Architect Blaine Brownell speaks about innovation in architecture


Guest Speaker Blaine Brownell, an architect and author from Minnesota, explains the importance of innovation in new building design in the Kiva Wednesday. Photo by Emily Lambillotte.

Anna Lemmon

Guest lecturer Blaine Brownell spoke about his views and experiences in architecture Wednesday night in the KIVA.

“In the late 90’s I think the scope within the fields of design was relatively narrow compared with today,” Brownell said. “There’s been a massive transformation in the awareness of the materials and technologies.”

Brownell is a Minnesota-based architect and author. He received a Fulbright award, which allows him to research and lecture abroad. He has studied in Japan and lectured extensively in North America, Europe and Asia.

Brownell established a creative laboratory called Transstudio, which focuses on developing new and emerging materials that have the potential to transform the architecture practices. His three focuses are technology, sustainability and Japanese architecture.

“It’s getting more complex, harder, more challenging, but potentially much more interesting with many more opportunities for us to consider,” Brownell said about the field.

He described challenges like thermal control in buildings, such as keeping in heat and having good ventilation. He said there are also issues with “interior program and exterior form,” meaning making sure the inside and outside of a building both work together.

Brownell discussed harnessing energy into cities and towns right where the buildings are rather than using power plants that are out of sight. He urged architects to use renewable energy and green techniques, such as green roofs.

He suggested buildings be designed not only as human habitats, but with animals and life forms in mind. One example of this was a building with tiny ledges built on the side for birds.

Using life forms and patterns found in nature for sustainability, called bio-mimicry, is also becoming relevant to architecture, Brownell said.

Senior architecture major Brittany Lowe said the lecture was very informative, and believes bio-mimicry was the most interesting.

“It’s amazing what people are doing now in micro-engineering,” Lowe said.

Brownell concluded his speech by reminding the audience of all of the options available to architects.

“I think in general terms we talked about technology and design thinking and the opportunities you have at your disposal,” Brownell said. “It’s never been a better time [to be an architect]. I think we can be innovative while also being responsible to the planet.”

Contact Anna Lemmon at [email protected].