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LUIS DE GARRIDO interview for BEYOND magazine (China) about ARTIFICIAL NATURE ARCHITECTURE concept.

1. Nowadays, the world is faced with population explosion and energy crisis. Energy Consumption is increasing incredibly. Concerning the architectural design field, energy efficiency is paid more and more the present situation of sustainable architectural design?

Sincerely, I don’t think so.

A lot about sustainable architecture has been talked last years, but anything has been done. As a sign of this, journalists still illustrate its articles of sustainable architecture with the same image, and is still difficult to find projects that have a feature, however small, that could be considered “sustainable. ”

It is a fashion media that was looked down on by architects 10 years ago, and nowadays everyone wants to lead it. But it is easier said than done. There is a lot of talking, but little is done.

Personally I think that only a handful of architects made ​a truly sustainable architecture by their own initiative, and well above the existing rules in each country. These architects are: Ken Yeang, Richard Register, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Jonathan Hines, David Kirkland, Hansen & Petersen, Peter Zumthor, Mario Cuccinella, … ..

2. How do you think of some realized energy-saving projects at present, regarding it’s deficiency and significance?

Well, the fact is that nowadays all the buildings that are made anywhere in the world are presented as “sustainable, any excuse, but they have almos anything ” sustainable “, just to save face in front of a society, at the same time, as consciousness as ignorant. On many occasions was described as a “sustainable” building one that was designed simply with a little common sense. In other cases, it is referred to as a “sustainable” building one that incorporates any device, called “green”. Some of the excuses commonly used are: sunscreens, supposed green technologies, special glasses, thermal or photovoltaic solar collectors, etc. All these “excuses” have in common three things: 1. Are visible to the naked eye, 2. Are very expensive, and 3. They have almos anything “sustainable.”

The situation is so absurd that it was a perfect breeding ground for the emergence of a group of companies which I call: “Green-Building-Easy-Bussiness”. They offer expensive certifications, supposedly sustainable, and not regulated by law. The point is to pretend to be “sustainable”, although having almost anyhing of “sustainable.”

However, coexisting with the fashion media, there are architects, prepared and aware, doing exemplary buildings, and everyone should be following them. But of course, much effort, preparation and time is needed to design and build, but it is especially needed information or rather than that meta-information (meaning information about information, a set of criteria to distinguish the wheat from the chaff).

Unfortunately, nowadays few people have time, and few want to strive for a contrasting approach. People want an easy way to meet their needs, and this is precisely where the problem is. Many people eat, travel, visit, live and think, as others have previously planned and executed.

In this sense, the global information network makes worse the problem, offering more information but very short and repetitive, and it does not promote neither criticism nor self-criticism, only repetitive and ongoing slogans. As a result, a building becomes sustainable repeating it, although having almost anyhing of “sustainable.”

Undoubtedly, this phenomenon discourages those who want to improve as individuals and as professionals, and make a truly social and sustainable architecture that meets human needs, and stay in balance with Nature.

3. Although the society appeals to energy-saving architecture, it is still a controversial problem concerning the limit of cost and technology. Do you have any good suggestions for sustainable moderate cost? For example, any energy-saving technology or products to recommend according to your experience?

I am delighted that you ask this question because by definition, a true “green building” should be cheaper than a conventional one.

This statement may seem surprising, but it is not at all. The reason is that what is commonly known as a “sustainable” type building, is not.

Let me explain.

Economic interests are consolidating a misconception of sustainable architecture as one that incorporates all kinds of technological devices, with the alleged purpose of causing little environmental impact and reduce energy consumption. It is being sold all kinds of technologies and “magic” materials that, when are incorporated into a building, make it “sustainable.” But this is a mistake, a serious one.

I will prove it with a simple example:

Imagine that we set to keep our house clean as goal, however we can achieve it through two very different forms.

1. On the one hand, we can hire a professional cleaning team that continually clean what we mess. A specialized cleaning equipment that goes each day to our home, equipped with the latest technological advances in cleaning, and uses all kinds of supposed environmentally friendly cleaning products and supposedly effective. Thus, we can do whatever we want in our home, we work hard and must not be restricts to our freedom. But in return we pay a lot of money for the cleaning service.

2. However, we can choose a second option. We can change our habits, we can re-educate and discipline us, and we can try to mess to a minimum, to clean it ourselves our little mess.

At the end, the result may look the same: the house is clean.

However, on the first option we have spent an enormous amount of money on cleaners, cleaning equipment and cleaning products. Besides, it would have been used a lot of energy (on the travel, human and mechanic activity) and have generated a lot of waste and emissions.

Well, this is the wrong model of “sustainable architecture” of interest to businesses and the current economic system of consumerism. The problem is that this model is false: it will not solve any environmental problem (as is already receiving), and besides, there is nothing “sustainable.”

The true model “sustainable” is infinitely more effective and more economical.

Now better understood my statement that if a building is more expensive, it is simply is not “sustainable.” Just have a set of technological additives, which have been designed correctly, would not be necessary.

Let me take another example.

