Monday, December 29, 2008

Green Void: an absence of ethical architecture

Green Void by Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA)The Green Void architectural installation at Customs House in Sydney is a success, but only as a commentary on the cynical actions by architects who value self promotion over the interests of the community. The installation by Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA); consists of a green fabric sculpture filling the atrium of Customs House, with accompanying sound and projections.

Reading the brochure which accompanied the installation I started to suspect that this was an elaborate hoax, intended to point out the failings of modern architecture.

The object displayed is obviously not architecture: it is not intended to provide shelter or any other practical function, it is purely an aesthetic work. Accompanying claims about its use of lightweight fabric and the latest digital fabrication and engineering techniques are clearly nonsense.

As the work has no practical use, the fact that it uses minimal material is irrelevant. It would make little sense to praise a sculptor because they use little material, unless this enhanced the aesthetic value of the work.

The brochure for the installation refers to the work of Le Corbusier. Green Void is reminiscent of
Le Corbusier in that it is a work of style over substance. Le Corbusier famously produced impractical buildings with flat roofs which leaked. He claimed a mass produced machine look, but which actually required expensive hand finishing. While claiming to use architecture to create a better society, the real aim was to build moments to the architect's own ego. In the same way Green Void claims to be a digitally design environmentally sensitive piece of architecture, but is not.

Customs House has cleverly enhanced the appreciation of Green Void by simultaneously having a display by Emergency Architects Australia
(Level 2, 8 December 2008 – 8 February 2009) of 'not-for-profit' work by volunteers rebuilding after disasters. This exhibition of real architecture carried out to benefit the community throws Green Void into sharp contrast as trivial ephemera.

If further conformation was needed that Green Void was not a serious work, it is given in the inside of the installation brochure, which says: "Green is the new black". This can be interpreted as a comment that the current emphasis on sustainable development and the environment is for many just a fashion trend to be cynically exploited for publicity.

Green Void is a very useful education in what architecture should not be. Architects are professionals who are required by their code of ethics to act in the interests of their clients and in the public interest. Green Void shows what happens when the ego of the architect is placed before the needs of the community.

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