It seems that as global climate patterns are apparently beginning to shift, it will be vital to find new ways of building or readapting our buildings to ensure that they remain livable. Architects and designers are experimenting with surprising materials, as well as translating traditional techniques with new technologies to create buildings that are responsive to their local climatic conditions.
French-born and Los Angeles, California based architect Francois Perrin has some unique approaches to the problem. In this installation for the big greenhouse in Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory, Perrin is employing what he calls "Air Houses" to help cool the air underneath them.
It's a material I've been using over the years that brings the temperature 20 degrees [Fahrenheit, or 6.6 Celsius] down when you're underneath, because of the nature of the fabric that bounces the light and makes it way cooler inside.
One of Perrin's previous works used a layer of air in the wall cavity as a way to insulate the interior, without the need for mechanical methods of heating and cooling. Here in Chicago, Perrin's Air Houses are suspended above the canopy of the conservatory's Palm House, for the safety of visitors, though they can be designed for actual habitation. The idea is to create architecture that has a deeper relationship with the unavoidable demands of nature, says Perrin:
The Air Houses demonstrate a lighter, more flexible approach to building structures that not only provide shelter but also interact with climate conditions– accepting, rejecting, or repurposing sun, wind, and rain to optimize comfort and make the most of natural resources. They also provide a framework for plants to grow and become part of the architecture, reactivating the symbiosis between nature and structure.
The project is titled Design for a New Climate, and was done as part of Chicago's Architecture Biennale. The aim is to start a discussion about how mass-produced modern architecture and design could do more to integrate these inextricable issues of climate and environment, and how the culture of mass consumption has created a society and a building culture that are dangerously inattentive to these inescapable realities.
Traditional approaches to building had to necessarily consider the constraints and impacts of local climate and resource availability; we are now spoiled by new-fangled technologies, synthetic and cheaply mass-produced materials, and a globalized system of markets and distribution. But to go forward in a responsible and conscious way, the design profession and the public need to consider these changing conditions and adapt accordingly, as Perrin explains:
I believe the first mission of architecture is to be political, and in this time more than ever... I really wanted to address this evolution of climate, and the way architecture and design tackle this issue, and share it with the public.
The exhibition will run until January 7, 2018. To see more, visit Francois Perrin.