The role of the architect in the sustainable design process

Commentary / May - Jun 2016

The role of the architect in the sustainable design process

by Joshua Comaroff

The last decade has seen the slow rise of a peculiar idea. This is the belief that architects should not approach their work with a signature; the preoccupations of a career or practice have become an unwanted imposition. Due to the pressures of technology and society—not the least being sustainability—architects must now acknowledge that they are no longer the primary figures in the design process. Oddly enough, this position appears to be championed principally from within the profession itself.

Various accounts are given of the architect’s retreat. For example, there is a popular notion that digital systems are taking over the work. Via computation and parametrics, the design process emerges as a strange new medium that is intelligent and responsive. At the same time, buildings now appear to be so formally complex as to beggar the resources of the architect’s (all too human) mind. The creator is reimagined as an adept of mathematical routines, allowing code to express its inherent beauty. This is manifested in a shift toward passive uses of technology—from students running borrowed scripts and Grasshopper configurations, to modes of practice in which the software, rather than its owner, is celebrated.

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