The Hermitage Climatic Regulation Method

The Architect. The master of her trade: Buildings, for people. Where are you? Where is the 21st century Palladio? The 21st century Rastrelli? The 21st century Corbusier? Where are you, Architect?

You think your trade is complex? You can name at least 30.000 materials and components. You meet at least 20 specialist consultants during a design process. But do you need them? Do buildings—for people—benefit from all this?

These series of articles are a contribution to something I believe to be very important—for us all—the renaissance of The Architect.

This section is an introductory article. It is followed by 3 sections describing some background principles that perhaps explain why I feel it is important that the world again receives The Architect.

Firstly, an article named “Lomborg”, with some comments about the relevance to climatic regulation methods of the economic principles being promoted now by the economist Bjørn Lomborg.

Secondly, an essay named “Brunel” on the mistake I believe was made when the Bauhaus movement abandoned climatic regulation to The Engineer, introducing engineers for the first time to the domain of people instead of machines and materials.

Thirdly, a small section named “Søndergaard” with examples of the type of 21st century Architect that I believe is needed, to ignite the spirit of a renaissance, an attitude recognizing the need, and benefits, of change. Real change.

Then come 9 articles describing the content of what I have been allowed to call “The Hermitage Climatic Regulation Method”. It was during work at The State Hermitage Museum from 1997–2000 that the connections between all the 9 separate elements first became clear to me.

I have given all these articles, or features, names, on the advice of an architect friend, who asked for some method of identifying various features we discussed now and again. The names are nothing more than “handles” to assist, hopefully, the understanding and communication of a climatic regulation feature.

A concluding article, named “Magritte”, summarizes all the above and attempts to show the connections, the inter-relationships, the scope and possibilities available in this strange beautiful confusing world of climatic regulation.

It is also in “Magritte” that an attempt is made to define “climatic regulation”.

The Hermitage Climatic Regulation Method described in this paper is not, principle after principle, something particularly new.

Most of the basic science was developed in the 18th century, and most of the principles have actually been applied for centuries. Many of the newer technical features are quite simple, and components exist, though not always in the construction industry.

Briefly, the 9 sections are:

1. Advanced multi-function windows for the 21st century.
Fortochka”. A name, a Russian word for a ventilation-window, chosen to emphasize the synthesis of old and future horizontal building openings, and the importance of air supply, light, dust, and sound control, by people, as an original purpose for windows.
2. Advanced vertical air distribution systems for the 21st century.
Rastrelli”. The name of a Russian architect of the 18th century, a ventilation genius, is chosen to illustrate the synthesis of old and future vertical shafts, and the importance of (protected) air, light and sound distribution as an integral function of a building structure.
3. Advanced inside surface materials for buildings for climatic control in the 21st century.
Palladio”. The name of an Italian architect of the 16th century, a genius of cool-building design, is chosen to illustrate the synthesis of old and future surface materials, and the importance of these inside surface materials as an integral part of a building’s climatic control system, interacting with the “Fortochka” and “Rastrelli” principles.
4. Advanced use of water to provide a cool micro-climate around 21st century buildings.
Dagmar”. Cool water. From the earth, into plants. Onto the plant’s leaves; evaporating and providing cool air. This “biological air-conditioning” can create micro-climates in courtyards, cooler and cleaner in summer than the surrounding air.
5. Understand the wind and assist climatic regulation of buildings in the 21st century.
Astraeus” is the Greek name for the ancient God of the Four Winds. The challenge for the 21st century is clear. How to deal with a force of nature that is sometimes a friend, sometimes a foe, and sometimes a fickle friend, absent when you need it, or a devious foe, comes when least expected? And from any direction!
6. Advanced use and management of sunshine in buildings for the 21st century.
Matisse”. The name of a famous painter, who used light, sunlight, in many of his paintings, but in a way we, who are interested in elegant methods of regulating the indoor climate, can learn from, for he showed us elegant solar control of the hot Mediterranean sun.
7. Local and specific removal of thermal pollutants in buildings in the 21st century.
Texas”. On a hot summer day, why do we accept that computers, lighting—all kinds of indoor electrical machines—consume electricity and emit the resulting waste product—heat, and often noise and toxins too—directly into the air we breathe in our buildings?
8. Advanced supply of fresh, cooled or warmed air, locally and specifically, as and when they want it, to individual people of the 21st century.
Individuals” is a principle of climatic regulation based on a concept of local and specific fresh air supply directly to an individual person and controllable by an individual person. In a car or in an airplane one is used to this kind of local control over one’s own local climate. So why not in buildings?
9. Minimalism applied to modern mechanical climatic control systems.
Carrier”. Willis Haviland Carrier produced the world’s first industrial production-cooling project in 1902. So “Carrier” is chosen here as the name for the (minimum necessary) mechanical devices that are sometimes a necessary element of climatic control.

All the features, individually, are probably described better elsewhere; I do not know, I am not a researcher, but a design engineer, seeking design solutions to practical problems.

What is described here is the result of 30 years of critical professional design and observation of hundreds of buildings, real buildings, used by real people, in different climates.

I have lived through the introduction of powerful computers and analytical tools in the climatic regulation design process. But have these advanced tools provided better climatic conditions? Better buildings? No, I believe not. An explanation is described in the “Brunel” section.

What I can here propose that is new, although perhaps this too exists in some research, is a different use for these tools, coupled with the drawing together of all the separate principles into one coherent, logical, context.

And also the emphasis on the fact that it is quite disastrous to actually separate these principles. Which of course a real Architect would never do.

Most architects would perhaps argue that they do of course always design holistically all the time. Well, yes, perhaps a holistic use of the knowledge available within the limited modern framework of the available primitive products, materials and specialists.

But not the knowledge that has been lost, thrown away in the 20th century. Nor the knowledge to come, if the spirit of critical enquiry can be resurrected, the spirit I have called “Søndergaard” in a following article.

But then again, the real architect was already apparently dying out in the 19th century, according to this description by the filmmaker/actor Jean Renoir, who remembers this quote (speaking of his father, the impressionist painter Renoir):

“When one of his friends told him that my taste for playing with toy soldiers would make a militarist of me, he retorted: “In that case, we would have to keep building blocks away from him, because they might make him want to become an Architect!”

So a French architect of the 19th century is perhaps not the ideal. But The Architect of the 21st century, who throws off the shackles of The Engineer, the engineering approach, of “logos”, and achieves balance with pathos and ethos. Well, I think this can contribute to saving the world, I really do.

Whether “The 21st century Architect” is a phoenix that arises from the ashes of the “20th century amateur-sculptor-architect” or from the ashes of the “20th century virtual-reality-engineer”, or something completely different, is perhaps an interesting question.

The ancient latin architect Vitruvius defined 3 basic elements of architecture, but these relate only to the qualities of the building product itself. Durability, Usefulness, Beauty (firmitas, utilitas, venustas). How to build. Whatever you build.

However, within Lomborg’s economic framework it is also important to analyse why and what you build, not just how. The content, and scope, and reasons, and alternatives. The choice of climatic regulation, to bring the debate back to our little field of work, can have implications for seemingly unrelated sectors, countries, people.

I present these possibilities for consideration by Russian students in St. Petersburg in 2005. The challenge is clear. The time is right. Good luck.

Sergio Fox