For architect Glenn Murcutt, development and progress in building does not necessarily have to mean environmental degradation.
The Bishop visiting professor gave a lecture Thursday night on environmentally friendly construction to a packed crowd in the Hastings Hall auditorium at the Yale School of Architecture.
Demand for the lecture was so high that the hall could not hold all the spectators and some moved to a separate room where the lecture was simulcast.
“He is a phenomenon without parallel,” said Robert Stern, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture. “He represents a remarkable and important strand of architecture.”
Titled, “Some Old, Some New and Some to Come: Thirty-odd Years Working with Australian Landscapes,” the lecture concerned Murcutt’s unique and famed ideas about construction. Based on Aboriginal building principles and the idea that people change their clothes to suit the weather, Murcutt’s buildings are changeable according to the temperature. Movable doors and screens are staples in his work, and he claims that many of his buildings require neither heating nor cooling systems.
The ideas have been extremely well received.
“His is an outstanding approach involving the environment,” Stern said. “It is not only environmentally responsible, but it also creates beautiful architecture.”
Last spring, Murcutt received the Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious award for architecture.
“He is an innovative architectural technician who is capable of turning his sensitivity to the environment and to locality into forthright, totally honest, non-showy works of art,” said Pritzker Prize jury chairman J. Carter Brown. “Glenn Murcutt occupies a unique place in today’s architectural firmament.”
As Murcutt gains praise, he does not hesitate to criticize his contemporaries in the field of environmental architecture. Showing a slide of another architect’s work, Murcutt said he would never want to be a part of the project because it looked “too scientific.”
“It is a complete barrenness of mind and a poverty of the spirit,” he said.
Murcutt insists on maintaining his solo enterprise in Australia despite many offers to work in other parts of the world. He said he needs freedom and simply cannot work with other people anymore.
“I am an extraordinarily restless person,” he said. “I wanted to work with smaller projects because they give me the platform of experimentation.”
Murcutt has taught in Sydney since 1970, and is at Yale for the second time, teaching a course at the School of Architecture.
Students attending the lecture seemed eager to learn more about Murcutt’s work.
“He really takes on building in all its aspects,” said Gregory Sobotka ARC ’04. “That is the root of what architecture is all about.”
Despite his successes, Murcutt explained that he still finds opposition to his constructions.
“I’ve had 11 court cases involving local authorities who don’t know much about local environment,” he said. “They are the bane of my existence.”
Murcutt said he thinks many current regulations try and replicate the world of 1912, and he opposes this opposition to progress.
“I’m opposed to the taming of the land,” he said. “We need to become friends with the landscape and not be frightened by it.”