This term has become over used in that many have come to think that by putting “green” in front of a word, it must be good. Green architecture, green infrastructure, green transportation; the list goes on. I have come to understand that if it is green it is because it is good for the environment, or at least less harmful for it. In my opinion, IIT’s campus is far from being green as the architecture does not respond to its climate very well. Hot and cold are often an issue with masonry buildings and those are definitely critical for a glass box. We also have flat roofs and a flat landscape that do not respond well to big storms, and we have had quite a few of those recently.
When we are not intentionally trying to design with consideration to the environment, will our environment tell us? “Plants will never lie to you” is a phrase another landscape professor is constantly reminding us as we study a variation of landscapes. I see ivy growing on Siegel hall and wonder if that is its way of fighting with the building for the light it would not get from its shade. I have been here for five years now and the plan is definitely far more developed than it was then. It is difficult to recognize windows in the building if you are not close enough. It is most likely not the healthiest thing for the building, but, in a way, ivy gives it a more natural and softer look. It also alludes to the lengthy existence of the building.
Then we have Crown Hall. Mies had a very interesting way of thinking and that is apparent in his designs. Architects have a history of not always pleasing their clients one hundred percent. Sometimes, we need to trust that our architect has a vision beyond what meets the eye. Crown hall goes through many solar cycles, for example, and through these we get a taste of nature while we are indoors. I do not personally know that he planned this, but knowing of the Farnsworth house in Plano, Illinois and the idea behind that design, it would not surprise me if he had.
This building feels really hot during the day when the AC is out of order. It also gets quite cold in the evenings the closer you are to the windows. But there are experiences that help you to look past that. In the morning, a pleasing amount of light makes its way throughout the building. During the day, you see frosted glass with a view of green canopies through the clear glass above. Then in the evening, as the sun begins setting and Crown Hall begins to settle down, the shadows of the trees closest to the building begin to come through. And it is difficult to prevent a smile from coming on.
These unique experiences in a campus that is not your typical “green” architecture has brought me to reconsider my original definition of green architecture. Even the least expected architecture may have a bit of green in it even if it is not as obvious as the green projects of today.