Special Issue "Sustainable Architecture"


A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752). This special issue belongs to the section "Arts Today".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2014

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Volker M. Welter
Professor, History of Art & Architecture, Ellison Hall 2834, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106-7080, USA
Website: http://www.arthistory.ucsb.edu/faculty/welter.html
E-Mail: welter@arthistory.ucsb.edu
Interests: californian architectural history; Western/European architectural history from the 19th century onwards; Zionist and Israeli architectural history; the modern city since the 19th century; history and theory of sustainable architecture; contemporary architecture and architectural criticism; modern architecture in relation to philosophical and sociological thought

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

For quite some time now sustainability has been an important paradigm in architecture. Yet in contrast to Modernism and Postmodernism, for example, which rather quickly created memorable designs and agreed upon conceptual parameters, sustainable architecture seems to struggle to define itself through exemplary, identifiable buildings, images, and ideas.

Depending on time, place, and architect or author, sustainability in architecture can mean the renewal of Modernism, the return of traditional ways of building, the continuous innovation of materials, technology, and construction methods, the reorganization of human life along collective lines, or a path to individual salvation. Accordingly, is sustainable architecture an architectural practice, a method, a style, a social, economic, or even aesthetic principle? How can sustainable architecture be defined other than as in reaction to existing ecological problems, especially when considering that mankind may face ecological issues that are still unknown? Looking back at decades of experiments and sustainable buildings, do the efforts amount to a history of sustainable architecture with recognizable patterns and emerging questions worthwhile the attention of the historian? Or is all that remains a collection of discarded, even if quaint designs?

Contributions are invited that critically analyze sustainable architecture from historical and contemporary perspectives while addressing questions as those outlined above and issues of comparable focus. Papers on any period, geographical area, and type of architecture, and of any methodological approach (including biographies of protagonists of sustainable architecture) will be considered, except those that specifically discuss contemporary technical solutions to current ecological problems.

Prof. Dr. Volker M. Welter
Guest Editor


Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Arts is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. For the first couple of issues the Article Processing Charge (APC) will be waived for well-prepared manuscripts. English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.

Published Papers (2 papers)

Arts 2014, 3(1), 175-189; doi:10.3390/arts3010175
Received: 2 January 2014; in revised form: 25 February 2014 / Accepted: 25 February 2014 / Published: 10 March 2014
Show/Hide Abstract | Download PDF Full-text (586 KB)

Arts 2014, 3(1), 15-26; doi:10.3390/arts3010015
Received: 27 October 2013; in revised form: 2 December 2013 / Accepted: 17 December 2013 / Published: 3 January 2014
Show/Hide Abstract | Download PDF Full-text (1261 KB)

Submitted Papers

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Sustainable Development, Architecture and Modernism.  Aspects of an Ongoing Controversy
Authors: Han Vandevyvere and Hilde Heynen
Affiliation: Unit Transition Energy & Environment, VITO NV, Boeretang 200, B-2400 Mol, Belgium; Tel. +32 14 33 58 68; E-Mail: han.vandevyvere@vito.be
Abstract: In some discourses on sustainability, modernism is blamed for its technocratic beliefs that supposedly generated a lot of the problems the world is facing today. In this paper, we react to this viewpoint in different ways. First we clarify the issues that are haunting current architectural discourses by unraveling the logics behind the viewpoints of the so-called constructivists on the one hand (those who are convinced that the call for ‘green buildings’ is but another screen behind which the same old power structures hide) and the technical environmentalists on the other hand (those who are convinced that the threats posed by climate change are such that immediate action rather than further reflection is needed). We will offer, secondly, a new framing to these debates by relying upon the modal sphere theory of the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. This new framing will allow us to reconnect, thirdly, with the discourse of modernism, which, we will argue, is all too often conflated with a technocratic paradigm – a partial, incomplete and even misleading representation. In conclusion, we present a different framing of modernism, which allows to understand it as a multilayered and multifaceted response to the challenges of modernity, a response that formulated a series of ideals that are not so far removed from the ideals formulated by many advocates of sustainability. We are thus suggesting that the sustainability discourse should be conceived as a more mature version of the paradigm of modernism, rather than its absolute counterpoint.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: De l’Orme’s invention: a primordial sustainable approach to wooden architecture
Author: Barbara Brunetti
Affiliation: Department of ArchitectureAlma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna, Italy;
E-Mail: barbarabrunetti@live.com
Abstract: The essay Le nouvelles inventions pour bien bastir et a petits fraiz (“New inventions for high-quality and economical buildings”) published in 1561 by the architect Philibert de l’Orme (1514-1570), represents a cornerstone in the history of wooden stereotomy. The invention, as quoted in the title, consists in an ante litteram pre-manifacturing construction system that starts from a specific module and is applied to the generation of a vault. The sustainability of this type of structure not only relies on the easy availability of raw materials, and on the reduction of both material waste and costs, but also on the discipline which the invention refers to. Derived from clear geometrical rules that teach us how to operate in three-dimensional space, stereotomy originates from architectural systems characterized by great spatial complexity and tectonic lightness. It takes advantage of natural building materials, such as stone and wood, and uses dry mounting techniques. Moreover, the invention discloses a sustainable primordial approach to architecture. Indeed, such an approach is based on five principles, namely the concept of invention, interpreted as a result of the relationship between human creativity and natural limitations; the ethical and constructive heritage represented by traditional all-wood joints; the connection between architecture, intended as a spatial system, and the theory of nature’s complexity; the project of maintenance, a key-approach to design, technology and culture for sustainable development; and the comparison between the present and ancient sustainable use of wood within constructive systems.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Dissolution of Hierarchy - A Further Development of Sustainable Architecture in the Time of Climate Adaption?
Authors: Kasper Albrektsen * and Mads Harder Danielsen
Affiliation: Faculty of Architecture and Design, Aalborg University, Østeraagade 6, 9000 Aalborg, Denmark; E-Mail: mdanie08@student.aau.dk; * Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: kalbre08@student.aau.dk; Tel.: +45 – 40511540.
Abstract: The theme of sustainable architecture has been one of the most dominant topics within architectural discussions in the 21st century. A discussion where the dominating trend recent years has been the emphasis on technological solutions that can utilise nature to solve problems: Here the prominent conception of nature has been a mechanical conception with focus on utility where the primary task of a building is to protect nature from man. Contrary to this conception of nature is a contemporary trend - climatic adaption. Here a building’s capability to embrace not only protection of the nature, but also its ability to adapt to a given context and embrace its processes is of importance in order for serve as a means of solving contemporary climatic caused problems. The link of climate adaption with sustainable architecture therefore gives rise to a clash of conceptions of nature as the term of adaption indicates a closer and more dynamic relation between culture and nature!
This text seeks to investigate how this clash can contribute to a further development of sustainable architecture by asking: How can a holistic conception of nature further develop contemporary sustainable architecture towards a focus on climatic adaption?
Keywords: holism; sustainable architecture; hierarchy; landscape; climatic adaption