Imagine that we have to design a house in a hot climate. Then again we have two options. On the one hand we can make the design that we please. We can make any arbitrary and suggestive design, which simply pleases us, and that pleases our customer. And to cool it in summer, we can choose an air conditioning system, supposedly “green”, “energy efficient”, “sustainable”, … “advanced” or … and of course, very expensive.

However, we have a second option: we can do a careful and detailed bioclimatic design of housing, so that, in addition to pleasing our customers, in addition to meeting all customer requirements, and also to please ourselves, is capable of regulating heat. We can control the orientation, type, voids, thermal inertia, construction details, insulation, etc … .. so that housing, just by design, and only by purely architectural decisions, tends to cool in summer, warm in winter without any device, called “green.” And this house, in addition to better meet human needs, is more economical.

In other words, supposedly “sustainable” artifacts are simply not needed in a real “sustainable” architecture. In this sense, a true “sustainable” architecture is also more economical than conventional.

4. In your opinion, what is the bottleneck and what are the most important factors for energy-saving design?

Somehow I think I’ve answered this question. The bottleneck is the big inertia of society.

Inertia has been helpful in human evolution. If something was helping to ensure the survival and well-being, should be preserved. That is, it was useful to keep doing the same thing over and over again.

This inertia is a process intrinsically human. Today we know that any improvement in the human brain evolution has had an immediate reflection on the achievement of certain technological advances and some creative innovations of all kinds. But it takes several generations (two or three at least) for these innovations are accepted by society.

However, in a changing society, and what is most important in a society that needs many additional changes to survive, our enemy now is inertia.

It’s time to innovate, to propose a new economic order, a new political order, and above all, a new social order, to ensure the survival and welfare of human society.

And the same should be done for architecture. You can not keep doing the same architecture as always, and make up to pass it off as sustainable. What you should do is, as before, create a new sustainable architectural syntax, embedded in a global paradigm, and can adapt and enrich themselves in any environment of planet Earth.

Should be established urgently a new sustainable paradigm for architecture, and agreed with urgently by the society, economic power, and all professionals in the world.

A major bottleneck. But that must be resolved urgently.

It is the only way.

5. What inspired you with the idea of the two projects?

The aim of the Tower Berimbau is to create a symbol for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, 2016. A sustainable symbol, but also a symbol that represents the new Brazil of the future. I wanted to make sustainable building model and, in turn, capable to emotion to all Brazilians. A building that represented the intrinsic identity of Brazilian culture. That’s why I was inspired by the tribal dances of Brazil (Capoeira), and the typical musical instrument of Brazil: the Berimbau.

On the other hand, the objective of Geoda 2055 is built on a disused quarry near a major city in the Basque Country, Spain. A very difficult goal, because the quarry has made a significant break in the Earth. The abandoned quarry is a terribly degraded environment, and represents a huge challenge to build, and to integrate into the urban fabric. Therefore, to solve the problem inspired by ls geodes, and rock crystals. A geode is a rock ugly and amorphous, but when they crack, they show a pattern of gems of great beauty. Similarly, rock crystals, they represent a beautiful crystalline structure, which emerges from an amorphous base and ugly. In short, the idea was to create a network of jewel-like buildings that literally emerged from the bowels of the earth. A rash of jewelry. A gift from the earth in the form of jewelry.

6. Both of them are sustainable projects. Are they designed based on the same theory or not? And one is in Spain, another is in Brazil; how do you consider the geographic condition and the make the architecture harmonious with the surrounding environment.

This is a good question.

All my projects, located anywhere on the planet Earth are based on the same sustainable and innovative architectural paradigm. All share a new and innovative architectural syntax, and the same criterion of values​.

However, each project must be suited to the climatic environment, economic and social environment to be built. Thus, the result is quite different, depending on the particular environment.

The process is extremely exciting. And tremendously rewarding.

Whenever I have the feeling that I’m helping people, and I’m putting a small grain of sand in order to ensure their survival and welfare.

7. As a result of the above, how do you conceptualize a real sustainable architecture?

I love your question because there is much talk of sustainable architecture, and no one has defined it with a minimal precision. And any ambiguous concept is useless

I have proposed a definition of Sustainable Architecture, and it was accepted and validated by 12 of the best architects in the world during the World Sustainable Architecture Exhibition at the Fundación Canal, Madrid, in 2010. The architects that were validated: Ken Yeang, Emilio Ambasz, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Antoli Lamela, David Kirkland, Jonathan Hines, Rafael de la Hoz, Iñigo Ortiz, Enrique Leon, Mario Cucinella and Winny Maas (MVRDV):

“Sustainable Architecture is one that meets the needs of its occupants, at any time, anywhere, without jeopardizing the welfare and development of future generations. Therefore, sustainable architecture involves an honest commitment to human development and social stability, using architectural strategies to optimize resources and materials, promoting renewable energy, minimizing waste and emissions, minimize maintenance, functionality and price of the buildings and improve the quality of life of its occupants”. (Luis De Garrido. 2010)

I am aware that a simple definition does not do much. Therefore, and after more than 20 years of experience, I created a set of actions whose implementation ensures the achievement of a genuine, true and complete sustainable architecture.

