I spent several months last year translating Ulrich Pfammatter’s Bauen im Kultur- & Klimawandel into English, for a new and updated edition. It’s now called the World Atlas of Sustainable Architecture. Which feels weighty.
Coffee mug added for scale.
Several titles were thrown around, but I like the one that was settled on: it’s a substantial book, and does feel like an atlas, in part at least because the hundreds of case studies are taken from across the globe. The range of these projects is also huge, covering everything from the use of lightweight structures in specific buildings, through to experimental new age communities in India (the town of Auroville in fact, which I visited last month) and taking the widest possible definition of the term ‘sustainable’. Maybe the cover should have been tweaked to read “Building for a Changing Culture & Climate: The World Atlas of Sustainable Architecture”, as it appears to have two titles with equal billing, but that’s just a niggle, and might just be me confusing things.
It was a genuine learning process for me – not just grappling with German technical terms but reading about endless projects, concepts and architects that I’d never heard of before. Something that particularly caught my interest (and there was a lot that did) was a small number of architects who have dedicated their lives to projects in a single region or even a single town, building and evolving projects over decades as a kind of city architect-cum-planner (a role unthinkable in the UK). Highest on my visit list is the southern German town of Eichstätt, where the architect Karljosef Schattner (no relation to William, sadly) worked on various understated but beautifully crafted buildings between 1957 and 1991.
But that’s an almost random choice from such a lot of material. In fact you might think that a book about so much – from loam building techniques to thoughts on the concept of genius loci – might lose focus. But actually it’s a page turner, full of beautiful architecture as well as interesting ideas, and makes you want to know more about… just about everything to do with building. And a source of travel ideas. Bonus.