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Angelo Consoli

Angelo Consoli

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Published by: CetriTires on Jun 23, 2010
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... WITH Brl!Jee Sterlifl!, Angelo Consoli, .

tilBert RS\'8steifl, RelsPleJ LSsrSPl8, 1'88881 SMet, Erie Gerijfl

AND ... BreA8sPI MeGetrielt, Ryan -Neiheiser, Jesse Seesers, J~lie" I)e SM-eeJt ...

• • •


and Climate Crises

RN: OUf book is about the work of the office over the past year, a year in which there has been overlapping financial, energy, and climate crises. We've also been interested in looking at the number of other related, but sometimes more dispersed and less-discussed crises that include

the crisis of the media, various political crises, a demographic

crisis, a crisis for the profession of architecture, and for development. We've been asking people where they see opportunities for change within these crises. I know that the work that you and Jeremy Rifkin have been doing directly confronts this question. What opportunities for systemic change do you see emerging from the current field of overlapping crises?



~----- - --=- --=----=----=-_- - - --

u.s. House of Representatives approves an extra $2 billion to

the Car Allowance Rebate System.



AC: Most of the work that I've been doing with Jeremy (Rifkin) over the past five years is inspired by the idea that we should use energy on this planet in such a way that we do not create entropy. Over the past 200 years of humans using fossil fuel energy, we've been creating a lot of entropy. The human race has taken 170,000 years to get to one billion individuals, and then over the past 200 years, because we've found a way to accelerate the speed and the pace of development, we have now become six billion humans and we are going for eight billion humans in the next two decades. So when a species

in an ecosystem, in a climate, grows

too much - overgrows its capability

of sustaining itself - there are always disasters looming on the horizon. What is happening now is that we have been digging up the massive graveyard of the J urassie Age and we have been using the carbon that has been captured by millions of millions of years of life on this planet and releasing all of this carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in just a few years and that has created

an unprecedented problem.

This is not only a climate crisis, it's also an economic and financial crisis, and an energy crisis. The poorest countries of the world, the developing countries, are not poor by chance. They are poor because their poverty

is a consequence of an economic development that has been based on concentrated, primarily fossil fuel based, energy sources. Because our energy sources are concentrated in just a few areas of the world, and require huge political and capital investments, economic power is concentrated injust

a few hands. The top-down paternalistic energy systems have lead to the development of top-down paternalistic economic systems. We have created

a very unequal world in which the disparities are frightening. The joint wealth - the personal fortunes - of the 300 richest people in the world is equal to the wealth of the three billion poorest people in the world. This is a frightening thing to think about. We have globalized in a very unequal way and we have not re-distributed the wealth of the world in a way which is socially sustainable.

I think that there is no doubt that what we are experiencing now is a structural crisis that we can trace back to the Second Industrial Revolution.

In this revolution humans discovered

an entirely new way to produce energy. And we were very happy about that until we realized that there is an entropic bilI to pay in the form of catastrophic effects on the global climate. Now what can be done about it?

RN: Right, but not just what can be done or what needs to be done, but also, what opportunities for progress are there in the current crisis? There are necessary changes that we have to make

in order to merely survive, but we're interested in whether

or not there are also positive developments that we can imagine accompanying these changes,

if designed correctly. Will those changes possibly set into motion new social relationships, new ways to plan our cities, or new ways

to build, that might actually be beneficial?



AC: "Crisis" is a concept that in Chinese means not only crisis, but also opportunity. It becomes evident that

if we want to give real solutions to this current crisis, then we have to act on the cause and not on the effect. Paying back the debts is only acting on the effects of the current financial crisis. Ifwe want to act on the cause we have to start putting money back into the pockets of people and creatingjobs. This is why it's so important to introduce a new energy model that will create millions of jobs.

