As we view the world today, we are acutely aware of the recent passage of several critical milestones. First, the majority of the human population now resides in cities, and the next great urban migration—appearing almost exclusively in developing countries—is projected to deliver five billion city-dwellers in the next decade. Second, this rapid population increase and the perseverance of industrial-era resource extraction methods means that we are now outpacing the rate at which the earth’s resources can be replenished. Third, the surge in technological advancements and the involvement of increasing numbers of product manufacturers has led to an explosion in the number of new material offerings for architecture. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, it is now evident due to the effects of global warming, pervasive pollution, and decreasing biodiversity, that nature is no longer a distinct and inviolable territory, resilient to the affairs of humankind. While these thresholds each signal an important change for the future direction of building construction, collectively they represent an unprecedented set of transformations for architecture.
Excerpted from “Testing Ground: Emergent Green Materials and Architectural Effects.” A+U 473 (February 2010): cover, 10-15.