Architects Declare New Zealand

02 September 2019

Those who are following events in the local and international worlds of architecture will be aware of the ‘Architects Declare’ movement, writes Festival of Architecture director Tony van Raat, already in place in the UK and Australia and now arriving in New Zealand.

There was an article on it in The Guardian recently. The short version is that if the profession is to take the risks of climate change seriously and if it is to act to address them then you can forget not only about ‘business as usual’ but also about well-intentioned attempts to use sustainable resources in construction and to minimise the energy usage of buildings. All of these gestures towards doing better fall very far short of being enough to make any real difference. Instead, how about not using concrete at all (cement production accounts for about 8% of global CO2 emissions) or not using materials that have to be transported more than 50km from source to the building site? The article continues to suggest that the whole value system of the profession resists the kind of radical change needed: as long as star architects are held up as models and their projects feature outlandish forms and materials used in huge quantities then we’re facing away from the problem rather than towards it.

It remains to be seen whether the Architects Declare movement, as it comes to life in New Zealand, will tackle these big issues head-on. If not we’re left with platitudes which are no use at all. Go here to find out more about Architects Declare in New Zealand.

Life at the intersection of design, environment and politics

02 September 2019

Festival of Architecture director Tony van Raat discusses the credentials of Billy Fleming, who will give the annual lecture in honour of one of New Zealand’s most distinguished architects in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch from 23-26 September.

Many of you are now aware that the Festival of Architecture approaches and with it comes this year’s overseas guest Billy Fleming. Fleming is the director of the McHarg Centre at Pennsylvania University and something of a celebrity for his work at the intersection of design, science and politics and on the existential issue of climate change and how it might be addressed. Among other things he is interested in urban policy, housing and saving environmental data from the dismissive and reprehensible attacks of the current US administration. One can do much worse in preparing for the visit both of Billy and, less welcome, of climate change (both are closer than you think) than to read the recent book he co-authored, The Indivisible Guide, which sets out how one might resist Donald Trump, the fossil fuel industry and others who think that current environmental threat to survival on this planet is no more than a hoax (yes, really).

The talks that Fleming will give in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch will be an important part of the necessary resistance to these issues which we all must confront. I hope, too, that he will encourage an approach to them which does not rely entirely on the dissemination of knowledge. Knowledge is important, of course, but it’s not sufficient – we have plenty of information already about what’s going on, and plenty of reasons to not like it. But The World, of which climate is a part, is a non-linear system of massive complexities. Being non-linear there is, like friendship and love, no necessarily direct correlation between inputs and outputs such as a knowledge-based system might expect. To pull back from the brink we need not just knowledge but a shift in attitudes: we need to form a new relationship with our only home.

Find out more about Billy and book a ticket to one of his free lectures in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

Billy Fleming from the McHarg Institute