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Yes, you saw right. Not global warming, at least not in the architectural world.

We all have some experience with the temperature of building materials. Stainless steel is cool, titanium is cool, glass is cool. Isn’t modern and post-modern architecture all about being “cool”? If we allow our minds to travel backward, warmer elements pop out: brick, limestone, wood, and even plaster can be warm. Now do you see global cooling?

The trend may have started from Le Corbusier’s famous and infamous statement “The house is a machine for living in.” (Vers une architecture, 1923)  Traditional building materials do not possess as much potential in revealing the beauty and inevitability of machines. In fact, Art-Deco may be just around the time when buildings start to cool down and walk into the new age. Personally I’ve always preferred “warmer” architecture, not because I’m anti the whole green movement, but it simply suggests a more amiable environment. My favorite example is Alvar Aalto’s detail in some of his buildings in the formidable Finland: withe wrapped around stainless steel door handles (too bad I can’t find a picture at hand). This is no doubt a hotter god compared to Mies Van der Rohe’s that supposedly lives in details.

In recent years, however, global warming is making a steady comeback, in tune with the “green” movement. Greener planet is not only resource-oriented, but also human-oriented. Social influences have regained its significance in the realm of architecture. (See recent MOMA exhibition “Small Scale, Big Change”) Can we call this re-Renaissance? Once again our focal point has shifted back to ourselves.

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