One Track Mind
REG 01 - 26 - 2010

Sustainability in design can be viewed in three contexts: environmental, social/cultural, economic. In almost all of the examples of pre-modern architecture that we've visited, sustainability in any context, is a distant second to the will of humankind to demonstrate power over people, environment and time. Mosques, basilicas, temples and grand monuments displayed marble and precious natural resources from hundreds of miles away, were built, in part, by hordes of poorly compensated menial laborers, or conquered indigenous peoples, and erected for the purpose of stroking the egos of the great imperialists who plundered the required fortune to accomplish such grandeur. These specimens: the Parthenon, Hagia Sofia, Pyramids, St. Peter's Basilica, etc. - are considered among the greatest architectural achievements of humanity. Yet, it is likely that they could never be built today, despite our vast technological advancement, because of the exorbitant financial, material and human capital. How, then, do these buildings guide us to sustainability in design? The buildings we study do not exemplify sustainability - neither environmental nor social nor economic. They, instead, reveal the potential of humankind to reach a magnificent level of performance by focusing its energy on achieving a goal. The goal was to have the grandest, tallest, most splendid ____________ (fill in the blank) the world has ever seen. Clearly, that has been achieved. What will humankind achieve with a collective focus on achieving global environmental, social and economic sustainability? I would argue that as globalization continues, finding a collective forum will be essential to tackle this increasingly pressing global issue. Looking to the examples of history to guide us toward a sustainable future will not be as valuable as looking within ourselves to determine our path. Future theory entries will explore how urban planning models contribute to specific power structures (i.e. Communist/Socialist vs Capitalist/Free Market); and the effects of modernization on urban vitality. Photo one depicts the obscene urban development in Dubai. Photo two shares the vision of Masdar.

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