BuildLLC recently posted about an accepted truth in architecture: You’ll never get sued for ugly. His point was that "as architects and designers we’ll always be liable for everything except aesthetics." Perhaps that won't be true in the future; a new study from the Pattern Mapping Institute attempts to prove that beauty makes a difference in green building performance. Andrew Michler at Inhabitat summarizes the results:
Through a study of correlated AIA Cote award winning and LEED Platinum projects, they found that integrated designs that aligned beauty and function had 4 times the impact of those with just LEED Platinum certification.
Of course, it is tough to define beauty, so the researchers used a couple of different techniques. In the first case study, they compared award winning buildings from the AIA-COTE awards to other high performance buildings rated LEED Platinum. To I would think nobody's surprise, the AIA-COTE award-winning buildings performed better; that's why they win green building awards.
The second case study brought more buildings into the mix, and applied the BiB (Beauty in Building) matrix, which defines what the authors consider to be the attributes of a beautiful building. This is the hard part; how do you define beauty? They authors break it down to two key attributes:
After many months of researching qualities in the built environment that make people feel fully alive and that inspire, we settled on two built environment attributes that met this requirement.
Beauty Attributes: These are built environment qualities found to be common in spaces that make us feel fully alive:
1. LOCAL: Never twice the same: takes its shape from the particular place in which it occurs ; the transitory forces of nature in that particular place are reconciled within it. This attribute is easily seen in built environments that have withstood the test of time and that have a local and regional specificity.
2. CONNECTIVITY: A true relationship, free from inner contradictions between ourselves and our surroundings. This attribute can be seen as an active exchange between the building, its occupants, and its environment.
They then established twenty determinants of these attributes that could be measured and put into a matrix. They conclude in a press release:
We expect our findings will encourage architects to speak out more confidently about the value of well-being in the built environment. Beauty has long been considered as an aesthetic proposition that has no chance of being qualified. Our study opens the door for, in the words of architect Luis Barragan, mention of inspiration and spellbound, and concepts of serenity and amazement to have a place in this critical time of rethinking how we engage the built environment. Architecture is fundamentally a creative undertaking; we shouldn’t continue to ignore the role beauty plays in building performance,” suggests Robles.
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said that hard core pornography was hard to define, but "I'll know it when I see it." Beauty was much the same thing, until The Pattern Mapping Institute figured out a way to put a number on it; perhaps now architects can be sued for ugly.