Building the Future by Looking at the Past - OZY | A Modern Media Company


Because these innovators look at the past and see the future.

By OZY Editors

Forward-looking architects are using inspiration from the past — an age-old building material, a mathematical formula from 1903 and painstakingly researched restoration of ancient ruins — to address modern needs for green, energy-efficient and culturally appropriate developments.

Reaching to the Sky — With Wooden Skyscrapers

In a head-spinning step, researchers from Cambridge, England, are experimenting with one of the oldest building materials — the kind from trees — instead of using steel as the primary structure for buildings. Already, there is one nine-story timber apartment building in London, a 10-story structure in Melbourne, Australia, and a 14-story building in Norway. But all that is dwarfed by talk of a wooden building that someday could reach 70 stories into the sky. Architectural engineers behind the idea say they’re looking for materials that are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than steel and concrete. But relying on timber takes some doing; to succeed, it will require not just great architectural skills but the expertise of biochemists. Read the story here.

A New House That Shifts Its Shape

David Ben Grünberg and Daniel Woolfson run D*Haus, a London-based architectural firm, and they have designs on a house for all seasons that is beautiful, practical — they hope — and, most interestingly, movable. They plan to break ground on the first-ever dynamic house, which transforms from a perfect square into a triangle and even a wide-open flower, opening to eight different positions throughout the year, in the Cambridgeshire countryside next winter. Read the story here.

In New Delhi, It’s Back to the Future for a Star Architect 

It’s amazing how the accident of life can turn a career — and in this case, perhaps reshape the way a city of more than 16 million looks at both its ruins and some of its future buildings. In the case of Ratish Nanda, it happened when a professor at a New Delhi college asked him and other students to write a paper on urban villages near their homes. During his research, Nanda discovered that he was living amid the ruins of a dynasty. He fell in love with those ruins, particularly their architecture. That excursion helped launch a remarkable and influential career in conservation architecture, one in which he restores the remains of history to their past glory. Read the story here.

The Cooling Comfort of Next-Stage Architecture

Doris Kim Sung thinks buildings are dumb — and have gotten only dumber over the years. In the past, buildings had thick insulating walls and small windows that limited heat transfer, maintaining a comfortable temperature. But the invention of plate glass in the 1930s allowed for floor-to-ceiling windows, leading to a heavy reliance on energy-guzzling air conditioning and heating systems. A biology major turned architect, Sung drew from her scientific background to develop a smarter, more eco-friendly alternative: dynamic, “breathable” exteriors that can regulate the temperature in buildings the way human skin regulates body temperature — consuming zero energy and requiring no switches or other controls. Read the story here.

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