Dr. Ken Yeang was quiet and unassuming in the auditorium as he prepared for his presentation tonight. As he began to speak and to go through his slideshow presenting his ideas, projects and complex methodologies utilized in developing and achieving ecoarchitecture, it was quickly apparent why he has built 200 projects and lectured in over 30 countries to date.
He spoke of ecomimicry, stressing that there is no such thing as a prototype building, as each building is unique to the site upon which it rests. He spoke of biodiversity and ways to encourage it through green vegetated bridges providing both human and species linkage. He spoke of using a complex system that uses the representational colors red, green, gray and blue to determine how each of the interdependent infrastructure systems can determine site layout and building design considerations to foster biodiversity, create natural habitats while fully utilizing of all of the resources that any given site can provide.
He spoke of his methods to wrap the exterior of a building with a layer of landscaping; alternating centralized, intermixing, integrated, dispersed, juxtaposed and/or continuous. He spoke of biotic and abiotic, biological and physical properties supported by green walls, roofs, atriums, plazas, bridges, undercrofts and constructed wetlands. He spoke of linear paths that circle his buildings, replacing the buildings footprint groundcover as integrated into the built form.
He spoke of ecocells, pockets of vegetation that punctuate the interior of the building, vegetation that “scrubs” the air clean. He spoke of atriums that soar to open skylights above cooling the ground floor level allowing for less or no a/c, permiting natural daylight to penetrate into the heart of the building, the capture of rainwater and condensate; the necessity to find a way to close the water cycle.
He spoke of the biosphere and the human built environment – bio integration encompassing physical, systematic and temporal. He spoke of his consideration in designing a green skyscraper as first imaging it as if it were lying across the surface of the ground, designing place making and then tilting it vertically. He spoke of ecological connectivity.
He spoke of products and materials as first the environmental impact of creation, second as use then finding a way to reintegrate its nutrients back into the circle of input, output.
He stressed that education is key to getting others to see buildings the way he does. After he finished, the standing room only audience in an auditorium that can hold up to 200 people, asked succinct and knowledgeable questions which he thanked the audience for.
Later, I had a chance to ask him what it was like for him as an architect considering that he had started down this path forty years ago. The difficult part for him was that there was not the engineering to support his ideas. When I asked if he felt as if he had been in a desert for most of this time, he said yes and that he was “just an old hippie”. With his unassuming manner, the dichotomy of his brilliance and architectural designs, it is not hard to understand why The Guardian in 2008, named Dr. Ken Yeang one of the 50 people to save the planet.
He will hopefully be returning to speak again in either March or April.
He will be releasing a book in May of this year called, “Ecoarchitecture: The Work of Ken Yeang” . Instructors can request an evaluation copy for this title.