ARC 331: Globalism and Sustainable Traditions

week of

April 19-25

Please note the following dates:

  • April 19: Good Friday (campus closed)
  • April 22: Easter Monday (likewise)
  • April 25: final F2F meeting for ARC 331
  • May 2: final exam (see description below)


What are the challenges and benefits of intersections of globalism and sustainable/regional traditions in the twenty-first century?

One of the first considerations in this class of the impact of technology on architecture was the impact of a communication technology--printed books--on early eighteenth-century design. Almost three centuries after the publication of Vitruvius Britannicus, we are in a wholly new information age, rich with knowledge and data (but not always with insight or understanding). The growth, both in expanse and depth of awareness for architectural traditions, technological innovations, social patterns, ecological concerns and a host of other issues, is but one impact of the electronic and digital capacities that would have dazzled the Neo-Palladians.

There is also something to be said for the democratization of information that is no longer constrained by proximity nor contained in the hands (and minds) of the wealthy--although this accessibility remains imperfect, as the digital divide separates countries as well as communities. In some places this divide aligns with (potentially) related developments in material technologies used to design and construct buildings, and may (sometimes) influence architects' choices (or, perhaps, present the conditions by which they may draw influence from a thing). These potentials return us to the center of the class, which has used the social and built material of over 300 years to investigate the relationship between people and technology with the focus of understanding the relative or shifting frameworks of social constructivism and technological determinism.

This final lesson positions these issues are squarely within a consideration of recent trends of rising global practices as a result of an expanded, worldwide economy, and a reassessment of regional and vernacular traditions that address specific ecological and cultural conditions. Splice these concerns with vastly varied options for practice, from megatall skyscrapers (a precise term, BTW) and vast cultural institutions to preservation and adaptive reuse of community buildings and an increasing concern for providing emergency shelter for refugees, and the class concludes not so much with a period (.) (or even exclamation point), but rather a colon (:), having ideally equipped you to think critically about the professional steps that you will take in the near future.

learning objectives

At the conclusion of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define terminology specific to technique, style and structure (KNOWLEDGE)
  • Describe integration of technology (material and non-material) in individual buildings (KNOWLEDGE)
  • Explain stylistic/technical changes in design as they relate to cultural context (COMPREHENSION)
  • Explain the development of the vocation/profession of building designers in the current global context (comprehension)
  • Recognize change in architectural styles by comparing their formal and technical characteristics (ANALYSIS)
  • Critique the agency of people and technology w/in the process of design (EVALUATE)
  • Evaluate different theoretical and design approaches--especially in regards to global pressures and regional opportunities--and defend personal preferences/beliefs (EVALUATE)

part 1

Global Vistas

Worldwide Architecture 

Globalism has extended the technological and aesthetic reach of architects far from their home bases, allowing them to provide professional services and expertise around the world, especially in quickly-developing locations where those skills may not be available among local practitioners. With this expansion, primarily from the US and Europe to places like China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE),comes the benefit of a global brand and international "style;" clients who prefer cultural cohesion in their modernist buildings depend on the interpretations of outsiders. See how this is playing out among a few extraordinary projects in the UAE:

For more on the Louvre Abu Dhabi, see this five-minute film on its construction and planning,

David Adjaye represents another approach to globalism: embodying the ideal, so to speak, as the well-travelled son of a diplomat, Adjaye's view of the world has always had a broad scale--but which does not hinder his approach to the small-scale and regionally-informed. Watch the following introduction to him, in his own words:

Now learn a bit more about his design for the Smithsonian's Museum of African American History and Culture: surely one of the most important buildings completed in the very recent past. Finally, let's hear a few summary moments of Adjaye's approach to "architecture as an instrument of peace:"

part 2

Sustainability (A Few Ways)

The Greenest Building

Although usually assumed to relate to energy savings and related benefits to the environment and economy (which are, of course, not bad things), sustainability comes in many forms. Embodied energy is an important concept within sustainability studies: the consideration of how much energy was used to gather and prepare building materials, get them to the site and form them into a building. Losing a building is not just its materials, but a collection of energy that is "embodied" in its creation and lifespan.

