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Cities operate as unnatural ecosystems. Buildings breathe in and out. They consume and waste resources. They foul the air. Now more architects and engineers are working with greater regard for the environmental consequences of big buildings. "Green architecture" seems incongruous: creating artificial places that somehow connect us better to the natural world, so is it trendy tokenism or sincere citizenship? This book surveys the field and assesses the state of sustainable civic and corporate architecture. Sleekly designed and generally informative, it presents a variety of building types and evolving technologies that allow massive construction projects to step more lightly on the earth. These are office towers and mixed-use spaces from San Francisco to Shanghai to Seville that employ double-skin facades, advanced ventilation systems, natural light and energy, "graywater" recovery, skyscraper gardens, and rooftop habitats. Contextual essays link these trends to visionary traditions (Wright, Fuller, et al.) as well as to environmental and urban dynamics. The tone balances alarm, awareness, and even post-Enron moral philosophy. Steve Paul
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David Gissen is associate curator at the National Building Museum. He has taught at the American University, Yale University, and the University of Virginia School of Architecture. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.