These are the actions:

1. Protecting the environment
Ensuring the integrity of the biosphere
Reduce fragmentation of the Territory
Perceive the environment in a holistic way
Minimize paving
Reduce building on farmland
Promote the building height and scavenging of the city
Promote recycling and prevent its expansion cities

2. Protect Fauna and Flora
Preserve the existing ecosystem and the local Wildlife
Conserve existing habitats
Ensure the holistic integration with the environment

3. Ensuring human nutrition
Encouraging local food production
Reduce food transport
Reduce fertilizer
Ensure that the human diet change does not generate any
Promote food growing buildings
Encourage self-sufficiency of water in buildings

4. Modify the human lifestyle and cultural values
Reevaluating human needs
Reassessing the social needs
Basic human needs
Ensure integration with the historic environment and social
Ensure no impact human activity in nature
Ensure no negative impact human activity in the Weather

5. Improving human welfare and quality of life
Design with healthy materials
Designing with non-emissive
Natural ventilation design
Satisfy human social relations
Improving the quality of human life

6. Optimize resources (natural and artificial)
Built to last
Project to recover
Project to repair and reuse
Design for recycling
Design for dismantling
Project to reintegrate

7. Promote industrialization and prefabrication
Project to industrialize
Design with modular components
Designing prefabricated components

8. Minimize emissions and waste
Design for reuse
Project to manage and reduce waste
Design with simple constructive solutions
Reduce pollution
Reduce waste
Designing with non-emissive
Designing biodegradable materials
Design with Waste

9. Encourage the use of renewable natural energy
Solar project
Wind power project
Geothermal energy projects

10. Reducing energy consumption
Project with local materials
Design with simple constructive solutions
Project with local labor
Encourage self-sufficiency in buildings
Design with bioclimatic building typologies
Constructive solutions to project energy efficient
Project with the least amount of artifacts

11. Reduce cost and maintenance
Designing an integrated economic environment
Design with simple solutions
Project to extend the life cycle of buildings
Design with simple and appropriate technology solutions

12. Change transport systems
Reduce the number of cars
Ensure proportionate use of public transport soil
Encouraging walking and cycling

I invite readers of this interview to explore these issues and discuss with them some of the buildings that today’s society have been “sold” and “sustainable” (or “sustainable”).

It is clear that the disparity between what to do and what I’ve done is enormous. And what is worse, in many cases have to go in the opposite direction.

Everything is waiting to be done.

8. And finally. Could you easily define the architectural paradigm that you yourself proposed, and which referred to as “Artificial Nature”?

Under the concept of “Artificial Nature” lies the essence of my work. By far the biggest contribution to my career.

This involves identifying and wean the world of man-made artifacts, providing it with its own environmental laws, and above all, integrated with nature.

Nature, as we perceive is the result of a continuous process of trial and error “no purpose, channeled by the survival of the species are created in this ongoing process (cyclic, infinite and rational purpose.) The fact is that Nature has secured its own environmental laws of self-control, and has fed on natural energy for their existence. Similarly, human activity (linear, finite and rational), and the resulting artifacts should be covered by new environmental laws, artificial, and similarly, powered by the same natural energy. And both (nature and Artificial Nature) should be continuously in perfect balance.

In recent years I have formalized a set of rules that could govern these new “Artificial Nature”, and I have experienced in each of my projects, to try to approach a goal is extremely complex, that I myself have self-imposed.

To better understand my goals, one example may suffice:

Leonardo da Vinci, among many activities, was really worried about the flight of birds. He spent time observing how they fly, such as the shape of their wings, such as creams, etc.

Leonardo concluded early on that the man would be impossible, or at least extremely difficult to directly emulate the flight of birds with the help of his understanding and technology. And time has proved right, still not found a material light enough, light enough batteries or an engine powerful enough yet light enough to do something similar. However, after countless hours trying to understand the mechanism of bird flight, Leonardo so internalized, learned, and as a result of the process, soon to create a system even more effective than the beating of wings: the helix.

Well this is exactly what I try to formalize: a new type of architecture exclusive product of human activity, but the result of deep understanding of nature and fully integrated with their life cycles. A new “Artificial Nature” of man-made artifacts.

I have created a project process system able to use a set of industrial architectural elements, and able to create buildings that have an infinite life cycle. In this sense, their components can be recovered, repaired and reused continuously and permanently, without generating waste and emissions. Similarly, these buildings can move, relocate, grow continuously changed, like living organisms. Finally, these buildings, only consume energy, and even I can easily gain bioclimatic buildings with zero energy consumption of nonrenewable energy.

In short and identified-and independent-the universe of man-made artifacts, providing it with its own environmental laws, and above all, integrated with nature. A new type of architecture unique result of human activity, but the result of deep understanding of Nature and fully integrated with their life cycles. A new “Artificial Nature.”

Guangzhou (China), july 2011