Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

George Gorse

Reader 2

Lance Neckar

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Rights Information

© 2014 Katherine P. Yzurdiaga


Architecture is an inherently functional art – buildings have functions, some more vital than others, beyond the objective of sheer aesthetic appeal. Yet at the same time, aesthetic appeal is an integral part of the human experience that many agree is vital to sustainability objectives, including those of the built environment. Ideally, a building would be able to embody and honor both principles, both form and function, but some contend that in the current architectural climate, the emphasis on beauty has surpassed the importance placed on functionality. This discussion is particularly relevant to sustainability in the built environment: Sustainability as a function, some argue, is often compromised or sacrificed for the sake of the vision of the architect, and faddish concepts of beauty. This, many contend, results in the commodification of our buildings, and quite possibly of sustainability as well. In this thesis, I argue that we can avoid this outcome by employing site-specific and culturally informed design principles, knowledge of sensory perception shaped by the social sciences, and spatially flexible design principles to create architecture that inspires us, roots us, and lasts for multiple generations. Ultimately, this is the core function of a sustainable approach to design – taking into account the entire lifecycle of a product. A new, loose functionalist approach that stresses durability, and is informed by a multidisciplinary approach involving both the humanities and social sciences, could be the key to overcoming the quick obsolescence of styles in a consumptive, aesthetically driven society.