February, 2011

Conference with Architect Glen Murcutt

We recently attended a conference at the International Congress of Architecture (Marista University).  The guest speaker was the famous Australian Architect Glen Murcutt  (Winner of the Pritzker Prize) who spoke about using the knowledge of indigenous peoples and the natural environment in the construction process.

In particular, Glen Murcutt suggested that the word ‘sustainable’ is overused, and in many parts of the world, indigenous peoples are the creation of sustainable communities without the use of modern technologies. This approach fits in with the theme of the conference where our goals should be to have technology serve society. He also displayed photos of Australia and its people and commented that their survival rested entirely on the observation of nature.

The talk raised a number of issues in Mexico that architects face every day. In particular, their views on sustainable construction where architecture must be an answer and not an imposition to the environment and human needs. Architecture should be above all strive for unity and beauty.  Glen Murcutt also cited the work of the Mexican Architect Barragan as an example of an architecture that interacts with nature while still situated in an urban environment, as well as examples from Dubrovnik and Greece where the people adapted to the environment, using materials from the region.

By showing some examples of his work, he placed special emphasis on the use of wind, lighting and buildings. His spaces, while urban still recover and emulate the traditional architecture of Australia.

It was also energizing to see the architecture community and get some fresh ideas on what others are doing to improve both the quality of life and the growing reputation of the city of Merida as a place to live in Mexico. A personal note I was struck by the rejection of the reliance on electronic media  and the emphasis placed on the use of skits and sketches to let the ideas flow.

Glen Murcutts’ lecture was  part of a program at the Architecture School of the Autonomous University which for more than 20 years has sponsored lectures on bioclimatic architecture.