The "Third Industrial Revolution" is a model based on the necessity to create a critical mass of energy produced by renewable energy resources. So how

do we do that? To put up a solar panel

or a wind turbine alone doesn't solve

the situation. It becomes marginal and

it remains marginal. It is a marginal solution. You can never really create a system based just on simple centralized solar or wind technologies. What we need to do is to involve everybody

-like the revolution in information technology has done - in the energy production process. And this is where the "Four Pillars" of the "Third Industrial Revolution" comes in. If we have only the target of 20% of power produced by renewable energies, then we will never go over 20%, and then we will be left with tbe problem of energy use from fossil fuels or nuclear in order to supply the energy in the world needed for the remaining 80%. But if want to exceed the 20% renewable energies by the 2020 target and if we want to make a system and if we want to make a critical mass - in other words, if we want to

run the economy of the entire world

on renewable energy sources - then we need to follow a more comprehensive



strategy which simultaneously acanm. for the production, the distribution; and the storage of renewable energs In order to do that we propose what call a "Four Pillars" approach.

"Pillar one" says that in order to a critical mass of renewable energy resources that comes to us from the sun, we need to first develop all of the renewable energy resources that are available in any given part of the In some places you have more wind, in other places you have more sun. Some places you have water flowing. in other places you have tidal flows or waves. So you need to invest in the energy technologies which are .... I.I .......... ~ and most efficient in any given place, according to the geomorphological technological conditions of any given place in the world.

"Pillar two" says that we should reconceive of buildings as power plants. We cannot build concentrated. centralized solar or wind power plants and still provide the energy

, that everybody needs. You will have an overload. What is necessary to

do here is follow the example of

the development ofinformation technology. In the 1970s computers evolved from large central mainfram to small microcomputers in networks. This is what we need to do for energy as well. We need to move from

large centralized power stations to

a distributed network of small local renewable energy production systems. Worldwide, buildings consume 30 to 40 percent of all the energy produced and are responsible for equal parts of C02 emissions. Now, new techno breakthroughs make it possible, for the first time, to design and construct

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. every office, every shopping rv hospital, every stadium,

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. r d has to become energy "'1IbJi:':"":1~g and in some cases it can

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...... _ ... _ ... but instead millions and

- small individual computers 1lllCiC::32~ and sharing information,

- . ons and millions of energy _1Ici~ uildings to feed energy into ;:!. connected energy network.

- d pillar" is the hydrogen

_ em. It is the most original "IE:::;~~ it is the most undeveloped

er to maximize renewable minimize cost it will be _1IiiiJ1::"F:i:O develop storage methods _iE~ate the conversion of _1DIi~l:I-upplies of renewable the wind isn't always

blowing, the sun isn't always shining) into reliable assets. Hydrogen is a perfect vector and storage system;

it allows the transfer of energy in time, and in space, with a relatively low loss

of efficiency. Hydrogen is the universal storage system, similar to digital storage with media. When you needed to store data analogically you had discs and records for music, you had video tapes for films, and you had stacks for data, etc. Then when digital came about, which is the situation now, you could finally store all ofthe various types

of multimedia on the same support . Hydrogen is a universal storage system in the sense that all of the renewable energy sources - solar cells, wind, hydro, geothermal, ocean waves, hydroelectric, biomass - all can be stored in the form of hydrogen. The electricity produced, through the process of electrolysis, can be used to split water into hydrogen

and oxygen. It is important to continue developing the technologies of electrolysis, because we don't want to use noble gases or metals which are not available to everybody, if we want to create a democratic energy model.



American Architect of the Modernist School, Charles Gwathmey, passes away at age 71.



Sint Ludgardisschool Antwerp

1 :200 study models

The "fourth pillar" is the creation

of a smart grid that can link together the distributed system of renewable energy production. Modeled after the Internet, the reconfigured power grid

or "Intergrid," allows homeowners and companies to produce renewable energy locally and then share it across the network. The interconnectivity can be used to redirect energy-lise flows during peaks and lulls, and even adjust to price changes in real time.

With these four pillars we cover all

of the pbases of the energy cycle ofa modern economy. We don't need oil, we don't need uranium, we don't need all of these entropic energy sources anymore, and we can incidentally save the human race and the planet at the same time.

