Herzog & de Meuron

Since our start in 1978, we have been involved in adaptive reuse – Tate Modern and Uniqlo Tokyo; public spaces – Park for the Avenida Diagonal and Arena do Morro; natural building materials – Stone House and Hortus; passive climatization concepts – Dominus Winery and Royal College of Art; as well as urban and territorial planning – Switzerland: An Urban Portrait and Ronquoz 21. These topics shape the sustainability discourse in our field and help address the problems at hand: climate emergency and species extinction, energy crisis and the waste of resources, along with countless social struggles. What better reasons to fundamentally rethink the basis of the architecture we make?

There are no simple answers and we don’t pretend to have them. It is a fact that we must reduce emissions, from the start of construction to the end of a building’s lifespan. We must approach buildings as part of our energy network. And we must test our design assumptions. Sustainability is, of course, also an economic challenge, and will only be overcome if all stakeholders – from clients to consultants and construction companies, along with policy makers – have the same goal and focus on a long-term perspective. Furthermore, sustainability is not only a technical and economic challenge, but also a cultural one. Since modern times, humans increasingly understood nature and civilization as opposites. We need a new equilibrium – in society and in architecture.

In this respect, sustainable urban planning is anti-modern, open to disruptions and contradictions. It creates spaces that people can make their own and leaves room for animals and plants. Sustainable architecture is adapted to local conditions, uses renewable and durable materials, and is able to be repurposed. It draws from what already exists and extends the social fabric rather than overwriting it. It creates value that goes beyond the given task and site. As architects we therefore have to question not only widespread construction methods, typologies and ideas of comfort, but also familiar aesthetics and ways of life. We must engage in political discourse, speak uncomfortable truths, and question boundaries both spatial and professional. And in all of that we must not forget the immeasurable side of our craft: space and light, use and materiality, even beauty. Because we only care for what we love.