Posts tagged with "Climate Change":

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RIBA sustainability chairman urges London to consider a glass tower ban

Following NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s "ban" on glass-clad buildings in April, a leading sustainability expert in London has spoken out against London mayor Sadiq Khan’s refusal to enact the same legislation—Simon Sturgis, an adviser to the Greater London Authority and a chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) sustainability group, believes that England's capital should follow suit. While de Blasio’s "ban" was in actuality proposed as a check on excessive use of glass and steel, glass is an inherently problematic building material to use in a world facing a climate crisis and rampant carbon emissions. Sturgis told the Guardian that, “If you’re building a greenhouse in a climate emergency, it’s a pretty odd thing to do, to say the least.” The two cities of New York and London are home to iconic skyscrapers like The Shard and the World Trade Center, both considered pinnacles of glass and steel construction, but while their uninterrupted views and the striking skyline aesthetic attract architects and high-profile tenants at the moment, the environmental irresponsibility may soon phase the desirability out.  “Big commercial tenants don’t like standing up in front of their shareholders and saying they’re doing embarrassing things,” said Sturgis. Glass facades have a short life span, only about 40 years, so the impact of their embedded carbon (how much carbon a product will emit over the course of its entire life) is significant, as a building's glazing is nearly impossible to recycle and inevitably necessary to replace. However, the more immediate consequences of these glass facades is a heavy need for air conditioning. The amenity's adverse environmental impacts are well documented—almost 14 percent of total global energy use stems from air conditioning, and the heat captured and retained in building interiors by glass curtain walls is significant, especially in the summer heat.  In the same article, head of sustainability at Mitsubishi Electric, Martin Fahey, stated that rising temperatures across the globe has led to AC equipment needing to work much harder than in the recent past. “Most air conditioning equipment is designed to give an internal temperature between seven-to-ten degrees lower than the ambient temperature,” he said. But when the recent heat waves struck London and New York this summer, cooling from 100 degrees Fahrenheit to a more comfortable 70 took a toll on local electrical grids as well the air conditioners themselves. Broken AC units and their subsequent replacements add to the embedded carbon footprint of our built structures.  Advanced glazing and passive cooling options exist today that can minimize the greenhouse effect of glass, like darkening to let in less light in the warmer months, for example, the double- or triple- glazing systems are still hindered by the short life span and non-recyclability, and often not nearly at the level needed to amend the footprints of commercial emitters. Sturgis warns that “the connection needs to be made between the climate emergency and all-glass buildings. But the connection hasn’t been made yet.”
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Tulane launches new research studios on climate change and water management

Tulane’s School of Architecture announced a series of multi-year Research Studios earlier this month that will debut in the fall, each designed to address environmental issues and climate change. Combining both rigorous research engagement as well as traditional designed studio methods, the goal is to produce scholarship and real-world solutions to some of the most pressing problems affecting the architectural profession today. That includes examining a single topic over three-to-five years, including water management, conservation, sustainable real estate development, and more, The school’s setting in New Orleans, a sprawling metropolis located below sea level, has put students and faculty on the front lines of pressures from receding coastlines and escalating natural disasters. Architect Iñaki Alday was appointed Dean in August 2018 with the goal of aligning pedagogy towards practical challenges facing architecture and urbanism, and the Research Studios reflect his personal commitment to architecture that works—he is a cofounder of the Yamuna River Project, a pan-university initiative to tackle the urgent rehabilitation of the Yamuna in India. The studios, scheduled to launch for the Fall 2019 semester, will be led by Alday and global experts like Richard Campanella, Byron Mouton, and Kentaro Tsubaki, among others. Studios are expected to be interdisciplinary, spilling into other areas of scholarship at Tulane like the social sciences, law, and real estate. The Research Studios are a first of their kind and may inspire similar initiatives or climate focuses at schools around the world. With titles like Big Questions, Small Projects and The Future of Ports, the studios set out to address all scales, challenging students to design with a new type of urgency for the future.  The new Research Studios will cover the following, according to Tulane: · The Yamuna River Project and the Rajasthan Cities. By lead instructor Iñaki Alday, Dean and Richard Koch Chair in Architecture. · URBANbuild: re-evaluation, affordability, national translation. By lead instructor Byron Mouton, AIA, Director of URBANbuild, Lacey Senior Professor of Practice in Architecture. · The Future of Ports: From the Backyard to the Forefront of Ecology, Economy, and Urbanity. By lead instructor Margarita Jover, Associate Professor in Architecture. · Resilience Reinforced: Architectural precast concrete systems addressing the regional water infrastructure challenges. By lead instructor Kentaro Tsubaki, AIA, Associate Dean for Academics, Favrot Associate Professor of Architecture. · Contemporary Architecture in Historic Contexts: The Case of Magazine Street in New Orleans. By lead instructor Ammar Eloueini, AIA, NCARB, Favrot V Professor of Architecture. · Toward a Civic Landscape. By lead instructor Scott Bernhard, AIA, NCARB, Favrot III Associate Professor of Architecture. · Fast/Strong/Sustainable: Exploring the Expanded Mass Timber Industry for Design in Hurricane-Prone Regions. By lead instructor Judith Kinnard, FAIA, Harvey-Wadsworth Chair of Landscape Urbanism, Professor of Architecture. · Addis Ababa River Project. By lead instructor Rubén García Rubio, Assistant Professor in Architecture and Urbanism. · Big Questions, Small Projects: design build's potentials to advance community-driven ideas. Led by instructor Emilie Taylor Welty, Favrot II Professor of Practice.
