FEW THINGS ARE AS FUTILE AS AN EXEMPLARY GREEN BUILDING NOBODY WILL BUY
Paul Rudolph once claimed that 'all problems can never be solved? it is a characteristic of the 20th century that architects are highly selective in determining which problems they want to solve'. If the advent of sustainability has given 21st-century architects their own set of problems - air-conditioning, carbon emissions, the destruction of the planet - it has also proved the futility of single-issue architecture. Few things are more pointless than an environmentally exemplary building which nobody wants to buy.
Next week, the international property fraternity descends on MIPIM in Cannes, a world where 1980s-style consumerism is alive and well.
Yachts line the harbour; the city sells more champagne than at any other time of year; and international architectural practices court a greedy global audience. Britain, like every other country, presents itself as a land of opportunity; an investor's dream. It is a market which knows that it is good to be green, but which is genetically predisposed to value commercial viability above any other goal.
We are taking this issue of the AJ - and the architects it features - to MIPIM in a bid to demonstrate that the two are not mutually exclusive. It is not a roll call of Britain's ecowarriors, but a snapshot of the way that different practices draw on environmental issues to inform their design. While some operate at the cutting edge of technology, others concentrate on lowkey, low-tech solutions - refurbishing an existing building as opposed to starting anew. Common sense, maybe, but a stroll through the airconditioned pavilions of MIPIM shows how easily the thirst for progress can create a logic of its own. Vast swathes of the world see their architectural heritage as clutter to be removed.
Architects cannot select the problems they want to solve. As Alvar Aalto once observed, the simultaneous solution of conicting problems is 'the one absolute condition for creative work'.