Everyone is an architecture critic. It doesn’t take an advanced degree or any special knowledge about building construction. People know what they like. Just like movie critics, the general public can form a completely contrarian view to the so-called experts. There are many examples. The Eiffel Tower was (and still is by many) considered an eyesore among the Victorian architecture of Paris. Likewise, it took decades for residents to appreciate the expressed structure of the Hancock Tower in Chicago.
Even more annoying to architecture critics must be the people who do actually have knowledge of the building industry. In the previous examples, no doubt structural engineers were the first fans. Today, supporters of green design are becoming more vocal in their praise of sustainable architecture… and disdain for extravagant usage of natural resources.
Earlier this year, Vanity Fair attempted to create a list of the five most important works of architecture created since 1980. They asked experts in the field of architecture. Some structures, like Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Rem Koolhaas’ Seattle Central Library were obvious choices. The dramatic geometries of each structure clearly advanced the industry.
However, taken altogether, the list was lacking in examples of sustainable architecture. Though the VF column did feature the works of some green architects like Renzo Piano and Norman Foster, it included only some of their less environmentally ambitious works.
A handful of bloggers then took it upon themselves to compile their own list of Green Buildings. The following list by Lance Hosey of Architect Magazine.com was eye-opening. Like the previous list, this one was based on the opinions of industry professionals, but it now included green building experts and advocates, including engineers and educators.
Top Green buildings Since 1980 (top 5)
• Adam Joseph Lewis Center (Oberlin, Ohio), William McDonough + Partners, 2001
• California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco), Renzo Piano Building Workshop, 2008
• Genzyme Center (Cambridge, Mass.), Behnisch Architekten, 2003
• Beddington Zero Energy Development/BedZed (London), ZEDfactory, 2002
• Chesapeake Bay Foundation (Annapolis, Md.), SmithGroup, 2001