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Architects sign on for the Global Climate Strike

You may have heard Greta Thunberg’s name in the news recently. She’s the 16-year-old from Stockholm who in August 2018, week after week, stood in front of the Swedish Parliament building with a sign reading “School Strike for Climate.” Today, Greta is joined by thousands and thousands of teenage leaders from around the world who purposely walk out of their classrooms on Fridays to advocate for action against climate breakdown. Her mission for climate justice and to bolster a living planet has inspired countless numbers of people from all generations and geographies. The public outreach initiative, Architects Advocate, is following the lead of Global Climate Strike, a grassroots campaign calling upon the architecture industries’ professional interests and commitments to the building sector. Architects Advocate co-founder Tom Jacobs has pleaded for architects to stand up for the next generation and support the “true leaders of our time.” The pledge form states, “The building sector accounts for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and buildings alone account for 72% of U.S. electricity use. The transition from fossil fuels to a thriving zero-carbon economy isn’t just possible—it’s necessary.” The Global Climate Strike will occur on Friday, September 20, just ahead of a UN emergency climate summit. On this day, inspired by the countless schoolkids leaving the classroom, everyone—sports-stars, actors, architects—are encouraged to disrupt business as usual. Architects Advocate are encouraging widespread industry participation, stating, “we share responsibility for creating healthy and safe communities for all.” To coincide with the global strike, the organization is initiating a mass assemble on September 20 at Chicago’s Federal Plaza, arguably the city’s most popular public square known for a cluster of three austere Mies van der Rohe-designed buildings: the Everett McKinley Dirksen Building, the John C. Kluczynski Building, and the (most beloved) Post Office building. Perched in the middle of Mies’ pitch-black intervention is Alexander Calder’s fiery Flamingo sculpture. Both individuals and firms may pledge to support #StandWithGreta. Below is a list of participating architects and firms at the time of this posting, although the number of Architects Advocate members is much larger. Firms: Krueck + Sexton Architects, blank studio design + architecture, Bright Common, John D. Kelley, Drawing Conclusions LLC, Architecture Is Fun, Inc., Strawn + Sierralta, Jones Studio, Jurassic Studio, DTW Architects + Planners, Kuklinski+Rappe Architects, Atelier Ten, Corporate Architectural Services, Harboe Architects, dSPACE Studio, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, COULSON, Pappageorge Haymes Partners, Lake|Flato Architects, Manypenny Murphy Architecture, Design2 LAST, Peckham Architecture, Sheri Olson Architecture, DIAG Studios, David Fleener Architects, Rykerson Architecture, Paragon Designs, Thomas W Angell Architect, Asakura Robinson, emar Studio for Public Architecture, Cleary Design Studio, Heidrun Hoppe Associates, Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design, Abruna & Musgrave Architects, BCG AE, LightLouver, ArchitecturaLAB, Robin Ashley Architects, Croft Design Collective, Atelier Ten, Landon Bone Baker Architects, beta-field Individuals: Tom Jacobs, Jason Roberts, Hilary Noll, Phoebe Schenker, Holly Lennihan, Melanie De Cola, Alison Musch, Peter Exley, Mia DiMeo, Theron Gabel, Luis Huertas, Raphael Sperry, Pam Crowell, Alima Silverman, Robert Harris, Fumiko Docker, Josephine Jacobs, Cory Rouillard, Alan Scott, Taryn Sabia, Lee Burkart, Dante Amato, Matthew Hardy, Karen Votava, Jennifer Park, Jim Morgan, Maria Bergh, Mark Weitekamper, Scott Rappe, Michael Kloefkorn, Nicole Ellis Semple, David Langdon, Kristin Boyer, Keith Knapp, Joshua Grossman, Xiang Qiang, Beau Rhee, Rory Gilchrist, Yugene Cha, Debbie Slacter, Jennifer Cutbill, Mika Sautet, Brian Kidd, Patrick Danaher, Heather Holdridge, Joe Villanti, Ludmilla Pavlova-Gillham, Marcy Giannunzio, Rick McDermott, Christopher May, Laurie Barlow, Angie Klein, Ryan Ornberg Meanwhile, as the Architects' Journal reports, the U.K. Green Building Council and Ben Derbyshire, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), have also pledged their support for the strike.
