Parabola | Architecture + Design

Kevin and Carrie Burke recently gave a lecture on the philosophies of their design, which were profound because they emphasized working intelligently at an incredible range of scales from the city down to the parts per million. They stated that a major source of inspiration was Bill McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle (2003) which emphasized a rethinking of intelligent ecological design.

Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart, 2003

In it, he asks not how to minimize our impact upon the planet, but how to make a positive effect upon it. The Burkes went on to speak about biological and technical nutrients – one cycle for the ecosystem and one cycle for the machine – and the importance that the technical nutrients do not contaminate the biological ones. They also mentioned increased optimization. One optimization point is built up on another in order to minimize diminishing returns.

How do you make green design inspiring? 

Perhaps their most interesting  topic was how to relate the advances of green technology fundamentally back to the human. Parabola Studio attempts to create an interdisciplinary practice that can address not only ecological issues, but political, social, and psychological ones as well. Their goal is a humanistic one in that they attempt to create highly efficient, intelligent buildings that inspire our spirits. Technology is meant to create hope of a better future, to pave the way for future generations to learn from current ecological building practices and build upon them to inspire their own progeny. This, they believe, is one of the greatest hurdles for green architecture to overcome. It still seems too distant to many people. It feels like it belongs with the intellectuals, not the average man.

Inside the Burkes’ home during the summer solstice

As a result, the Burkes built their own home incorporating their principles. Amazingly, they did not design in plan or section; the form of the building was informed by the paths of the sun. It was, in a sense, literally formed by the conditions of the site. Although there are still many hurdles to overcome, I am inspired by the humanism of Parabola. Their goal is to create intelligent designs that inspire, that both think and have emotion. I only hope that our generation would have the fortitude and the patience to continue along this path.


One thought on “Parabola | Architecture + Design

  1. jw2zv says:

    I really agree with you and the lecturers that one of the biggest hurdles for sustainable design is that it seems inaccessible to the modern man. In my Global Sustainability class I have been researching green design strategies and realized that it is incredibly hard to research green design strategies and find programs other than LEED which support green design in the United States. If we want to encourage more sustainable, environmentally conscious design one of the most important steps is going to be to make it more accessible to the common man.

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