More than three decades ago ‘sustainability’ began to occupy important places in architectural debates and practices. Architects, engineers, clients, politicians and others at least seem to agree that sustainability must be faced within the architectural design domains. However, behind this apparent consensus many ambiguities, contradictions and open questions emerge. Perspectives vary largely regarding what the issues are, which scales and elements to take into account and through which design strategies and means to address these. The challenge of how to give meaning to sustainability in architectural design practice remains highly contested. Too often easy rhetorical gestures mask the lack of substantial change and commitment. Thus the widespread deployment of the ‘sustainable’ adjective resulted in a far-reaching erosion of meaning while simultaneously many crises grow even more acute. This talk is based on the conviction that the problem is not the concept of sustainability in itself, but rather what design practitioners do with the concept in their design studio, office and on site. The talk seeks to address central difficulties and controversies of enacting sustainability in practice and introduces selected conceptual shifts in order to translate sustainability into architectural design practices in a more meaningful and comprehensive ways.
Torsten Schroeder is an architect with experience in designing and realizing a wide range of extraordinary building projects in the U.S.A., Germany, South Korea, and P.R. China. Between 2000 and 2006 he worked for Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) as architect and project leader collaborating amongst others on the Prada Epicenter store in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA) extension project, and the CCTV (China Central Television) Headquarters in Beijing. In 2007, Torsten began his PhD research in the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Torsten felt that the majority of architectural practices lacked conceptual rigour, daring creativity and practical impact in their approaches towards sustainability. With his thesis Torsten developed a unique contribution to design research and practice by setting out the transferable analytical framework of ‘translation’ through which to explain how the concept of sustainability is continuously transformed within contingent, complex and dynamic architectural design practices as buildings materialise. Since 2009 Torsten has been working with architectural offices and international corporations as freelance architect and design consultant with a focus on developing comprehensive, compelling and credible design strategies for sustainability in specific localised architectural projects. Torsten completed his PhD thesis in 2014 and has just won the 2015 RIBA President’s Award for outstanding PhD Research. Currently Torsten is Assistant Professor at Technical University Eindhoven (TU/e) at the Chair of Architectural Design & Engineering.