12 Pages

The radical potential of architecture

ByRichard Lister, Thomas Nemeskeri

With the endorsement in 1987 of the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, the

expression ‘sustainable development’ was launched into the global environmental lexi-

con alongside the definition it provided: ‘to ensure that [development] meets the needs

of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their

own needs’ (WCED 1987: 43) Sustainable development now dominates environmental

discourse, shaping our conception of environmental problems and the role of architec-

ture therein.1 Its success in this regard is due largely to the ways in which it contrasts

the failed environmental approaches of the 1960s and 1970s: it presents a positive

sum instead of a zero sum approach to environmental problems by equating pollution

with inefficiency and thus with business opportunity (Peterson 1997: 17); it supports a

fundamental belief in the problem-solving capacity of modern techniques and skills of

social engineering, while carefully avoiding any association with progress and its nega-

tive connotations (ibid.: 22) and it draws upon and reinforces existing modernist policy

instruments such as expert systems and science, without relying entirely upon them

for legitimacy (ibid.: 22-31).