Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.
– Mies Van Der Rohe
When it comes to eco-friendly, sustainable design in architecture, simplicity is sometimes overlooked in favor of showy, creatively complex concepts. And yet, there is a certain inimitable quality of beauty that shines through in minimalist work, capable of conveying feelings of peace. Streamlining our environments has become a trend for good reason: having less material clutter in our physical space correlates directly with having less mental clutter. Starting in the 60′s, minimalism is a fairly recent movement that has since influenced countless designers, particularly those interested in creating eco friendly work. After all, less material usually equals less waste.
Though, designs don’t need to fully embrace minimalism in order to retain a simplistic sense of natural beauty: incorporating natural materials into a sustainable design often provides enough inherent beauty that there’s no need to add any contrived bells and whistles, letting the structure breathe on its own, without needing to fall into any particular category or movement.
This concept can be applied to communities, too. One current example is architect Anton Knutov’s Krafthouse, a sustainable project “conceived with the intention of being a realistic and attractive home for the popular market.” Attempting to make sustainable housing financially attainable to more people is both an admirable and necessary goal for architects to take up. We are seeing more and more designers endeavoring to do just this, such as with the micro homes that are popping up throughout North America and other countries like New Zealand.
Supposing is good, but finding out is better. – Mark Twain
But as with micro homes, creating a sustainable home that’s aesthetically stunning and also affordable can prove to be challenging. For the small amount of space and materials the micro homes are using, I think they’re doing a pretty good job thus far — but they’re certainly no eye-candied match for Knutov’s beautiful, vine-drenched, eco friendly Krafthouse in Moscow, Russia.
“In line with Knutov’s intentions of furthering the accessibility of ecologically friendly architecture, these integral elements of cost and construction combine with the design of a home that is easy to identify with. This is not an indulgence in opulence for Western Russia’s marginal rich, but rather a feasible solution for many Muscovites in the context of pending suburban development.”
These energy-efficient lumber houses covered in natural greenery are not relegated to a one-off sale, nor do they aspire to romantic notions of nomadic portability; no, the architect’s intention lies in creating an eco community from the ground up, firmly rooted in its location, practical in both design and cost. While this won’t appeal to people who insist on having a unique-looking space in which to live, the pragmatic, virtuous nature of Knutov’s overriding vision speaks to higher utilitarian principles — to serve our sacred environment over our small, personal, constructed desires is a goal we all need to strive toward.
Despite their modest makings, I find these sustainable homes to be quite beautiful in their aesthetic appearance: the decision to drape the walls in natural vines is lush, while the choice of wood serves to enhance the structure’s connection with nature. Knutov has designed the building plans to be easy enough for people to execute on their own, with relatively little trouble. He intends the structures to be erected primarily through self-construction, without need for heavy machinery, and limited use of hired help. Thus, all aspects of the house, including construction, are focused on sustainable values:
“Knutov’s project brings to light one of the greatest challenges for Russian architects, let alone many other architects around the world. This struggle is to encourage sustainability as a standard, rather than an indulgence for the rich or a trendy commodity, and this is a difficult task when facing so much popular opposition or obstacles, whether legal, economic or geographic.”
The architect pointedly mentions that “the trend in developing similar eco-communities in Russia relies primarily on investors as opposed to the individual consumer.” Creating these communities will in part depend on whether people in power deem them as worthy investments, among myriad other factors inevitably involved in these types of decisions. Only time will tell whether these sustainable neighborhoods will be realized; for now, the intention behind them serves as invaluable inspiration for choosing to support our environment as individuals, as well as collectively through community.
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
– Albert Einstein