David Benjamin: Architecture as open system

Could interpreting buildings as open, active systems rather than inert objects enable us to develop better solutions for the climate crisis?

January 28, 2020

Recorded on December 10, 2019.

Towards a New Architecture: Climate Change and Design is a series of lectures, discussions, and interviews by leading practitioners, educators, and sustainability advocates who describe the urgent need for change and sketch the outlines of new ways of thinking and acting as architects and landscape architects.

Instead of designing single-technology fixes to address climate change, David Benjamin, principal of The Living and an associate professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, asserts the need to design new kinds of solutions that are more expansive in nature.

By defining architecture through dynamic, holistic systems, Benjamin posits that we can better understand its reality as involving a “longer duration and wider geography” than most people envision. He presents a “rough field guide” to understanding these new frameworks, discussing tools such as divestment, public policy, sustainability pledges, and communal building practices (e.g., the annual replastering of the Great Mosque of Djenné).

After the lecture, Benjamin engages in conversation with Forrest Meggers, the founding director of Princeton University’s CHAOS (Cooling and Heating for Architecturally Optimized Systems) Lab.


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