It’s this mix, McCloud says, that
is one of the great public responsibilities of architects and planners. “We’re
all expecting or looking for that big cathedral, or whatever it is, but at the
same time architecture is not just about what things look like. Architecture is
about the organisation of space for human beings, and the best thing about our
homes is the interior; it’s the arrangement of spaces, it’s not the impact on
the streets. That can be exciting, but for most of us in our homes and the
buildings we work in and use, the interior of spaces can be much more
While the much-publicised troubles of McCloud’s UK-based eco-development companies have invited inevitable comparisons to the occasional disasters captured on Grand Designs, McCloud’s faith in the value of sustainable, environmentally aware architecture is undeterred. The key, McCloud says, lies in finding simple ways to integrate humans with their environment – rather than fighting it. “Increasingly architects and engineers are becoming aware – too slow but it’s happening – of the need for what I would call natural design or environmental design, which takes advantage of natural phenomena,” he says.
“So a simple thing is to design
houses with, instead of air-conditioning and sealed windows, vents: a vent at a
low level, and a vent at a high level. Then, at summer. you open a vent at the
high level and the warm air rises through the building and it sucks in cool air
in the bottom,
and purges and provides fresh air into the building. These are very simple
devices that not only human beings, but species like termites, have understood
for millions of years.
whole idea of the covered porch, the stoop that wraps around the building which
provides you with a walkway, a covered place to sit in all weathers that also
keeps the sun off the building, keeps the walls and structure from
overheating,” he explains.
also, of course, principles that are evident in many of the remaining 19th
century buildings and homes that once defined Adelaide’s architectural
character. “It’s very elementary and simple but what do we do now? We put up
steel-framed, concrete buildings and clad them in glass, wait for the sun to
heat them up to a point where they’re intolerable and then put air conditioning
in to cool them down again.
occasionally see a skyscraper with really clever solar shading on it, but not
very often. I look at them and wonder how the heck you could manage that kind
of building? And the answer is, you bung a lot of energy in it. You can put
your glass box wherever you want on the planet, put it into the middle of a
desert, or on top of a mountain in snow, and once you put enough energy into it
you can keep it at the right temperature.”