Weekend Warrior: Must Sustainable Buildings be Beautiful?

I’ve had several discussions with industry friends lately about ‘beauty’ in the built environment… how important is it? What does it mean to different viewers? How is it experienced? And how might we even measure it?

I’ve done some silly things in my life (I’m human), but I won’t be adding ‘trying to put metrics to beauty’ to the list. But today during an image search beauty jumped out of the screen and grabbed me. I literally missed a breath and a beat, because what I saw on the screen had something about it that just resonated with who I am.



This might not be to everyone’s taste, but for me this particular project has ‘beauty’ at so many levels; extensive use of un-tarnished timber, organic structure done cleverly, soft natural lines, rhythm, light and shadow, and just clever design and detailing. And it’s got books!

I don’t know anything about the energy footprint or services or cost of this particular project, but I’d quickly call it ‘sustainable’ simply because to me it’s beautiful and will connect its users with place. The extensive use of timber is just a carbon-capturing bonus.

To paraphrase from the Living Building Challenge 2.1;

“… mandating beauty is, by definition, an impossible task… we do not begin to assume we can judge beauty… but we do want to understand people’s objectives and know that an effort was made to enrich people’s lives…”


So the challenge for this weekend is simple; seek a building or visit a place that you feel might qualify as ‘beautiful’. Soak it up, and try if you can to put some descriptors to what it is about the place that makes you feel some emotion. (and the MCG this weekend doesn’t count!)

If as a client you’re a little nervous about using this soft word – that’s cool – there are plenty of others; cherished, enduring, resilient, long lasting, popular.

Feel free to share your favourite in the comments.

[and for those of you who’ve been wondering where I’ve been? Mr. 2.y.0ld decided he wanted to try alternative sleeping arrangements. ’nuff said?]


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