Thomas Schroepfer’s latest book titled “Dense + Green: Innovative Building Types for Sustainable Urban Architecture” (Birkhäuser 2016) has been reviewed by Narelle Yabuka in Cubes 81, August/September 2016:
A NEW BOOK INVESTIGATES THE EMERGENT PARADIGM OF DENSE AND GREEN ARCHITECTURE AND URBANISM, WITH CONSIDERABLE EMPHASIS ON PROJECTS IN SINGAPORE.
The key proposition of the new book Dense + Green: Innovative Building Types for Sustainable Urban Architecture is that density and sustainability do not need to be viewed as contradictory; rather, they can be mutually dependent and synergistic. The 300-page book, published by Birkhäuser (2016), advocates a more integrative understanding of density, greenery and sustainability via essays, project case studies and practice reports.
Authored chiefly by Thomas Schröpfer (Professor and Associate Head of the Architecture and Sustainable Design Pillar at the Singapore University of Technology and Design) and with contributions from practitioners and academics, Dense + Green is a rigorous reference book on sustainable urban architecture, offering research and strategies for various climatic conditions. Practice reports on Foster + Partners, MVRDV, WOHA and T.R. Hamzah & Yeang survey the trajectories being explored by these leading firms.
The book tackles the tendency for conceptions of sustainable design to be reduced to improving the energetic performance of buildings and making an ornamental application of natural greenery. It explores new architectural typologies that emerge from the integration of green components such as sky terraces, vertical parks and green facades in high-density buildings.
Schröpfer’s opening essay delves into historic explorations of density (as shown, for example, in Reyner Banham’s late 1960s and early ’70s publications, Vancouverism, Metabolism, and the exploratory work of Peter Cook and Team 10), as well as more recent examples. These diverse streams have consolidated, he says, into what he calls “an almost subconscious movement” since the turn of the millennium. He cites Ken Yeang and Norman Foster as instrumental figures in the development of the new dense and green paradigm.
He also notes how the fortuitous and strategic conditions of Singapore have facilitated a “quasi-utopian agenda” and made Singapore a leader in dense and green technologies. But, he suggests, “if there is to be a ‘Singaporism’ for the twenty-first century, one must also understand how, if at all, the semi-utopian nature of the Singapore model is actionable in settings with less capital, more poverty, and different historical circumstances.”
The book concludes with a final essay from Schröpfer that looks to future trajectories of urbanity, architecture and ecology. He rightly emphasises that the coalescing of these trajectories will require the commitment of a broad array of people: architects, engineers, planners, politicians, business leaders and policy makers. Schröpfer is continuing his work in this area in the Singapore context as the principal investigator of a National Research Foundation-funded project under the same title. The research is being undertaken through the Singapore-ETH Centre’s Future Cities Lab.