I wrote this right after GreenBuild 2007- but life got in the way of me adding pictures and posting sooner. Hopefully I can post more regularly. Check out my summary of the events I attended-

I will leave the Expo summary to Amanda. I was able to attend the opening plenary session with speeches by Rick Fedrizzi, President and CEO of USGBC and former President Bill Clinton amongst others. The choir was large and preaching was vibrant. In order to keep the energy up for the other 364 days a website was launched: GreenBuild365 I also attended six education sessions… (more…)


My career recently took a detour, and for the moment I’m working at a Landscape Architecture firm. The work is pretty interesting and it jogged my memory to a lecture I attended this fall by Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf, and thought I’d share some of my notes and thoughts here.

In his lecture here in Chicago last fall, Piet did a brief overview of a couple of his local projects, and discussed his design process in general terms. The majority of the lecture was essentially a primer on the elements of plants he considers when he is designing, primarily the significance of each type of plant form. I’ve listed a few examples below, but I would definitely check out his books for further information.

Spires are a dominant form and reach toward the heavens.


Umbels are the counter balance of spires (above), and keep the eye at a certain level


Daisies remind us of the sun


This fantastic slide show exhibits Oudolf’s birth-life-death design principles supporting the overarching theme of year-round interest in the garden. I am enamored with his one-ness with plants. His delightful concepts result in rich, interesting, beautiful, natural and unique gardens.
Recent large scale projects employing his principles include:
Along with Kathryn Gustafson, the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millenium Park (A fantastic gardener’s take here)


Battery Park, NYC

High Line Team, competition winner


Laurie Olin, FASLA, established the first incarnation of his firm, Olin Partnership, in 1976. More than thirty years later, Mr. Olin has developed landscapes and master plans for universities, international companies, government bodies and numerous other clients.

“The firm takes a long term view of design, believing that strong, clear schemes supported by innovative detailing and fine, lasting materials are essential to melding social needs with physical resources. Design that provides functional accommodation, symbolic meaning, and aesthetic richness can make timeless human environments.” From Olin Partnership “Philosophy.”

Past projects include University of Pensylvania master plan, Art Institute of Chicago gardens, and Battery Park City master plan. Current projects include…

Atlantic Yards,

and Washington Monument modifications.

Olin has long collaborated with Peter Eisenmann. “During their twenty-five years of collaboration, Olin and Eisenman have developed a unique approach to site development where neither the building nor the surrounding environment is given priority,” from Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.

From ICA:Fertilizers: Olin / Eisenman

In addition to these large and highly visible projects, Olin continues to teach and write, influencing future generations of Landscape architects.

Earlier this month I attended a lecture by Swedish Architect Lars Danielsson, Organic Swedish Architecture. He used a handful of Swedish architectural examples to explain larger ideas about sustainability, as it pertains to the citizens of the world, not just architects. The lecture was loosely organized around the ancient Greek elements of fire, soil and fire.



Energy (Fire)

Danielsson highlighted a common building approach in Sweden (and elsewhere) to conserve energy in new residential construction, Superinsulation. By combining a highly insulated building envelope with passive solar gain, Super Insulated buildings need very little in the way of additional heat. In addition to the sun, heat is generated by the people and appliances within the enclosure.

Superinsulated Swedish House

Resources (Earth)

This report covers the discussion, and much more. The ideas presented were at once large and small scale. The infrastructure for recycling anything (energy or soda cans) must be in place for the individual to participate. Within a building for example, it is possible to employ heat exchangers, which do not rely on larger infrastructure to be useful in reducing energy consumption.

Recycle Earth

Ventilation (Air)

Danielsson highlighted another technical solution for reducing energy consumption and improving quality of life. Geothermal heating and cooling can be employed in many places and with proper design can be effective without using electricity.

Geothermal Diagram


“Clean water and healthy children never travel in a straight line” summarizes the more philosophical bent Danielsson took at the end of his lecture. His discussion of water transcended the factual importance of clean water and spoke to the spiritual importance of having things in balance, that water re-affirms quality of life.

Flowing Water

Overall, the lecture was thorough and made a consistent argument about making more effective decisions with the way we spend money and energy. It was a solid primer on sustainability and the ecological way of looking at the world and architecture, particularly more passive solutions and learning from nature. The majority of the ideas were already familiar to me, not only from architecture school, but also from my primary education and at home where I first learned about passive solar and the importance of respecting our environment so that it can provide for us.

This week I finally made it over to the MCA to check out Sustainable Architecture in Chicago: Works in Progress and Massive Change. Today’s entry will just be about the Sustainable architecture portion. A good Massive Change overview can be found here.

At first glance, the Sustainable Architecture exhibit seemed to fall short – due in part to its remote location in the museum and the small footprint it occupied. But, on further exploration, the projects themselves are very interesting and show the wide results that can occur when designers consider the role their buildings play in the environment. I will only touch on two of the seven projects presented.

SOM Chicago’s Zero Energy Tower is the only project featured that is not being built in Chicago.

Studio Gang’s Ford Calumet Environmental Center is located on the far southeast side of Chicago.

Both projects are influenced by nature’s ways: the tower by biomimicry, and the environmental center, more specifically, by a bird’s nest. Ultimately, I think this is the goal of the sustainable movement – to have the built world operate as much like the natural world as possible.

Other projects the exhibit included:
Hyatt Regency Lower Wacker Exhibition Hall and Riverwalk Renovation Project by Gensler
Near North SRO/Mercy Housing Lakefront by Murphy Jahn
Pacific Garden Mission by Tigerman McCurry Architects
Greenworks Headquarters and Eco-Industrial Park, by Farr Associates and Christy Weber Landscapes
Aurora Master Plan, by UrbanLab, Sarah Dunn + Martin Felsen