Architecture Lab

Le Corbusier’s Ecology: What Modern Architecture Teaches Us About Green Design

The modernists were attempting to make architecture for a class of people who were not necessarily privileged to the architectural product...

Sustainability has become something of a buzzword in contemporary architecture. The future of design seems inextricably entwined with the future of our planet. Knowing this, we gamble our fate on technological advances, on innovations such as green roofs, photovoltaic cells, and new, more complex schemes for recycling water, energy, and other natural resources. But according to Kevin Bone, architect, professor, and pioneering researcher on urban waterfronts and water supply systems, the past has more to offer the future than one might be inclined to believe.

Le Corbusier's Ecology: What Modern Architecture Teaches Us About Green Design

Cocoon House, Paul Rudolph with Ralph Twitchell, 1951, from “Lessons From Modernism: Environmental Design Considerations in 20th Century Architecture, 1925-70″ // Courtesy the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive of The Cooper Union

Bone is the curator behind “Lessons From Modernism: Environmental Design Considerations in 20th Century Architecture,” an upcoming exhibition at The Cooper Union that will analyze the ecologically conscious features of 25 architectural projects dating from 1925 to 1970.

Displaying works ranging from Alvar Aalto’s Finnish row houses to Oscar Niemeyer’s experiments in tropical modernism, the show attempts to dispel the stigmatized conception of modern architecture as a blithely out-of-context and even environmentally disruptive style of building.

Though some of its outcomes were less salubrious toward the environment, as Bone suggests, this oft-misunderstood movement championed a surprisingly relevant agenda to find harmony with the natural world.