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Foster + Partners' Marseilles airport extension flagged by environmental agency

Foster + Partners’ design for a new extension to the Marseilles Airport on a former brownfield site is being scrutinized by France’s environmental agency, which has called for a resubmission of the plans in fear they don’t align with the country’s ambitious plan to go carbon neutral by 2050.  The Autorité Environnementale (AE) said that the current plans are “underestimating the project’s environmental impacts and overestimating its socio-economic benefits” in their statement. Areas of concern for the AE include Foster + Partners’ addressing of traffic, noise, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and even the impact on local birdlife.  The renowned British firm won the competition for this extension in 2017, beating Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners for the chance to add the “missing piece” between the existing buildings of the airport—the original ’60s modernist wing by Fernand Pouillon and a 1992 addition designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership. The winning design features a prominent glazed volume, a space for newly connected departures, and arrivals hall. In addition to the 72-foot-tall windows that will pour light into the building, an array of continuous skylights in the inverted beam roof will add to the naturally-lit "glass box" effect. The goal? “A clarity of layout and expression,” according to the firm, inspired by Pouillon’s project, with the ability to process over 12 million travelers per year.  “In regards to the content, the extension project has been thought to be virtuous,” said an AE spokesperson, clarifying that the query wasn’t a question of the design, but of the methodology. While the architects defend their claims that the airport will be sustainable—even exceeding the cutting edge French HQE and E+C- standards—the project's focus on new public transit connectivity and more efficient airplanes seemed to miss the mark for the AE and have muddied the proposal for the agency. The new E+C- standards place a priority on energy-positive and low-carbon emission building projects, ideas that came into effect after pledges at the 2016 Paris Agreement amongst UN countries.  France is due to receive the resubmission of more detailed plans for environmental action at the Aeroport Marseilles Provence by September 2019 and has reaffirmed its commitment to environmental action in the face of a growing denial of climate change in international politics. The carbon neutrality plan is seen as being “trialed” by the French, and the government’s attention to the new law, just implemented in June, has sent ripples throughout the international community.  Foster + Partners has recently taken several internal steps to address and highlight climate concerns, and have expressed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and movements like Net Zero Carbon Commitment. Foster + Partners has publicly pledged to have 100 percent of their projects be carbon neutral by 2030, and has joined Architects Declare, a collective of UK firms verbal in their recognition and combating of climate change. 
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Heat waves are slowing construction around the world, and it will only get worse

The effects of climate change are felt all over the world and are causing a host of negative consequences. Extreme heat events are happening more frequently and for longer periods of time. For the construction industry, a trade sensitive to the weather because of the working conditions, it becomes ever more likely that complications will arise. This June was the world’s hottest on record, according to the National Weather Service. The Independent reported that experts say this July is likely to have been the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. Extreme heat has covered much of the U.S. with temperatures approaching and exceeding triple digits. In Europe, a massive heatwave marked the summer and now Greenland, within recent days, has faced a tremendous ice melt. During these times, construction companies must pay closer attention to the health of their employees on the job. Providing more break time, shade, and water will help alleviate workers during the daytime and hours may shift to night-time when the temperature is coolest. There’s a lot of money bound to a construction site. Leased equipment, contractual penalties, and cost of labor are expected on the job, but unexpected weather results in unpleasant, expensive surprises, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for construction planners to rely on seasonal forecasts. “The construction industry loses billions of dollars on delays and failures caused by bad weather. Buildings are damaged during storms; sites turn into seas of mud; freezing temperatures make it impossible to pour concrete,” said Climate.gov in 2017 when reporting on climate and construction. The dangerous heat may become a factor in increasing incidents of heat-related illnesses, such as heatstroke. A study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reports that 36.8 percent of heat-related deaths nationwide occurred within the construction industry, “Heat is something we deal with every year,” said DPR Construction Southeast Regional Safety Manager Steve Duff. At DPR, more breaks, more water, and educational talks on heat illnesses are provided to employees. Duff credits lifestyle factors over climate change as the reason for escalating heat-related incidents. He said the popularity of energy drinks is a culprit, causing dehydration. Also, new employees to the industry after the Great Recession who came from other industries had likely "not been outdoors frequently." Billy Grayson (executive director of the Center for Sustainability and Economics Performance at the Urban Land Institute, an organization providing leadership in responsible land use) faults construction materials. “Extreme heat can delay construction projects due to the need for specific building materials to cool or cure,” Grayson said. "If these products can't solidify at the right timing for the project, it can cause significant delays." Ryan Ware, cofounder of Vantis, a company that specializes in designing custom commercial facility interiors that are constructed off-site, says this could lead to more adoption of prefabricated construction. “It's taking the risk out of the heat wave, because you're putting the [staff] into a factory or a controlled environment,” Vantis said. Regardless, as temperatures continue to rise, the construction industry will have to adapt accordingly.
