With climate becoming a greater issue in the 21st century, it is all the more important to establish architecture that not only responds to its local climate but also adapts to its change. In his talk “From the Bubble to the Sponge”, Scott Duncan, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP (SOM), lectured on many of the recent advancements in architectural design that have, in many ways, addressed issues of local climate by insulating the interior environment of the building from the exterior environment creating a ‘bubble’. These methods of interior climate control have lead to energy inefficient buildings that require what I call ‘life support’.

Contemporary architecture has been addressing this issue by creating facades that are far more adaptive which take their form from how they perform and not just aesthetics. Duncan discussed how this method of design can be taken one step further into the more radical approach of designing for the architectural sponge, or an architecture that is actively and directly interacting with its local climate. Absorbing, reflecting, insulating, redirecting, and filtrating are some of many functions that are indicative of this approach to design practice. The KAFD Conference Center, designed by SOM in Saudi Arabia, is an architecture that addresses its climate in a ‘sponge like’ manner is it arid climate green roof not only provides shade throughout the building, but it also provides necessary heat transfer through convection and water retention and filtration.

Image Credit: Patrick Blanc photographying the construction of the KAFD Conference Center designed by SOM in Saudi Arabia. https://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com/realisations/riyadh/kadf-conference-center-mega-roof-riyadh

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