Arch Lecture 10/7/20: Elizabeth Gray + Alan Organschi

For over 25 years, our practice at Gray Organschi Architecture has integrated design, fabrication, teaching, and environmental research. That work has embraced considerations and concerns that span material, building, and geographic scales and has been realized in architecture for individuals, families, institutions, and communities. Because of our origins as furniture- and cabinetmakers, wood—as both a finely-crafted and an industrially modified material—has been a significant focus. We’ve come to respect wood’s capacity to make beautiful and durable building solutions but we also see its enormous potential as a powerful tool to mitigate climate change. Since the industrial revolution our global mid and high-rise cities have been built with increasingly sophisticated mineral-based materials; materials extracted, smelted, sintered, or synthesized through intensive fossil-energy based industrial processes with significant environmental impacts. Predictions of dramatic global population growth and urbanization suggest that the demands for these materials and processes will rise sharply over the next 30-50 years, setting the stage for a massive global spike in greenhouse gas emissions associated with the construction of new buildings and infrastructure. Our Timber City Research Initiative offers an alternative. We can transform our dense urban centers from their current status as a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions into massive human-made carbon sinks through the broad implementation of mass timber and bio-based urban building and regulatory and economic policy that exploits the potential ecological and systemic synergies that tie urban timber building practice to the forests that are its source.

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