Green Awards 2017
The brief for FuturArc Prize 2017 asked if it’s possible for a standalone building to become a catalyst for a wider systemic change. Is every new development, small or big, capable of common good? The implicit critique here is that buildings do not do enough when they seek to be Green, as we know it. Improvements to indoor environmental quality or resource efficiency within site and shell are not enough where the neighbourhood is a slum or waterways are polluted.
So how do we move forward?
First, by imagining a new landscape. FuturArc Prize, now in its 10th year, asked that the Asian city be reimagined. In the shortlisted submissions in both categories, Professional and Student, the jury saw innovations of architectural typology; buildings that sink into the ground or fractalize, creating new surfaces for urban greenery or farming. We saw new kinds of urban infrastructure—farming to mobility—that integrate private needs with public good. We witnessed interest in hydrological systems: the repair of polluted waterways or the mitigation of floods.
The jury—experts from India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore and the United States—met in Singapore in March 2017 to sift through some 20 plus finalists that had been selected from over 100 submissions. We talked afterwards about the lessons learnt.
The first lesson was that we—the design professionals—have lost touch with the social roots of good design. Without this, there can be no sustainable future. Attention to public space, in particular, was evident in almost all entries. And this was tied to goals of inclusivity and social equity. In the era of starchitects and hyper-growth, ‘social’ has been put on a back burner. We need to bring social capital back into the discourse, and place it squarely alongside financial capital.
The second lesson was that natural capital must also become part of the discussion. The disconnection we feel from our natural selves is neither healthy nor profitable in the long run. Unhappy, unhealthy people eventually leave or give up. Natural capital, as we were shown, was about the repair of damaged hydrological systems and the introduction of nature into our cities—biophilic elements that repair our collective psyche.
Our hope is that some politician or developer somewhere will fall in love with the new landscapes shown in the winning entries that are assembled at the back of this issue. And following that first spark of attraction, s/he might ask, “If someone can imagine this, why can’t it be done?”
Honestly, we can’t think of a reason why not.