The value of doing nothing

One of the fundamental characteristics of modern society is the value that we place in new things. All new things are also supposed to be good. During the last century, the traditional and necessary relationship between innovation and progress has been also used as a tool to generate and stimulate consumption. However, today we know that some of the things that we’ve produced, changed, or renewed during the last decades, were not involving a real improvement in comparison with the ones we were using before. As is well known, cities have not escaped from this phenomenon, which has been intensified especially since the successful development of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. We also know today that for each of these developments that have been a success, there are tens of them that have been a failure and were only based on the concept of novelty, not on the concept of need or real urban regeneration.

In many cases, the best environmental performance may be to do nothing and to give value to what we have already done right. Perhaps the best way to REDUCE could be not changing what we did well in the past. Although this statement may seem obvious, is not so easy to act this way when different factors are pushing us in the opposite direction. The LĂ©on Aucoc square in Bordeaux is an example of what I mean. In this square, French architects Lacaton and Vassal were hired to do a refurbishment project. Instead of making a profound urban transformation, the architects thought that the square was already charming and that his job should only consist in a few minor actions. The lack of sophistication and simplicity were making the square a peaceful and friendly space. Moreover, the architects conclude that the existing buildings were built to last and were a good example of public collective housing. They finally decided to change the streetlight that is shown in the picture, but that was almost all. Although I guess that the project was not LEED certified, the amount of energy saved could make it eligible for LEED platinum.

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