Architecture, Engineering, and Environment. . – Reviews: Arup Apotheosis

Architecture, Engineering, and Environment. . – Reviews: Arup Apotheosis – book review

Max Fordham

By Dean Hawkes and Wayne Forster. London: Laurence King. 2002. [sterling pounds]50

This book is introduced with a really comprehensive review of the history of building services engineering from the late eighteenth century up to the present. There is not a large body of scholarship to draw on for the history of building services engineering and the authors have developed a very wide coverage.

The book then launches into a series of critical studies of buildings, classified in accordance with Dean Hawkes’ scheme into ‘selective’ and ‘exclusive’ mode. The case studies are intended to illustrate a link between engineering and architecture with a particular emphasis on environmental factors. Who better to illustrate the engineering side of this link than Arup? There are 20 case studies with dates between 1994 and 2002. This represents a very impressive demonstration of the Arup contribution. The case studies certainly demonstrate the result of various architects and Arup working together. I would like to have known a little more about the process of cooperation and also a development of the meaning of the classification into selective and exclusive mode.

The book is descriptive. It does not give a message. The history shows that the mechanical and electrical systems developed from the end of eighteenth century enabled buildings in the twentieth century to be designed without need to take climate and natural light into account. To that extent twentieth century architecture is dominated by mechanical and electrical engineering. We now use half of our fossil fuel to light, heat and cool buildings and we should do something about it. The case studies do address the environmental issues but they do not substantiate the results with figures.

For me, natural light is the engineering starting point for any building. Domestic buildings do not need a lot of light but buildings where people work need to be well lit. The current solution is that windows provide a little light and outlook but electricity is used universally to supplement natural light. This means that skyscrapers can have electrically lit, deep office spaces surrounding comparatively small and economical cores. The World Trade Center was about 20m from the window to the back of the office and I believe Canary Wharf is about 14m. It is not possible to provide natural light in buildings which are this deep. There is, of course, a relationship between the depth of light penetration and the height to the head of the window but I don’t think Canary Wharf would be viable if the storey height was 14m.

The LT Method emphasizes that the proportion of a building which is naturally lit is an important environmental parameter and I would like to see this parameter calculated for the case studies.

Overall this book provides a useful review of the diversity of modern ideas, but it does not help to evaluate the options.

COPYRIGHT 2003 EMAP Architecture

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group