Clean, green and responsive: the future of architecture?

Lumenhaus inspired by Mies Van der Rohe’s Fansworth House is described by Virginia Tech students as responsive architecture. Responsive architecture according to Nicholas Negroponte’s definition is “a class of architecture or building that demonstrates an ability to alter its form, to continually reflect the environmental conditions which surround it.”

The aim of Lumenhaus designers was to “maximise user comfort with environmental protection” to make the user’s life “simpler, more energy efficient and less expensive.” They say the goal was to balance design quality, resource conservation and energy efficiency to produce architecture which achieves “beautiful enduring sustainability.”

One of the most significant benefits of the Lumenhaus construction concept is that it is off-grid (with options for feeding energy to the grid where appropriate), prefabricated and transportable making it an ideal solution for remote housing (increasing production standards, optimizing costs and providing improved accessibility to remote locations), temporary housing (mining and student communities) and emergency housing (after natural disasters).

Landscape architects could contribute significantly to the concept by, among other strategies, incorporating green wall technology on the wall cladding and designing a compatible site responsive green roof space beneath a solar panel shaded umbrella roof.

6 thoughts on “Clean, green and responsive: the future of architecture?

  1. Tom Turner

    It looks like a brilliant project – but the word ‘inspired’ aroses scepticism. I would like some old-fashioned engineers to run their slide rules over the project and calculate whether it has real sustainability creditentials in addition to boasted sustainability credentials.
    I do however have a deep confidence that sustainable cities are possible. Question: ‘Where does this confidence come from?’ Answer: ‘I think I could manage my own life with 50% of the average per capita energy use in the UK’. But it would be no bad thing if an engineer ran her slide-rule over this unquantified belief.
    Wiki reports that ‘Energy use in the United Kingdom stood at 3,894.6 kilogrammes of oil equivalent per capita in 2005 compared to a world average of 1,778.0’ – so there is scope for adjustments to be made. Providing individual figures for energy use would be impractical but it would be good to have some profiles for different lifestyles and for the effect of changes in lifestyles.

  2. Christine

    Yes. I would be interested to see the difference between inside/out homes and outside/in homes.

    Lumenhaus is an example an inside/out house. It reduces the interior footprint to the narrowest linear arrangement and relies on the outdoors for landscape amenity.

    Tangga House by contrast is an example of an outside/in house. Its focus is internal with living spaces wrapped around a courtyard for landscape amenity.
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  3. Tom Turner

    Maybe I do not follow your distinction. At a broad level I see the nineteeenth century design procedure as outside->inside and the twentieth century design procedure as inside->outside. Yes, this is a generalisation!

  4. Christine

    Oh sorry. It is sometimes difficult to be clear about these things.

    In an inside/out home the landscape is broadly speaking – outside the house. Think the Fansworth House [ ] and Versailles [ ]

    Whereas in an outside/in house the landscape is broadly speaking inside the house. [ ] Think Chinese courtyard houses and Roman atria houses. [ ]

  5. Tom Turner

    The demise of courtyard housing is as mysterious as it is tragic. What could the reasons be? (1) stupidity? (2) forgetfulness? (3) too many badly designed courtyards?

  6. Christine

    There is an interesting discussion on courtyard housing in California, which could provide one answer to your question, in ‘Courtyard Housing in Los Angeles; a typological analysis’ by Stefanos Polyzoides, Roger Sherwood and James Tice.

    The courtyard house is a high density low rise housing typology. The reasons are essentially positive for landscape if not land use:

    “The coming of the bungalow caused widespread acceptance of the virtues of open space and landscape. The courts designed after 1910 reflected a strong concern with the architectural development both of the buildings and the various aspects of landscape.” (p16.)


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