Cultural sustainability is a related issue that architects should also consider. Old buildings hold memory of events and people, as well as record and illustrate construction materials and methods, as well as artistic and ornamental contributions that may be impossible to recreate. Cultural landmarks may not be famous buildings that illustrate heroic achievements in architectural history, but they are gathering points for communities and cultures. Once they vanish, they are lost forever--one of the hard lessons of the twentieth century's increased reliance on mechanization.

The culmination of these ideas leads many preservationists to regard historic preservation, and the associated practices of adaptive reuse, as the "Greenest of Green:" for what is more sustainable--in multiple uses of the word--than the building that's already built?

SCAD's approach to the city is winning in many ways. First, the reclamation of abandoned buildings, adapted to use as an auditorium (the old movie theatre) or library (a former department store), for instance, gives the campus a particular urban flavor and integrates the school completely within the fabric of the city. Their work has also meant the economical and creative preservation of dozens of structures that may have been lost otherwise, maintaining the architectural heritage of Savannah. And, as the growing school has been such an economic boon to the city, the approach has not only sustained the culture of the place, but the actual fabric of society. (See a full catalogue of SCAD's repurposed campus buildings here.)

part 3

Disaster Response

New Conditions, or a New Response to Timeless Issues?

The world has never been without turmoil that has forced displacement of populations due to weather or war. And yet, either because of the growth of population, the fact that news of mass tragedy can spread across continents within minutes, or a change in attitudes, humanitarian aid in all forms, including architectural services, appears to be on the rise. Click the image below to launch a website that investigates responses to natural disaster in the United States.


  • For how long have Americans been recording their responses to natural disasters?
  • Given the "lessons learned" in each section, do you observe adequate responsiveness to guard against similar tragedies in the future?
  • How does this overview affect your view of the profession's responsibility to design in anticipation of such disasters?
  • rate this project

The recent past has seen many different kinds of architectural responses to provide shelter in the aftermath of disaster. Consider the following examples, just a few that illustrate the great variety of responses taken by different designers around the world to this common issue:

  • FEMA (US Federal Emergency Management Administration) trailers: here and here
  • IKEA's flat-pack refugee shelter: here and here
  • The modernist "Make It Right" foundation projects that are sponsored by Brad Pitt (and that have lead to unfortunate legal problems): here and here
  • The vernacular/traditional-inspired Katrina Cottages, designed by 31-year-old Marianne Cusato (which have won design awards, including one that the Cooper-Hewitt had to invent to adequately address the project's popularity and success): here and here

Cut of similar cloth as Cusato, Pakistani Yasmeen Lari has had a profound impact in her home country during a second career that followed a more expected path of success associated with the person known as "Pakistan's First Woman Architect." Learn more about her by entering the site accessible by clicking her portrait to the left.


  • How is Lari's work embrace ideals of social justice and heritage preservation?
  • Why does she think it is so important to use traditional methods in disaster relief projects?
  • Are the architectural principles that Lari draws from Islam shared with Christian concerns?
  • How might we see Lari's work as a model of compassionate professionalism?
  • rate this project

part 4

The Final Word yours

To complete ARC 331, complete three more things:

  1. this survey/assignment (due:Wednesday)
  2. quiz on lessons 12-15 (April 25, in class)
  3. final exam (due: Thursday, May 2, 5 PM)

Your final exam is a cumulative exercise; a link to its directions can be found on the green calendar page.

And, since you've made it this far, enjoy this 10-minute clip that, all economic and global musings aside, may just be enough to justify the construction of the Burj Khalifa:

additional resources

Additional Resources


Robert Venturi, from Complexity & Contradiction (1966)