The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities welcomed students, supporters and experts to the GSD for the Inaugural Challenge Conference, where experts and practitioners, from fields ranging from architecture to housing policy to energy, gathered for a fascinating and forward-looking conversation about sustainability. The Center stands on a powerful platform with the support of Harvard University and President Faust’s commitment to climate change efforts, as well as significant financial support from the Evergrande Group and leadership from Ali Malkawi, professor of architectural technology at the GSD.
The Center has a bold and hopeful set of aims: to “broaden the boundaries of architectural research” and “drive sustainability through design.” The Conference invited presenters to offer insight into the nuanced challenges and possibilities inherent in sustainability. The presenters included James Carpenter (founder and president of James Carpenter Design Associates), Gordon Gill (founding partner of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, GSD MArch '93), Phil Harrison (president and CEO of Perkins + Will, MArch '93), Alejandro Murat (CEO of INFONAVIT), Daniel Nocera (Harvard professor of energy) and Joshua Prince-Ramus (principal at REX, MArch '96). Their words were powerful, provocative and wide-ranging. A panel moderated by Erika Naginski (professor of architectural history) centered the conversation around the following principles: design and sustainability are inherently aligned, sustainable design does not have to be prohibitively expensive and a social mandate to design for people must come first.
Thaddeus Pawlowski, current Loeb Fellow, shared his thoughts on the Challenge Conference and brought the conversation back to the GSD: “With a mission this large, you have to start with something very tangible. 42 Kirkland–the GSD-owned house in which the Center resides–is a perfect laboratory for a pressing issue in architecture: retrofitting for sustainability.” Pawlowski’s expertise is in the intersections of urban design and disaster preparedness. He said, “I would urge that the redesign of this building also consider its ability to survive and recover from the hazards posed by climate change: failure of infrastructure, flooding, and heat waves.” In its inauguration, the Center has shown that with great challenges come even greater possibilities.