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The Venice Variations traces the city’s deep urban fabric

The Venice Variations: Tracing the Architectural Imagination Sophia Psarra UCL Press List price: $45.00 Sophia Psarra’s The Venice Variations fulfills a dreamy mission of aggrandizing the titular city’s history and beauty while recognizing its fragility and potential demise because of climate change and overcrowding from tourists and their marine vehicles. The beautifully designed book sets up the over-thousand-year-old city as paradigmatic but atypical. Social and physical analyses add to a discussion of its awesome historical architectural development and two contemporary works that the city inspired, Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities (1972) and Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital (1964). These projects exhibit an intensity of imagination commensurate with Venice’s idiosyncratic character. Psarra’s book points to the city’s republican governance, worldwide trading patterns, and physiognomy, especially its islands, as evidence of its fundamentally deindustrial nature, positioning its regeneration as an example worth following. Of course, Venice’s architectural importance has always been obvious: Books on Vitruvius were printed there, and Palladio’s thinking and buildings take central stage in its heritage of interwoven islands and structures. The irregularity of the city’s urban fabric introduces variability within an organic whole. Psarra deals very carefully with the history of Piazza San Marco and its central position in civic and religious interpretations of the city. Its architects, Sansovino, Longhena, and Palladio, orchestrated their contributions to this special communal space to create specific views for the public to experience. The piazza accommodated many Venetian citizens and their commercial interests, as well as cultural rites—the author titles this chapter “Statecraft,” but the square welcomed stagecraft, too. Religious processions led by clergy and the Doge marked many occasions. Illustrations of the piazza and its surroundings by the author abound; these educational aids are present to a fault. Italo Calvino makes his Invisible Cities mysteriously visible in print, a feat of vivid invention. This is a novel where plot is overtaken by expansive, thought-provoking fabrications. The merchant Marco Polo describes 55 cities as fantastical constructions to Kublai Khan, who rejoices in his empire. Our two protagonists, Khan and Polo, differ greatly: The former seeks order in his possessions, while Polo “seeks not-yet-seen adventures.” Invisible Cities attracted postmodern architects with its playfulness. The book juxtaposes images of lightness and coherence with images of entropy—disorder and ruin are the fascinations of our two protagonists. Although Polo refuses to discuss Venice, he provokes thoughts of it intermittently, and the city haunts the book. There is a play of numbers showing Calvino’s attachment to the Oulipo group of mathematicians, and he includes Polo’s descriptions and his and Khan’s dialogues and the number of combinatorial rules. Psarra shows some brilliance in this interpretation of mathematical patterns that few, including this author, fully comprehend. Though not an expert in mathematics, Psarra certainly seems to manage these complex concepts in the book. While architecture demands knowledge of mathematics, I wonder if there are architects who might appreciate the math of Invisible Cities as conveyed in The Venice Variations. As the last project Psarra visits, Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital leaves a heavy imprint on the mind. Unlike the architect’s typically isolated buildings, Venice Hospital is meant to fit in with existing neighboring structures. Le Corbusier’s imagery is pertinent for understanding that of contemporary Venice. If Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore lies at the front of the city, the hospital would have marked its back door. The completed project would have been as radical as the first modern designs of the avant-garde—especially in its entrance from beneath, which recalls the Villa Savoye and the later National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Psarra also explores the hospital’s affinity with mat buildings as described by Alison Smithson. In fact, Venice Hospital’s place in the realm of architectural history lies in the province of Team Ten, with a neat precedent in Shadrach Woods’s Berlin Free University. The project engaged Le Corbusier’s attention for over nine years; after the master’s sudden death, Guillermo Jullian de la Fuente continued the work. Psarra tells the tale well: how the horizontal layout of the design sets up pivoting squares and nurse stations on the first floor and how the aggregation of cells flows horizontally to merge with the city. As in other signature buildings, Le Corbusier develops a system of squares and golden-section rectangles, which gives geometric logic to the spaces.