It is my wish that this energy model

- that creates jobs and redistributes wealth - becomes the inspiration fOT

the climate change conference later

this fall in Copenhagen. If we just focus on the negatives - the tax emission

cuts, the limitations - then we will not convince the recalcitrant countries, and the world, that fundamental change

is necessary. We have three crises and


we've got to have a solution that solves all of the three crises together. The "Third Industrial Revolution" model

is the only model that actually gives

the possibility for the human race to simultaneously confront the energy crisis, the climate change crisis, and the financial and economic crisis.

RN: The thing that is most intriguing to me about what you are

calling the "Third Industrial Revolution" is that it combines an idea about buildings as

power plants - architecture

as infrastructure - with an

idea about smart networks of energy, creating a system of interconnected self-sufficiency. The potential of this simple but radical combination is exciting and 1 think the repercussions

for existing spatial and political structures profound. How do you think these systemic shifts in the ways that energy is created and distributed could change the shape of urban development? The shape of our cities?


REX Architects wins Kortrijk Central Library Competition in Belgium.



AC: The First Industrial Revolution,

when steam and coal were invented, created large concentrations of human beings in the same space and then the city began to expand vertically. The Second Industrial Revolution, which was based on oil and gas developing

in parallel with electricity and telecommunications, created a new kind of architectural pattern; speed was introduced, people were working from home, and people were talking on the telephone. This allowed for the separation between where people live and where people work, and in turn enlarged cities and created suburban living spaces.

So then how to anticipate the effect of the "Third Industrial Revolution" on the architectural and urban dynamic? The "Third Industrial Revolution" is

a decentralized energy system based

on a distributed production of energy.

I think that it will probably create a new freedom for architecture. In a lot of cases you'll be building from scratch. I would say that the architecture will start looking decentralized and will

be more interactive. Everybody will

be able to produce and exchange their own information and everybody will

be able to produce and exchange their own energy. Buildings will be built from new materials that are lighter and less damaging to the environment.

RN: How do you think the "Third Industrial Revolution" will challenge the relationship between what is traditionally thought of as public (infrastructure) and what is traditionally thought of as private (architecture) ?


AC: We may well see a reversal so that what is public becomes private and what is private becomes public. Energy will

no longer be in the hands of a few public utility companies that have a monopoly. Energy will be in the hands of everybody and it will be produced everywhere. Our home energy will become a source of revenue. We'll see more and more that private individual homes, offices, shopping malls, will

all become sources of energy, and

this public function may also breed more public space. On the opposite end, what was public will end up becoming more private. We will see

a reversal of functions between public and private, with private architecture including more public areas, and energy production transitioning from its current form as a public utiJity to more of a private business.

RN: How do you think the "Third Industrial Revolution" will effect the political climate ofthe EU? Will it strengthen or weaken

the burgeoning sense of EU identity? Would a more systemic and networked European energy infrastructure contribute to a more united Europe, or would the more dispersed nature of this energy producing infrastructure create a more dispersed political identity, perhaps based more around cities than any sort of federal identity?

AC: I would say that the EU identity will

be increasingly defined by its postcarbon, post-nuclear, new energy model in which everyone can participate.


1Welve dangerous criminals escape from Belgian prison via helicopter.

64th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

we weren't aware of the damage we were doing. But we now realize that we are facing some really horrifying consequences for the human race. I would say that we've got to see thes consequences in terms of boundarie and in terms of goals. Because in ord to avoid disaster, we've got to grow in a different way. It's not that we need t

row less. We need to row differentI

RN: You and Jeremy Rifkin don't s to use the word "sustainability" very often, but instead have defined your own terms to desc the change you're attempting to instigate. In our office we've been unsatisfied with the term "sustainability" and are trying

to shift the focus from "sustain" to "ability," emphasizing the potential to produce something new rather than merely maintain the status quo. Do you have a critique of the current trends in "sustainable" design or of the te "sustainable" itself?

