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Stefan Behnisch

Founding Partner,
Behnisch Architekten

Stuttgart, Germany

Almost all of last century’s developments placed a high, heedless demand on energy. Almost all of next century’s developments need to work to mitigate that demand.

120131_100 Years

The pace of development is rapidly accelerating. In order to consider the possible future, it helps to look at the last 100 years. The past 100 years brought mankind fantastic developments and innovations, catastrophic developments and innovations, and some ideas and developments that were ultimately burdensome for future generations.

The theory of general relativity was discovered in 1916. Since then, this theory guided our physical thinking and formed our theory of the universe – of everything. It offered a foundation for technical developments. Recently, however, experiments at CERN in Geneva have suggested that this theory might not be right.

In 1902, Olds developed a serial car and in 1913, the Model T delivered automobiles to the mass market. We invented the nuclear bomb. We worked on the Manhattan Project. We built the Titanic in 1912 and lost it. We built the Zeppelin Hindenburg in 1937 and lost it. We invented mass transportation with all its faults. In 1919, the first commercial flights journeyed from Hounslow to Paris. Flemming discovered penicillin. We put the first human being on the moon in 1969. In 1932 we discovered the neutron and in 1954 we built the first nuclear power plant in Russia. Following that, we saw six substantial catastrophes: in Kyschtym, INES 6; in Chalk River (Ontario, CA), INES 5; in Windscare (GB), INES 5; in Three Mile Island (USA), INES 5; in Chernobyl, INES 7; in Tomsk, INES 4, and in Fukushima, INES 7. More than one percent of the nuclear power stations we built, in turn, produced catastrophes that hurt human beings and caused environmental damages lasting more than 1000 years. We had World War I, we had World War II, we had the Korean War, we had the Vietnam War and we had many other wars.  In addition, we witnessed not only the rebellions that created communist states, but also the uprisings that led to the demise of the Iron Curtain, the disappearance of the Warsaw bloc and the fall of most communist regimes.

While many of these events created a basis for further developments, they also represent a basis for further problems. Mankind recently decided that global warming should be limited to a maximum of 2 degrees above the pre-industrial period.  But, in 2050 we must achieve a sustainable way of living in order to avoid increasing the problems we already have. This demands from us a behaviour that radically changes our perception of nature and of energy. Almost all of last century’s developments placed a high, heedless demand on energy. Almost all of next century’s developments need to work to mitigate that demand. Future developments must look for sustainable, renewable strategies that in turn restrain the inefficient use of energy.

The uprisings in the Arabic world symbolize the rise of a human behaviour that is freedom seeking and responsible. These uprisings show a general change in how we want to live together in the future. But only if we can manage to live together in a more sustainable way, will we be able to survive for another 100 years.

Stefan Behnisch Bio:

Stefan Behnisch is the founding partner of Behnisch Architekten. Born in Stuttgart, he studied philosophy and economics in Munich, and architecture in Karlsruhe, Germany. Prior to establishing his own practice in 1989, he worked as an architect at Behnisch & Partner, the practice run by his father, Prof. Günter Behnisch. Stefan Behnisch’s firm, Behnisch Architekten, became independent in 1991 and established a reputation for developing innovative sustainable buildings. The practice has expanded and opened independent offices together with individual partners in Los Angeles, CA (1999-2011), Boston, MA (2006), and Munich (2008).

With a design portfolio that includes master planning, public buildings, healthcare clinics, sports facilities, redevelopment, offices, schools, and museums, Stefan Behnisch strives to design inclusive buildings that provide maximum benefit to all users.

He has taught at several institutions as Visiting Professor, including the Yale School of Architecture, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Virginia, and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland. In 2007, he received a Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, and in 2009, a Good Design Award in the category “People” presented by the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.