Another Green Roof
'The various advocates of solar, wind and water power, of small and decentralised sources of energy, of 'intermediate technologies', of the 'steady-state economy' are virtually all enemies of large-scale planning, of scientific research, of technological innovation, of complex organisation. And yet, in order for any of their visions or plans to be actually adopted by any substantial number of people, the most radical redistribution of economic and political power would have to take place. And even this - which would mean the dissolution of General Motors, Exxon, Con Edision and all their peers, and the redistribution of all their resources to the people - would be only a prelude to the most extensive and staggeringly complex reorganisation of the whole fabric of everyday life. Now there is nothing bizarre about the anti-growth or soft energy arguments in themselves, and, indeed, they are full of ingenious and imaginative ideas. What is bizarre is that, given the magnitude of the historical tasks before us, they should exhort us, in E.F Schumacher's words, to 'think small'. The paradoxical reality which escapes most of these writers is that in modern society only the most extravagant and systematic 'thinking big' can open up channels for 'thinking small'. Thus the advocates of energy shrinkage, limited growth and decentralisation, instead of damning Faust, should welcome him as their man of the hour'
Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (1982)
This notion of Faustian technology and huge structural change as the only possible way out of the current impending doom is, regardless of some rather intriguing recent experiments still hugely convincing. But the major development since this was written, perhaps, is the embrace, precisely by the likes of 'General Motors, Exxon and Con Edison', of the Greenwash. So here's my attempt at a psycho-political history of the green roof from MONU's Exotic Urbanism issue, in which the essential point is that green technology will not look green - a steel wind turbine or the metallic glint of a solar panel is more (awful word) 'sustainable' than the most verdant of car parks or supermarkets. Nonetheless, as Martin Pawley rightly pointed out in Terminal Architecture, 'green' architecture is one of the only serious ways forward for the Modernist ethos. When he wrote that in 1994 he claimed that no major buildings had been designed in this movement; 15 years later it's clear that a few attempts have been made, but the ideology of greenery - easily appropriated by the most destructive of institutions - seems to hold it back more than anything else. As it is, the stupidities of green shopping and offsetting are finding their architectural embodiment.