‘A’A’ Presents LafargeHolcim Awards Prize Winners | Next Generation

We understand that you have criticized the language of sustainability as a framework for carbon emissions. The new generation of architects want to be proud of what they’re doing. So for them, recognition is more important than money, and, specifically, recognition on social networks. When you make buildings that are unhealthy, when they’re buildings that are not sustainable, they are not proud of what they’re doing. On the other side, the new paradigm makes architects far more important. Before they’re just to beautify things, but now they’re more into holistic quality, or let’s say holistic beauty: it’s not beautiful when it’s toxic. It’s not beautiful when it makes waste. This generation I call the selfie generation because they want to be proud. They’re a little too narcissistic for my taste, but it’s okay because it helps. Because in my generation we mostly made things because of moral reasons, because we felt responsible. But I can tell you that under stress, ethics disappears. It’s not there when you really need it. That’s why this generation is more about holistic quality—holistic beauty. This is nice because it’s far more stable than this moral, ethically driven behavior that disappears under stress. This is why I’m really happy with this new generation of architects and designers. What is the role of chemistry and development of new materials in sustainability or reduction of carbon consumption? There are, for example, 300 additives in concrete being used—200 of them are really nasty chemistry: emulsifiers, porous admixtures. They’re just functional.. In this case, the whole debate is a little too focused on the carbon situation. People are building without first asking what is healthy air. The indoor air quality of buildings is about three-to-eight times worse than the outside urban air. We need first to say “what is healthy air,” and not “how can we minimize our carbon footprint.” We need to celebrate carbon, not minimize it. It’s just carbon in the wrong place when we put carbon in the atmosphere. We need to come up with something other than being carbon neutral and encouraging panic. Out of panic we are not progressive actually. Even the 1.5 degree Celsius goal will not save this planet. Right now, we see the permafrost disappearing. Right now, we see the glaciers disappearing. Right now, we see the polar ice melting. We need to act now, and so we need to come up with a completely different goal. We need to say, in the year 2100, we will have the same carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere that we had in 1900. So we need to get it actively out of the air. Specifically, the building industry has so much to do and has such nice opportunities. It’s not about minimizing, reducing, avoiding. It’s not guilt management. The most important thing is we need to get carbon back into soil. The first thing is to look for topsoil. Then, sure, we need to look for new technologies. We can use carbon dioxide to bind concrete, so we can actively absorb it, and this concrete will be far more stable and much stronger. Innovation is just beginning, but we need to have a positive goal, not to minimize, to reduce. Young kids want to be part of a positive agenda, not of a less bad one. I want you to encourage young people to study material science and chemistry. It’s no longer chic to become a banker! Therefore we need the brightest young people to become material scientists. “We need the brightest young people to become material scientists” — Stephen Zacks 24-25 INTERVIEW ENTRETIEN MICHAEL BRAUNGART