AC: Let me make one very clear point here The "Third Industrial Revolution"

is not the "change we are attempting to instigate," it is a change that is happening whether we like it or not. Twenty years ago the conversation

we are having now would have been impossible because I would not be able to take a phone call in the car like I am now. Now with just a click ofa button we can take pictures and send them over email all across the world. The communication and the information technologies have beco so decentralized and so interactive th everybody can be a player. There are




06 0 8 - Nantes Malakoff • Habitat deadline


I think that this will help produce European identity even more than the introduction of the euro which was an extremely strong identity maker for

the European Union, and also more than the enlargement of the ED. So yes, I think that this new energy policy based on renewable energies and the "Third Industrial Revolution" technologies and the new distributed energy model will shape a new idea of identity. People will share a common pride in the fact that, "We Europeans are doing this and we are the first ones to do it."

RN: Considering that the environment is a dynamic system, where change is intrinsic, how do you consider the paradox of any sustainable policy that wants to freeze the condition of a specific moment? For example, freezing carbon emission levels or establishing fixed growth boundaries.

AC: It is first of all important to remember that the planet will survive. Often

times environmental supporters wrongly say, "Save the planet." This

is not about saving the planet, it is about saving ourselves. If the humans should go, the planet will survive and we will have other species becoming dominant. H that were to happen in absolute terms, it would be a disaster for us, but it would be a completely normal event in the cycles of extinction of species on earth. This gets at the

core of the philosophical dilemma that you raise. Of course the environment

is inherently a dynamic process, but

I think that our relationship with it must have boundaries. Until now we've not had any boundaries, mostly because


Economists see a limited boost

from Obama's $787 billion stimulus package.



signs that this process is extending now to energy, Soon everyone will become an energy player as well. From this point of view, everyone will have the ability to take part in the world.

RN: But clearly you're working very hard to steer these changes in

a certain direction, to make sure that along with these changes come a certain responsibility.

AC: Yes, people will have the responsibility and the duty to take up his or her

own share of the production and the distribution of energy. I would say that what we are working for is to convince the politicians to really start putting their money where their mouth is. The problem is that most energy research has not been used wisely. Eighty percent of all energy research budgets ever

have gone to nuclear energy research. And nuclear technologies today only provide 6.3% of the energy that the human race uses. Now this is a totally negative balance. Any company with this kind of balance between profits and losses would be shut down immediately.


Sinlludgardisschool Antwerp

1 :200 study models

I don't see why we shouldn't shut down such negative technologies. So what the public and their politicians should do

is start making sense with their money and investing in research for renewable energies, hydrogen technologies, and smart grids so that we can have much better performing and much more efficient energy systems at much lower costs that are available to everybody. Our brothers in the third world are

the ones paying the real entropic price of climate change, most of which the western world created with our first and second industrial revolutions. I think it is ethical to now move research money to renewable energies so that everybody can own the technologies to produce energy from the sun.

Everyday, the sun transmits to the earth 15,000 times more energy than we use. It is our duty to invest in solar technologies so that they become available to everybody, at every level. At the current price of 7,000 euros per kilowatt, people will not be able to afford to cover their houses with photovoltaic panels in Kenya or

Mali. So it's really important that


the governing bodies start using a more ethical criteria before deciding how to allocate the energy research budget.

In the ED you have 30% of the energy research budget going to nuclear, and another more or less 16% going to

fossil fuel technologies, and you have very little going to renewable energies, energy efficiencies, and more efficient materials for construction and building. This is what is needed in order to develop the potential for a post-carbon hydrogen society.

RN: What specific technical innovations are required in order to realize the potential of a hydrogen society?

AC: We must improve the efficiency of "Third Industrial Revolution" devices .. Ifphotovoltaic panels followed the same curve of development that computers and communication devices have over the past 15 years, you would now have an A4-sized photovoltaic panel that would be able to produce like 100 kilowatts. One small panel could provide the energy for an entire building. The very first computers we had were enormous in physical size with very limited capacities, and now these characteristics have completely reversed. Human ingenuity can take us very far provided that the public will fund it.


Involvement with Afghanistan could take 40 years. says new army chief, General Sir David Richards.

The last three Belgian convicts who escaped from jail via a hijacked copter are recaptured in Morocco.




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