A place in the sun

Blurring the line between nature and the built environment seems to have become the newest building concept of the 21st Century.

COMMENT, Design

Roughly 80 years before the 'greening' of all things architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright said, "Study nature; love nature; stay close to nature. It will never fail you...buildings, too, are children of earth and sun."

While the organic architect was clearly ahead of his time in terms of architectural theory, it would seem he was something of a soothsayer as well. Lloyd Wright's vision of blurring the line between nature and the built environment has not only become the newest building concept of the 21st Century, it seems to have become a feasible architectural goal.

During the recent 2008 World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi, Lord Norman Foster and the Masdar Initiative officially unveiled their programme for Masdar City, the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city.

In a keynote speech Lloyd Wright would have appreciated, Foster suggested that although uncoordinated, "everything in our natural world is a conscious act of design," and that we cannot possibly "divorce energy from architecture."

Despite best current efforts, buildings are said to consume around 40% of the world's energy, but Ammar Al Assam and Dewan are working with the Masdar Initiative on a building that produces a 3% surplus. This building will actually produce energy instead of consuming it.

What's more, just days before Foster's speech at WFES, William McDonough, long-time champion of environmentally friendly architecture and Time magazine's 'Hero for the Planet' in 1999, unveiled plans for his 'Tower of Tomorrow'.

He's designed a skyscraper that grows food, builds soil, houses hundreds of species, changes colours with the seasons, creates micro-climates and purifies water. In effect, McDonough's building will imitate nature.

Frank Lloyd Wright built 'Fallingwater' in 1939 to serve as an archetype of effectively blending architecture and nature. To that end, he put the house on a cliff in a forest above a waterfall.

In light of increasingly advanced eco-friendly architecture, wherever he is, Frank Lloyd Wright is probably smiling.

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