School of Architecture, Architecture Dean, Columbia Architecture

Our friend Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG recently published this fascinating interview with Columbia’s dean Mark Wigley. In case you aren’t familiar, Mark Wigley is Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) at Columbia University (architecture school of Inhabitat’s Founder, Jill Fehrenbacher). He is also the author of Constant’s New Babylon and The Architecture of Deconstruction: Derrida’s Haunt, among others, and co-founder of Volume magazine. The interview focuses mostly on Volume, but also touches on sustainability, architectural education, and more. Check it out…

Below is a snippet of the section on sustainable design – the rest of the interview can be found on BLDGBLOG >

BLDGBLOG: On an educational level, what role does sustainability play at Columbia?

Wigley: What’s happening is sustainability now plays a huge role in the school at every level, because that’s where the students and the teachers are leaning. But what’s interesting – and this is where my own thoughts come in – is that nobody’s really interested in that word sustainability. That sounds like not ambitious enough. We do a lot of work that could be described as a search for more sustainable options – but, really, what it is is a search for a more radical ecological model. So the school’s not aiming toward sustainability, but aiming beyond that.

If you had asked me the same question five years ago, I would have said it’s occupying 10% of our attention – whereas now it’s occupying, like, 35%. That’s not because the new generation of students wants architecture to follow the latest code on sustainability, but because they think it’s one of the most interesting philosophical and technical challenges to the architect. There’s the responsibility – and I think we’ve got a more responsible group of students and teachers coming along – but it’s also exciting to them. They find the whole concept exciting.

Maybe five years ago, if you were for sustainability, you saw yourself as virtuous, and you saw yourself standing against radical avant-garde practices in architecture, which were, by definition, scandalously wasteful of resources. They neglected 99% of the human population and didn’t do anything good for anyone anywhere. But that’s not true anymore. A really radical ecological approach to architecture generates some of the most experimental avant-garde design. That old split between sustainability and being cool, so to speak – that’s gone. I think that’s a real difference between sustainability, as a defense against a relentless enemy, and sustainability as the opening up of a whole new series of potentials. And, of course, I love the latter. However, it may be that the former is more realistic. We’re not living in a good world. But I think it’s the job of architects to be optimistic, to invent new forms of optimism, to actually contaminate us all with the possibility that we could live differently.

Read the full interview on BLDGBLOG HERE >.

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