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How is California dealing with its disappearing coast?

The questions raised by global warming, climate change, sea-level rise, and the resulting migration crisis are not to be taken lightly. They offer us myriad dramas in the form of disappearing cities, changing neighborhoods, dwindling resources, and existential anxiety about living near water. The Los Angeles Times recently took on some of these tough questions in a special report titled “California Against the Sea.” Illustrated with sweeping photography (not shown here) of the state’s Pacific shore, the extensive feature examines the disappearing California coast, potential fixes, and the consequences those fixes might bring. As much as two-thirds of the beaches in California could be gone by the end of the century. In California alone, it is estimated that $150 billion in property could be at risk of flooding. Several points became clear from reading the LA Times reporting, done by Rosanna Xia. One is that the problems created when parts of the coast become uninhabitable are not easily solved by design or technology. Physical interventions, like seawalls—which can cost up to $200,000 per house—often make the problem worse by encouraging erosion and sand build-up around the structure; short-term solutions, like adding sand to beaches, are expensive, and there is only so much sand in the world. Environmentalists and many others favor “managed retreat,” or carefully and systematically moving away from the coast, but this option faces deep resistance from some landowners. The report shows that the crisis is a real estate drama above all else. Entrenched interests are often opposed to solutions to environmental issues if those solutions threaten people’s property. Especially in California, a strong tradition of homeownership is at odds with what many consider sensible public management of the coastline. These conflicts are already playing out on a small scale. In Pacifica, a small city just south of San Francisco, the beach is already eroding, despite efforts begun in the 1970s to install seawalls, piles of rocks, and special concrete to preserve the shoreline. Although some homes have already been removed from the coast, not all residents are willing to accept managed retreat. “‘Managed retreat’ is a code word for giving up—on our homes and the town itself,” Mark Stechbart, who is concerned about the future value of his Pacifica home, told the Times. “This is not just some intellectual exercise. These are real people and a real town at stake.” “The public has rights to the beach, but I apparently don’t have rights to my house,” Suzanne Drake, another homeowner said in the report. “I’m a left-of-left Democrat, but these environmental zealots are next level.” It is fairly scary to think about how these issues will play out if the scale and seriousness of the crisis grow. According to the Times, in the last 100 years, sea levels rose 9 inches along the California coast, but are expected to go up by as much as 9 feet by the year 2100. If a town like Pacifica is experiencing this kind of disagreement and controversy when a handful of houses are involved, how will a city like Miami deal with entire neighborhoods negotiating how to relocate (or not)? Each person has their own beliefs and personal fortune at stake. This is unfortunately already happening in Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina, among other places. There are no straightforward design solutions. Lessons from the past say that human intervention can actually make things worse—not to mention that safeguarding the whole state of California would require upward of $22 billion, according to the Times. A simulated game in the special report has three outcomes: loss of beaches due to seawall construction; cost overruns; and success, by way of managed retreat and careful diplomacy that requires negotiating with individual homeowners. There are problems with the latter solution. Buyout programs have proven successful elsewhere, but not in places with coastal California market prices. Staten Island’s post–Hurricane Sandy program bought 300 homes for $120 million, which would buy about ten houses in Malibu. These are massive problems that are only going to get bigger. Can design do anything to help? Or if it is a question of real estate, can the markets be managed without tearing communities apart? If California is any indication, both of these possibilities appear unlikely.
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The Rockefeller Foundation nixed its resilient cities program. Now it's launching a new one

Elizabeth Yee, who served as 100RC's Vice President of Resilience Finance for five years, will be joining the Climate and Resilience initiative as the managing director. Before landing at 100RC, she worked in public finance at Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, and Barclays. "Rapid changes in climate are exposing global citizens to unpredictable risks, and there is an increasing need to leverage data and technology to ensure we make informed decisions, and design and deliver solutions that improve the resilience of communities," said Yee in a prepared statement. "Continuing to support the 100RC Network is a core part of our ability to understand and tackle these immense challenges, which require creative, blended capital solutions to address at scale." The Climate and Resilience initiative will facilitate grants for disaster recovery, and will tie into the foundation's long-term work in health, food, energy, and, per the press release, the "expansion of US economic opportunities." Last month CityLab reported that part of the reason for 100RC's dissolution was that The Rockefeller Foundation wanted to drop around $5 or $6 million on the program annually, not the $30 to $40 million it was spending. Beyond money, the foundation didn't quite know how to measure the results of its investments, particularly the Chief Resilience Officers (CROs). The CROs are a network of professionals who oversee resilience capacity-building in member cities' governments whose salaries were paid by 100RC. The Climate and Resilience initiative will continue to cut checks for CROs, but as of now, it is unclear how long the initiative will be funded.
