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Sustainable Architecture: Cultures and Natures in Europe and North America Edited by Simon Guy and Steven A Moore, Spon Press, 2005. 269pp. £26

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Yet another tome from the Newcastle home of new sustainability with a handsacross-the-sea research link with American and north European universities. Guy, together with Graham Farmer, who also has an essay here, is from Newcastle's School of Architecture. The two have collaborated in the past on the influential paper Reinterpreting Sustainable Architecture: the place of technology. Steven Moore is co-director of the University of Texas at Austin's Center for Sustainable Development. There is also an essay by one Adriaan Slob.

The two authors suggest that 'the debate rages between what are called light green and deep green architects' but fail to note that this 'raging' argument is more style than substance. It is between those who think that designers are still irresponsibly assaulting resources and that they need to be cajoled into more recognition and action, and those who think that sustainable design has gone mainstream and that, by osmosis, sustainable ideas are influencing designers already. This is not a debate about the issue, but a technical argument about management and implementation that is reflected by the authors offering this book to the reader as a 'celeb(ration of) the diversity of contemporary debate? (it is) a collage of differing analyses and intention'.

The clue is in the title Cultures and Natures: this book is sustainability meets relativism, and it basks in the vacuity of 'critical pluralism'. Just when I thought that the sustainability debate couldn't get any worse, we now find that everything is equally valid, nothing is wrong, all seems worthy of taking on board, no judgement ensues and we learn absolutely nothing.

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