We are petroleum people. By most accounts, humans have been on earth approximately 150,000 years. The length of our significant petroleum use will most likely last only 200 to 250 years. Our time on earth, or what might be termed our “petroleum life”, represents then 0.15% of all human existence. Our truly unique experiences should be considered an aberration, a most unusual occurrence in the history of mankind. Never before, and never hence, shall mankind consume the stored energy in fossil fuels, energy that required eons to accumulate.
We have an opportunity, in the latter stages of this high-energy use period, to use the power of this accumulated energy to help us plan ahead. It is our obligation as architects to always keep this strategy in mind, and to plan accordingly in our teaching, learning, and most of all, in our designing. There is only one efficient way to harness the talents of the design world to this end. We must all be convinced of the possibility that our collective aesthetic must change.
Our intellectual guides in this matter have suggested a course to follow. Great designers and thinkers such as Frei Otto, Konrad Wachsmann, Robert LeRicolet, Jean Prouvé, Buckminster Fuller, Louis I. Kahn, and many others, have led the way by showing the innate beauty of singularly efficient concepts. In their own work the tendencies of materials and techniques are in a constant exchange with the designer’s will to form. This should be our method and the nature of our aesthetic, made manifest in the mystery of an architectural ratio efficiendi.
Robert Marino was initially trained as an engineer at the Stevens Institute of Technology. He later completed his graduate studies in architecture at Princeton University. He served his architectural apprenticeship in the office of Michael Graves where he worked on numerous projects including the addition to the Whitney Museum for American Art.
He is currently teaching graduate design studios at Harvard University. Marino has also taught in the graduate architecture program of Columbia University since 1985, and in the graduate program of the University of Pennsylvania from 1991 to 1998. At the University of Pennsylvania he developed a course, Forms of Process, dedicated to the exploration of the possibility of manual technique as the initiator of form. His work has been extensively published in periodicals and books in Europe and the United States. A monograph, Robert Marino, has recently been released by Rockport Press as part of a series, “Contemporary World Architects”.