Type of Paper: Article
Title: The Architecture of Metabolism. Inventing a Culture of Resilience
Author: Meike Schalk
Affiliation: KTH School of Architecture & The Built Environment, Östermalmsgatan 26, 100 44 Stockholm, Sweden; E-Mail: meike.schalk@arch.kth.se;
Abstract: This article explores the case of 1960s and 70s Metabolism in Japan, which drew the attention of an international architecture community, with its radical and visionary urban and architectural schemes. Metabolism’s foremost agenda, seen from a contemporary perspective, was a concern with cultural resilience. It responded to the human and environmental catastrophe after the atomic bomb, and Japans vulnerability to natural disaster such as earthquakes with architectures envisioning the complete transformation of the system Japan and its social order into resilient spatial and organisational patterns adaptable to change. Metabolism employed bio-scientific metaphors and recalled images of techno-science as well as indigenous forms evoking the notion of a genetic architecture able to become recreated over and over again. A specific concern was the mediation between an urbanism of large technical and institutional infrastructures, and the freedom of the individual. I claim that revisiting Metabolism’s aesthetic and political strategies unearths a historical strand of sustainable architecture, which is valuable to an actual discussion. The aim of this article is to critically examine the notion of sustainable architecture through the rereading of Metabolism: its theories, and products such as terms, models, projects and buildings.
Keywords: metabolism; cultural resilience; systemic change; genetic architecture

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Type of Paper: Article
Title: From Differentiation to Concretization: Towards an integrated theory of sustainable architecture
Author: Graham Farmer
Affiliation: School of Architecture Planning and Landscape, The Quadrangle, University of Newcastle; UK; E-Mail: graham.farmer@ncl.ac.uk
Abstract: The commonplace interpretation of technology is based on a strong differentiation between technical and social realms. An alternative approach is presented that argues for their reconciliation, in order to develop an understanding of sustainable architecture in its full complexity. Drawing on the work of the philosopher, Andrew Feenberg and in particular his two-level theory of instrumentalization, sustainable design practice is conceptualized as a process whereby technical and social considerations seamlessly converge to produce ‘concrete’ artefacts that fit specific contexts. How this happens currently, together with the possibility that it might happen in other ways, is a crucial point for researchers, policy-makers and practitioners to consider. If the development of technology is to be sustainable in the broadest possible sense, then it has to deal actively and consciously with the way in which existing strategies, techniques and technologies are coded, and how new ones might be recoded in an acceptable way. Under contemporary conditions, the two levels of instrumentalization are increasingly differentiated, but this paper argues for integrative design practices and for a process of technical concretization that would potentially facilitate very different types of technological development.

Announced Papers

  1. David Serlin, Department of Communication, La Jolla, USA
  2. David Haney, Kent School of Architecture, University of Kent, UK
  3. Christopher Pierce, Architectural Association School of Architecture, London
  4. Karen Koehler, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002, USA

Last update: 3 April 2014

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