Every culture in history has reflected their values and ethics in architecture. The Greeks invented their column based off of the Egyptian pillar and created wonderful stone and marble structures that still stand today. The art deco style in France and the United States, an expression of both wealth and good craftmanship associated with the prosperity and hard working nature of the West at the time.
What do we have now? Nihilistic buildings, a product of the Bauhaus school and the international style established by Walter Gropius made of the cheapest materials available that will be easily replaced by even cheaper labor that kill their inhabitants. How appropriate for a nation of people ruled by nihilistic and decadent boomers that only have their eyes on their chequebooks and offshore accounts. While I doubt this is what Gropius had in mind, it is where we have landed.
I do see a light at the end of this nihilistic tunnel though. As Western society continues to embrace environmentalism as a key value and element to be preserved, we may see it reflect in architecture. Tree planting initiatives distant from areas of highly concentrated pollution are simply not enough, we have tons of surface area going to waste on all of our dystopian, concrete cities. We can filter city air with specific plants that are hungry for the stuff. Not all plants are created equal and only certain ones will actually filter air, and these will be the instrumental to the development of arbortecture.
Localized low quality air will not be eliminated by the preservation of distant national parks. Arbortecture featuring living exterior walls reflects this well. The concrete jungle must become not a manmade jungle, but a curated garden. If we can filter interiors with plants, why not do the same with the exterior?
A particular school campus I once attended comes to mind which filtered air inside of the building using several green installations and two indoor waterfalls. The roof of the building was populated with grass and gardens. While just two of the walls outside were living walls, it does represent a step towards larger scale adoption of arbortecture. Heat was even recovered from grey water to maintain energy.
Arbortecture would build off of boomer laziness and lifelessness, since they are low maintenance in theory. High initial build costs should be temporary as green becomes the new standard. You wouldn’t have to work super hard to keep these maintained or do too much risky maintenance work that people no longer want to do and even if you did, you are now hiring landscapers instead of stonemasons. Life can only grow as big as it’s nutrition allows, so it would be fairly easy to keep these living exteriors managed however you’d like, and this could be accomplished with hydroponics and would be in line with the (unfortunately) Keynesian methodology we insist on following in the West, because now you need maintenance staff to manage these hydroponics, but you would not require a ton of skilled workers. Maybe one or two hydroponics experts capable of managing the entire system.
In addition this would provide a a job for hydroponics experts beyond growing “tomato plants” under expensive grow lights, and bring hydroponics out of the dark and into a better source of income than selling weed.
While this may all sound like idealistic solarpunk posturing, Singapore, as per usual, is way ahead.
Like the palm trees that were placed in California, an expression of wealth and the leisure of the Mediterranean, arbortecture would bring a similar aesthetic to the West. We may not produce anything but goddamn do we got it relatively easy. The wild growth of nature and the mastery of technology and industry are both symbols of prosperity. The primitivist barbarian and the aristocrat share that in common, whether they realize it or not.
A green contrast to the dark blue glass resembles our planet. Our reflections appear in both glass and water. Green and blue are indicative of a presence of life, health, and prosperity. If we are now incapable of making artistic buildings ourselves, then nature can make up for our lack.
A word of caution though, this may only work when done on a large enough scale. Without a large enough array of plants, they may suffer and die from acid rain and low light exposure. So this would have to be a massive initiative that nobody gets to opt out of. Estimates of the amount of foliage required would have to be determined based off of air quality highs and solar availability. While this may work for warmer climates, colder ones may not be as effective in the winter.
It’s not exactly a super ideal solution to offensively ugly boomer architecture, but you know what I’ll take what I can get at this point.
If we cannot return to nature, then we shall have to build it ourselves.