You and I have heard some form of the sentiment expressed in this title many times.
Where buildings are concerned, this sentiment is so very true, and we ought to be glad! Let’s look at a few examples of how true it is.
Today’s building practices give us buildings of all types that are healthier, less wasteful of resources, more accessible to more people and stronger than their ancestors. Yes, in some cases, they cost more to design and construct. But it’s not hard to show that today’s practices and codes result in sustainable buildings whose lifetime operational costs fall well below those ancestors.
It’s been my good fortune over the course of a career now approaching 50 years to watch the “energy crisis” of the early 1970’s evolve into a broad public acceptance of rational design principles based in local climates, conservation and health. At the same time, we’ve shown more respect for the rights of the millions of our fellow citizens who have physical disabilities by removing dozens of architectural barriers they once faced. The emergence of the computer as a powerful scientific tool has helped us closely measure the behavior our planet so we can in turn plan buildings better able to resist earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Like all architects, I am fascinated with the appearance of all buildings. Colors, materials, proportion and good spaces mean a great deal to me. However, a senior colleague once commented in my hearing that buildings can be “lethal,” and that observation really stuck to me. Maybe that’s why all of the illustrations I’ve drawn here speak to the fundamental need for human comfort and safe shelter. These are only a snapshot of what I’ve seen; the process of improving is not over by a long shot! No doubt someone will re-write this article with illustrations from their own era someday.