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The Architecture Lobby issues official statement on the Green New Deal

The Architecture Lobby (TAL) has come out in support of the Green New Deal, the sweeping piece of potential legislation that’s aiming to transform the U.S. economy and help combat climate change and economic inequality. In an official online statement, TAL called on architects, designers, and allies within similar disciplines to support the resolution through four points of action: by reforming practice, redefining resilience, reassessing technology, and re-empowering labor.  “In order to tackle decarbonization efforts more effectively, the way we work and the way the profession is structured must change,” TAL argued. “Architects must reject the current model of practice as a service profession responding rapidly to private capital... Architectural work for the Green New Deal must not become another conduit for accumulating wealth at the top.”  In other words, architects must look beyond design and at the bigger picture by becoming activists in the industry for smart and equitable collaborations that benefit all. TAL wrote that architects must also refuse to work with clients, manufacturers, or any company whose values “do not support a transformative redistribution of power.” This includes rejecting groups who utilize unfair labor practices, and holding government agencies accountable by both participating in civic processes and policy development, as well as demanding a uniform contact and fee schedule from municipalities. The principles outlined by TAL also encouraged architects to “advocate for carbon neutral affordable housing for all” and help configure new ways to finance such projects other than private development dollars. Additionally, architects must understand that, in the fight against climate change and social injustice, “technology is not neutral,” and it’s important to recognize the power structures behind its development.  In the same vein, TAL urged architects to recognize that advances in technology will inevitably change the way the built environment is designed and constructed, so it’s key to “be deliberate about automation in the profession” and make sure any jobs lost are replaced by reskilling, “so that solving one crisis does not cause another.” According to TAL, “there can be no sustainable world without sustainable labor practices.”   TAL’s statement on the Green New Deal comes months after the American Institute of Architects issued its support. Around that time, AN spoke with a handful of architects across the country to detail their reactions to the draft legislation and what goals they have for achieving a carbon-free economy, social equality, and more. For TAL’s full vision of architects’ role within the Green New Deal, read more here.
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The 2019 Venice Art Biennale asks us to ponder our “interesting times”

Political chaos is spreading, and climate change is upon us. Meanwhile, populist leaders throughout the world are scapegoating immigrants, trashing environmental regulations and spreading blatant lies. But at the 2019 Venice Art Biennale, one of the world’s most important art exhibitions, artists are fighting back in what may be the largest exhibition of politically subversive art ever shown. Ralph Rugoff, curator of this year’s Biennale, titled the show “May You Live in Interesting Times,” after an apocryphal Chinese “curse” pertaining to periods of danger and uncertainty, which has been cited by politicians ranging from British imperialist Joseph Chamberlain to Hilary Rodham Clinton. In his essay for the exhibition, Rugoff writes that “art can give us tools to reimagine the possibilities of these ‘interesting times’ and so transform this phrase from a curse into a challenge that we can enthusiastically embrace.” Rugoff’s revolutionary agenda is conspicuous for an art exhibition, where the official opening in May also featured glittering parties in Venetian palazzos and a legion of plutocrats and oligarchs. The contrast was especially striking at the Biennale’s main exhibition space, a cavernous brick building known as the Arsenale, in which almost every other artwork appears to be about poverty, sexism, environmental degradation, racism, or political violence. Indeed, at this year’s Biennale, the only thing holding an otherwise disparate show together is the focus on the ills of our time. The main exhibition features the work of 79 artists from around the world and includes sculptures of the growing homeless population in Athens, videos showing Palestinian protestors trying to breach the border in the Golan Heights, and paintings of verdant landscapes that include images of political violence in Kenya. One series of photographs shows half-finished housing developments and piles of garbage outside of Rome. Another series is about the fallout from aspirational housing developments gone bust in India, which according to an accompanying text is linked to, “developers hoardings peddling unattainable dreams.” Capitalism’s failures are rife. One of the first exhibits is a salvo of harrowing nocturnal photographs from the series titled Angst by Soham Gupta, showing disheveled street people in Kolkata, India, whom, as an accompanying text informs us, have suffered “abuse and abandonment.” Their faces display expressions of pain, madness or lust. They are posed embracing one another, dancing wildly, lurching towards the camera or simply sitting quietly in abject loneliness. Gupta gets up close with his camera and shows these