At first glance this seems like an excellent introduction to green architecture. James Wines has assembled an impressive collection of photographs of some of the eco-architecture that has been built over the past 30 years. But, a closer examination reveals numerous holes in the narrative. Wines has put together a grab bag of ideas that held my attention but left me scratching my head as to why he left so many important architects out of his survey, and included some of rather dubious distinction.
Wines holds Frank Lloyd Wright paramount in his pantheon of ecologically-minded architects, alluding to his concepts of "The Natural House" and "Organic Architecture," as virtually the only texts written on eco-architecture at the height of the Modern movement. Wines likes Wright more for his aesthetic vision of ecologically sensitive architecture than for any great technological innovations in the field of eco-architecture. Wines laments the fact that eco-architecture is driven too much by the latest technology, and not enough by aesthetic concerns.
He brushes over the Modern movement, which did offer a number of technological innovations, such as Buckminister Fuller's Dymaxion House and geodesic dome, and did explore traditional patterns in design, as in the work of Aldo Van Eyck, who was a contributing editor for Shelter. Wines wrote off Le Corbusier, ignoring the architect's later work, which was very site specific.
However, the most glaring omissions are contemporary architects like Ralph Erskine, Glenn Murcutt, Samuel Mockbee, and Ken Yeang who have all given a great deal of consideration to environmentally responsive architecture. You certainly can't call them "eco-freaks," as their work has been readily accepted by the mainstream architectural community.
But, Wines does offer a number of engaging examples from which to draw from, including his own work with SITE. Perhaps the most interesting examples are the "prophetic visions" such as an Ozone-maker by Jeffrey Miles, seemingly inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, and Michael Sorkin's "Shroom," which has a wonderful kinetic quality like that of Kiesler's "Endless House." Great photos and illustrations, but read this book with grain of salt.