Sustainability or Survivability? How Environmental Crisis Follows Inequality Crisis

Asia's fast-growing cities are having disastrous impacts on both environment and civilization. A Singapore-based firm is trying to create news ways of building before it's too late.
December 8, 2016, 5am PST | gheller
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Singapore-based architectural firm WOHA published a manifesto called "Garden City Mega City: Rethinking Cities for the Age of Global Warming," which charts the firm's endeavor to develop a series of new building forms for Asia's fast-growing cities. WOHA put density and climate change at the center of their agenda because Singapore's unique socio-economic realities had placed it there for them. Across Asia's fast-growing cities are signs that architecture has turned a blind eye to the crises of environment and civilization: Bangalore’s water table has dropped from 30 meters below ground twenty years ago to 500 meters today making it impossible for new trees to take root.

A new Mumbai tower holds just 300 apartments, but after the Trump organization partnered on the project the complex was slated to have over 10,000 parking spaces. The global vogue for "sustainability" has lulled us into assuming architects will come up with innovations to overcome the environmental crisis through their sheer brilliance. But this bespeaks a naive faith in reason and human ingenuity that ignores power. If, as WOHA has convincingly argued, the environmental crisis is an outgrowth of the global inequality crisis, our choice is to solve both or solve neither. 

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Published on Monday, December 5, 2016 in n+1
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