spectral characters in a soft light against a black backdrop, revealing a humanity within that you might not otherwise notice. It might be overly ambitious to think that art can help make society more just and compassionate. However, Rugoff is expecting between 180,000 to 600,000 visitors to his show, which runs through November 11th, 2019, and is hoping that it will help change the conversation. He maintains that artists have a unique role in combatting the conspiracy theories and narrow nationalistic messages on social media that increasingly are shaping political discourse. He says that art can reveal hidden or unfamiliar truths in profoundly different ways than can journalism or historical reporting. “We [the public] don’t see things in the same ways that artists do,” Rugoff told me. “They are asking us to hold different images in our minds at one time.” Plato warned about art’s ability to present alternative realities to the body politic, and it seems axiomatic that the more repressive a society is, the more threated it is by artists. Edouard Manet’s painting, Execution of Maximillian, was censored by the French government shortly after it was painted in 1867 because it portrayed the French puppet emperor being shot by a firing squad of Mexican revolutionaries. Fascist regimes and dictators are notoriously fearful of abstract art. Considering that China censored images of Winnie the Pooh because bloggers were comparing the cartoon character’s appearance to Chinese President Xi Jinping, it is understandable that much of the artwork currently being produced in that country is not overtly critical of the regime. But in totalitarian societies, art is politicized even it doesn’t convey a literal political message. “If you are an artist in China today, you are dealing with political import,” Rugoff told me, giving as an example an art installation at the Biennale’s Central Pavilion titled Can’t Help Myself by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, in which an enormous robot with a mop at the end of its arm moves with terrifying jerks as it repeatedly attempts to control a flowing red substance that looks like blood. Currently, in most parts of the world, artists can more directly challenge the system. Several of the most political pieces in the show had their roots in Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, found objects that take on new meanings when signed by an artist and displayed in a museum or a gallery. One is Teresa Margolles’ meditation on the violence engulfing parts of Mexico, which consists of a 39-foot-long cinderblock wall, pockmarked with bullet holes and crested with barbed wire that the artist transported to Venice from the city of Juarez. And just when one is hoping for visual relief from this compelling but disturbing show, one’s view of the canal outside the Arsenale is obstructed by the actual boat from the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck, on which between 700 and 1,100 Syrian refugees went missing. The artist Christoph Büechel transported the rusted wreck, which has a large gaping hole in its side, from Sicily to Venice and titled it Barca Nostra. An accompanying wall text refers to the ship as a “monument to contemporary migration” and as “representing the collective policies and politics that create these kinds of disasters.” A series of prints from the Body En Thrall series by transgender Latina artist Martine Gutierrez shows the artist nude in a series of staged erotic encounters with clothed mannequins, such as one where she is draped across the lap of a figure dressed in a tuxedo with a come-hither expression on her face. Calling to mind Edouard Manet’s notorious Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe in which a naked woman picnics with two clothed men, the prints raise questions of power in regard to Eurocentric standards of beauty, gender identity, consumerism, and a host of other issues that are au courant in cultural studies classes at elite universities throughout the West. The coming apocalypse is also a popular topic at this year’s Biennale. One example is the enormous Eskalation by the German artist Alexandra Birc ken, which is ominously suspended overhead. Here, forty figurines fashioned from black calico and latex look as they are out of one of Dante’s circles of hell—they are shown climbing and hanging off of ladders that ascend towards the vertiginous ceiling of the Arsenale. Wherever they are trying to get to, it doesn’t look good. Another work in the "end of civilization vein" is a sculptural series of large menacing mammals on the verge of extinction by the American artist, Jimmie Durham, who connects human waste with environmental degradation. Durham’s animals look angry and tortured. Their jaws are agape, and teeth bared; wires, cables and dark metal define their forms. They are constructed from contemporary civilization’s detritus, used clothes, discarded furniture, and machine parts. May You Live in Interesting Times is intended to be aggressive and disturbing. We already are living in a post-truth age in which leaders such as U.S president Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro are denying climate change and sanctioning political violence as a justifiable campaign tactic. Rugoff clearly wants his exhibition to make us think harder about our fast-changing world. “Ultimately, what is most important about an exhibition is not what happens inside a gallery,” he writes in his essay for the exhibition, “but how audiences use their experiences afterward to reimagine everyday realities from expanded perspectives.”
