Whether designing a university building or energy-producing homes, Mario Cucinella aims for the holy grail of sustainable architecture: carbon neutrality. On October 9, he inaugurates the exhibit Mario Cucinella Architects: Building Green Futures, on at Toronto’s Istituto Italiano di Cultura until November 23. Here, he muses on sustainability and the future of green design.
Azure: How does sustainability influence the forms of your buildings?
Mario Cucinella: Everybody can design a building with high performance. We have knowledge and technology, so the problem is how to interpret the idea of performance with beauty. Beauty is hard work, a balance between function and something related to emotion – the question of quality of light, the quality of air inside the building.
AZ: What is your most successful carbon-neutral project?
MC: The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies, in China, is a small simple research building. When they asked me to design it, my first reaction was that we needed to communicate the beauty, since the technology will disappear in 20 years. It was important to demonstrate that technology is actually the capacity for creating beauty.
AZ: How has green design changed in the past 20 years?
MC: Pioneers talked about sustainability years ago, but it was the wrong time. High tech was the fashion: shiny, skyscrapers with no consideration for environmental impact. Contractors and politicians now see sustainability as an opportunity – and we have no other option.
AZ: What will you discuss at the opening of your exhibit?
MC: In Europe, the agenda in green building is to pay special attention to performance and to reduce energy consumption, technical considerations that have a major impact on the quality of architecture. I’ll discuss how building today is about the quality of life, ecological footprint – things that are almost invisible but part of a building’s overall quality.
Mario Cucinella: Building Green Futures opens at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura (496 Huron St.) on October 9 and runs until November 23. Cucinella also delivers a talk and workshop at George Brown College’s School of Design (230 Richmond St. E.) on October 10 and will be attending the Green Building Festival at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview Ave.) on October 11. For more information, visit iictoronto.esteri.it.
This excerpt is taken from an interview with the architect in our October 2012 issue, on newsstands now.