Green Architecture

Green by Desire

In this second video, Carola discusses the aftermath of the industrial revolution and the implications of oil extraction and use. She also highlights how shipping affected the geopolitical map and created new path dependencies that severely affected the production of the built environment. ‘Green by Need’ architecture gradually succumbed to the pressures of neo-liberalism and the omnipotence of technology. And despite the 1970’s first oil crisis, architecture has since continued to rely on both.

Main Takeaways

  • After the industrial revolution, the need for human labor for producing food and goods decreased. People relied more on energy and technology and grew apart from the traditional processes of building.
  • Shipping made possible the transfer of materials and energy sources like oil from distant places whilst the seemingly endless amounts of both led to an architecture that increasingly disregarded local conditions.
  • The early 1970’s oil crisis marked a short return to traditional practices. Movements that resisted neo-liberal practices like the ‘Counterculture Movement’ proliferated; however, none of them managed to persist.

Did you know?

  • During the 1970’s oil crisis, systems theory was extensively used to tackle the emergencies. You can watch Olga discussing how systems theory was employed as a means of predicting the future and tackling the crisis here.
  • One of the key figures of the ‘Counterculture Movement’ was Stewart Brand. The very same Stewart Brand most of you might recognize from the ‘Shearing Layers’  theorem. In the spring of 1968 Brand published the ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ one of the defining elements of the movement. It provided its readers with “reviews of hand tools, books, and magazines arrayed in seven thematic categories: understanding whole systems, shelter and land use, industry and craft, communications, community, nomadics, and learning” (Turner, 2005). Its major contribution is that it somehow linked information, technology and community. Later on, Brand founded the WELL, the first fully computer mediated communication platform. Learn more about Stewart Brand, the ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ and the ‘WELL’ here:

Hafner, K. (May 1997). The Epic Saga of the WELL: The World’s Most Influential Online Community (And It’s Not AOL)The Wire Magazine.

Turner, F. (2005). Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy: The WELL and the Origins of Virtual Community. In Technology and Culture 46, 485-512.

Cadwalladr, C.  (2013, May 5). Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalogue, the book that changed the worldThe Guardian.

What is also very interesting is how some architects of the time responded to the crisis. Influenced by space travel and the by now famous picture drawn from Apollo 8 showing the Earth from space, they sought answers in the self-sustained -or so they were called- astronauts’ cabins. Books like Paul Elrigh’s ‘The Population Bomb’ (1968) and the ‘ Limits to Growth’ report (1972), reinforced an architectural expression that borrowed the closed ecosystem metaphor to produce a design language that was based on space technologies. Life in their projects was secluded from the social realm and focused mainly on biological survival. Most of you must surely have heard of Buckminster Fuller: apart from his 1969 treatise ‘Operating Manual for Planet Earth’ he was one of the pioneers of this movement and the author of a series of projects that were inspired by this line of thought.

You can read more about their ideas and projects here:

  • Anker, P. (2006). The Closed World of Ecological Architecture. In Journal of Architecture 10(5), 527-552.
  • Fuller, B. (1969). Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.
  • Kallipoliti, L. (2018). The architecture of closed worlds: or, what is the power of shit? Zurich, Switzerland: Lars Müller Publishers


Carola Hein
Carola Hein

Prof. Dr. Ing. Carola Hein is Professor and Head of the Chair History of Architecture and Urban Planning at TU Delft. She has published widely in the field of architectural, urban and planning history and has tied historical analysis to contemporary development. Among other major grants, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue research on The Global Architecture of Oil and an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship to investigate large-scale urban transformation in Hamburg in international context between 1842 and 2008. Her current research interests include the transmission of architectural and urban ideas, focusing specifically on port cities and the global architecture of oil. 

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Circularity for Educators

The platform is intended to provide with content on either circularity or pedagogy for and about circularity. It is one of the outcomes of the Circular Impulse Initiative (CII), a project intending to enhance the integration of circularity in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment education. The platform mainly aims to help tutors get better acquainted with circularity in the built environment by providing a series of resources on this subject that they can either view to get better informed or directly share with their students in class or online. A large number of the Faculty's professors and researchers have contributed substantially both in creating a coherent narrative for circularity in the built environment as well as further elaborating on different aspects of it. Besides this one, a new platform for interaction and direct exchange was also established in parallel that we call ‘Educators for Circularity‘. This one offers the opportunity for all of us to meet and share our experiences and learn from one another.

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