Rethinking the elements of architecture

Our built envi­ron­ment is large­ly com­posed of stan­dard­ized archi­tec­tur­al ele­ments, all cre­at­ed by engi­neers or design­ers. So, what hap­pens when we recon­sid­er the design of these pri­ma­ry build­ing blocks?

Led by design­er Ste­fan Diez, the Indus­tri­al Design id1 class at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Arts Vien­na has been inves­ti­gat­ing these stan­dard­ized build­ing ele­ments in light of cli­mate change. What utopias of sus­tain­able liv­ing could we envis­age if we recon­ceived our built envi­ron­ment from the ground up? And which ele­ments would need to be com­plete­ly rein­vent­ed if we are to achieve the kind of future we all dream of?


The impact of cli­mate change is exten­sive and requires a new approach. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true for the build­ing sec­tor as it is a major con­trib­u­tor to the waste of resources. The ID1 stu­dents’ approach was to envis­age archi­tec­ture that encom­pass­es rethought ele­ments from the view­point of indus­tri­al design. The archi­tec­ture should not only reduce the envi­ron­men­tal foot­print of urban life, but should also either have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the cityscape of the future, or sub­stan­tial­ly change the way peo­ple live in these cities.

The ideas range from large-scale imple­men­ta­tion of pho­to­voltaics in pub­lic spaces, to inno­v­a­tive shad­ing solu­tions and the cool­ing effect of green facades, to objects like fur­ni­ture or every­day prod­ucts that con­tribute to sus­tain­able liv­ing habits.

The subtopics

  • Stu­dents in “Team Sonne”, in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the man­u­fac­tur­er ASCA, focused on the appli­ca­tion of organ­ic solar cells to gen­er­ate ener­gy at var­i­ous loca­tions in Vien­na. The projects demon­strate the pos­si­bil­i­ties of using this inno­v­a­tive tech­nol­o­gy of col­or­ful, trans­par­ent and flex­i­ble pho­to­volta­ic films to have a pos­i­tive, aes­thet­ic impact on the cityscape.

  • “Going South” address­es the effects of future tem­per­a­ture increas­es in urban areas due to glob­al cli­mate change, using Vien­na as an exam­ple. In this con­text, the stu­dents devel­oped projects for shad­ing, cool­ing and green­ing for exist­ing build­ings. The pre-estab­lished liv­ing con­di­tions were con­sid­ered an oppor­tu­ni­ty for inhab­i­tants to reimag­ine the use of pub­lic and pri­vate space.

  • In “Heat­ing Objects and New Habits”, every­day liv­ing habits were put to the test. The fun­da­men­tals of phys­i­cal con­di­tions were exam­ined, and social eval­u­a­tions were called into ques­tion. Stu­dents opti­mized heat­ing, cool­ing, ven­ti­la­tion, and water use based on poten­tial­ly chang­ing people’s habits, and explored how design can change behav­iours and lead to more sus­tain­able liv­ing prac­tices.

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