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.
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.