Our April Book of the Month is Bridgette Meinhold's Urgent Architecture. Today we talk with the author about her passion for sustainability and art.
Novedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do
Bridgette Meinhold: I am a freelance writer and artist based in Park City, UT. I'm the architecture editor for Inhabitat with a focus on green building, sustainable architecture and innovative design. When I'm not writing about sustainability, I paint atmospheric landscapes in my reclaimed shipping container art studio.
photo by Claire Wiley
Novedge: You have written over 2,000 articles on green architecture for Inhabitat. How did you first become interested in ecological issues?
Bridgette Meinhold: I have always been interested in the environment. I have two degrees in engineering - a BS in Mechanical and a Masters in Civil & Environmental and have worked in the fields of renewable energy and sustainability consulting before becoming a writer.
photo by Weiland Gleich
Novedge: What have you learned and what surprised you since you joined Inhabitat?
Bridgette Meinhold: There are so many people out there working on amazing designs and innovative products. I'm excited to see what architects and designers come up with next and I enjoy featuring their work and sharing it with our readers.
photo by Laurel Cummings
Novedge: Why write Urgent Architecture? What would you like readers to come away with from the book?
Bridgette Meinhold: I have long been concerned about the effect of natural disasters. Growing up in Oklahoma, we experienced tornadoes regularly and I felt when I was younger there was nothing that could be done to protect us if one came by. But now that I'm older and have learned more, I know that we do have the technology and know-how to build safe homes. I wrote Urgent Architecture to share with the world some of the amazing projects I had found to show that we need to be building smarter in order to save lives.
Novedge: Can you talk about a few of the structures you show in the book?
Bridgette Meinhold: One of my favorite projects was the LIFT house in Bangladesh that was designed so that part of the home would float when floods occurred. The home was designed by Prithula Prosun as part of her architecture master's thesis as a prototype for low-cost and flood-resilient housing. Centered around a stationary brick core are two lightweight bamboo and reed structures that can rise up with flood waters and then lower when they recede. This ensures the family has somewhere safe and dry to live during the floods that come regularly to the area.
photo by Prithula Prosun
I also really like the SLUMtube house, which is an affordable housing concept in South Africa built from reclaimed materials and shipping pallets. It was designed by Andreas Claus Schnetzer & Gregor Pils, who have built many other shipping pallet houses. They wanted to help people in South Africa learn how to build safe, comfortable houses using found materials and the ubiquitous shipping pallet. The tubular design came about because the two designers wanted to eliminate the need for expensive structural wood beams.
photo by Palletenhaus
Novedge: Your book touches on big problems, such as poverty and natural disasters. How can architects become more involved if they want to help?
Bridgette Meinhold: Poverty and natural disasters occur in every nation of the world. Obviously it's great if architects or designers find projects they want to help out with in other places around the world, but I strongly suggest looking first for projects in the local community. Hooking up with local non-profits to provide design expertise is an amazing way to donate your time. Otherwise check out Architecture for Humanity, which is a fantastic organization dedicated to improving the built environment around the world and offers up many volunteer opportunities.
photo courtsy of Shelter Box
Novedge: What innovations do you see in architecture? What do you think will change in the future?
Bridgette Meinhold: Architecture is innovation and every day there are new ways to think about things and new products and technologies the help increase efficiency, health and safety. Sustainable design is the way of the future and green building strategies will only improve with more practice and implementation.