Friday, May 13, 2005

Towards a New Architecture

Since making a trip up to Sault Ste Marie in March, I have been thinking a lot about wind power. Wind, our friends at AWEA (American Wind Energy Association or something like it) tell us, is caused by air being heated in different ways by the sun heating flat land, or water, or varying terrain. The Soo has all three in spades, and Portage Rd. was a veritable wind tunnel while I was staying at the Ojibway Hotel.

Portage Rd., I should explain, is the main tourist street that runs by the Soo Locks. The Locks are the US Army Corps of Engineers' solution to the rapids on the body of water between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, the St. Mary's River. The locks are necessary for freighter traffic on the Great Lakes, bringing iron ore from Minnesota and the UP down to Gary, Indiana, among other things.

Wind power comes about when wind propels a blade that turns a turbine; in the past this energy has been used to mill things or to pump water (like Frank Lloyd Wright's famed windmill "Romeo and Juliet.") Now it can serve as an adjunct -- if not an alternative -- to coal or to nuclear fuel.

Driving home from the Soo, I was thinking what a boon it would be if the city could start producing much of its own energy. There is certainly enough wind there to make it worth their while. Additionally, I had been thinking about why nearly every modern windmill looks just like any other. There doesn't seem to be any reason to except perhaps economy. It is my thought that architects have not been involved in designing windmills, only engineers, leaving us with a very plain product. If an architect could get involved in such a project, I am sure he or she would come up with a more creative design for the 'mill (pedantic though it may be). I would wager that the Soo, in this hypothetical situation of mine, would benefit both from the self-sufficiency of sustainable power AND from the attraction of creatively designed windmills that were both functional and aesthetically appealing. Being in DC as I am, I am going to have to convince someone at the AIA to give this a thought. Architecture is a draw for big cities; why not the double attraction of sustainability and architecture?

EDIT: The slogan I should copyright immediately: Wind: isn't it clear?


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