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Finland to go carbon neutral by 2035

Following the election in April of this year of a left-leaning, five-party coalition government in Finland, the country has pledged to institute a wide-ranging increase in infrastructure and welfare spending and to make the country carbon neutral by 2035. If enacted, the transition would make Finland the first fossil fuel-free country in the world.  Social Democratic party leader Antti Rinne set the target on June 3 and broke down how Finland would reach such an ambitious goal. The plan to combat climate change involves a full-scale mobilization of the Finnish economy and an overt rejection of the austerity imposed by the former center-right coalition.  Rinne emphasized that efforts will stem directly from internal cutbacks and reorganization of national energy sourcing, rather than from outsourcing carbon dioxide emissions via carbon-capture credits in other countries. The plan is slated to be reviewed in 2025. "Building the world's first fossil-free, sustainable society is going to require much more than nice words on paper,” said Sini Harkki, a Greenpeace Nordic representative, “but we're determined to make it happen."  The new government will increase public spending by $1.4 billion per year over their incoming term, made possible by increasing taxes by an estimated $828 million—much of that stemming from fossil fuel levies. The government’s plan to address infrastructure and welfare in combination also aims to raise nationwide employment from 72.4 percent (in April of 2019) to 75 percent.    Harkki also commented on the “far from perfect” nature of the plan, which will have major implications on the nation’s forestry and peat industries. However, she cited that with the “broad public support” the government and its program has, steps can be taken to refine government actions and win partisan fights. Some parts of the country have already taken even more progressive steps ahead of any official action. A northern town called Li is on track to cut its emissions by 80 percent by 2020 -- 30 years ahead of the EU’s most ambitious targets. Li has ceased using fossil fuels and instead invested heavily in geothermal, solar, and wind energy sources since 2012, with a payoff: The town generates $568,000 in profit each year. On top of this, they are working towards becoming the world’s first zero-waste community, too.  The financial success and stability of Li counters a stance by the populist Finns party, who claim that the environmental goals of the country’s left would "take the sausage from the mouths of laborers." The push and pull within the Scandinavian country echoes a worldwide divide, one between economic stability in continuing the status-quo and the risks of system overhaul to address emissions issues around the globe. 
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New York State to go carbon neutral by 2050

The New York State legistlature has passed a wide-sweeping climate mobilization bill, that, if signed by Governor Cuomo as expected, would mandate that New York State go totally carbon-neutral by 2050. Senate Bill S6599, or the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CCPA), has been kicking around the legislature in one form or another for the last three years and has been cited as a precursor to the New Green Deal being proposed on the national stage. After a progressive sweep of the State Senate last year in the general election, the stage was set to pass the wide-ranging bill, which had been held up by Republicans up to that point. The ultimate goal is to create a net-zero, circular economy powered by renewable energy. S6599 requires that the state reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 85 percent of the level it was at in 1990, and to offset the remaining 15 percent through planting trees and wetland restoration. In 2030, the entire state will be required to source a minimum of 70 percent renewable energy and move up to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. While that may seem like an ambitious target, New York State already sources 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear power generation. According to the New York Times, the state is preparing to build more offshore wind farms and rooftop solar panels and will ramp up its battery capacity for cloudy and windless days. However, just generating clean electricity won’t be enough. About a quarter of emissions in the state come from buildings, which rely on natural gas and heating oil for heating and cooling, and automobile emissions will still need to be slashed as cars and trucks are converted to run on electricity. Hundreds of millions of dollars will also be doled out for remediation in areas disproportionately impacted by industrial manufacturing. While New York City’s own “Green New Deal” initiative will regulate the construction of new buildings to bring them in line with tighter emissions requirements, the CCPA will need to mobilize thousands of new workers to weatherproof and retrofit every type of building to run on clean electricity. No cost estimate has been given so far, and critics have claimed that the final version of the CCPA was watered down by the governor’s office to exclude important labor provisions. The final S6599 takes aspects of an earlier Climate and Community Protection Act but has eliminated job training initiatives in low-income, climate-vulnerable neighborhoods. Additionally, funding the retraining of workers in fossil fuel industries was cut, as were fair wage provisions for workers in the renewable energy sector. The actual nitty-gritty details on how the CCPA will be implemented will be left to a future 22-person “climate action council” to decide. The council will be made up of experts and elected state officials with knowledge on everything from renewable energy, construction, health, labor, and ecology, and will be further supported by working groups with specialized knowledge.