GAM 21
Confronting the Environmental Crisis:
New Approaches in Architecture

Guest Editors: Alexander Passer, Marcella Ruschi Mendes Saade

The global environmental crisis facing humanity compels us to push toward a paradigm shift that also highly affects the way we build, design, and interact with our natural environments. As the Brazilian writer and environmentalist Ailton Krenak has aptly brought to the point, the essential shift needs to entail the end of the “extractive model” that is particularly ingrained in the mindset of the Western world: “It is fundamentally unnatural for humans to perceive the landscapes in which we dwell merely as tools or resources.”[1] When applied to architecture, this means that the time has come to face the far-reaching consequences of this paradigm shift in the interaction between design, construction, and the building industry.


While there are no clear-cut solutions to wicked problems such as climate change, our design approaches must take into account that built spaces are an essential part of the overall ecosystem, to which, for logical reasons, the same principles should apply: permeability, functionality, and balance. As an antithesis to artificial structures transplanted into a given space, aiming solely at a marginally lower environmental impact than the status quo, the built spaces of the future need to disrupt conventional design practices that have “elevated” the building sector to the largest contributor of man-made CO2 emissions globally. Achieving net-zero embodied and operational emissions in future construction calls for active participation from design, construction, and building professionals, and for the prompt implementation of decarbonization solutions in production processes by pertinent construction industries.


An analytical look at how the built environment has changed over the last few centuries, both in terms of architecture and engineering and in terms of construction technology and materials, can help us to see more clearly how we can accelerate the process and restructure or reinterpret how humans interact with their ecosystems. Therefore, GAM 21 looks at the architectural consequences of the paradigm shift from two perspectives: first, from a historical point of view, including a thorough assessment of the evolution of the built environment over time, in consideration of its resources and environmental impacts; and second, from a future-oriented point of view, with specific proposals for how changes at all levels of design and construction can promote decarbonization and the regeneration of nature. The latter entails a reevaluation and reinterpretation of the role of architecture and the discipline as such and, more specifically, of its role as a transformative agent. At stake for architecture, when considering aspects of sustainability, is its role in formulating the necessary radical consequences for the design of buildings.


The next issue of GAM invites proposals from the disciplines of architecture, civil engineering, environmental studies, urban planning, or material and cultural studies, to discuss the architectural design that a shift in perspective might take when it comes to environmental performance. In this context, we also welcome proposals discussing pedagogical shifts that are required for a reevaluation of the discipline. Abstracts on the topic “Confronting the Environmental Crisis” can be submitted together with a short biography until May 31, 2024. The submission deadline for the final contribution is September 16, 2024.




[1] Ailton Krenak, in Romullo Baratto, “Ailton Krenak: ‘Instead of Operating in the Landscape, We Should Blend in With It,’” interview translated by Diogo Simões, Archdaily, October 16, 2023,