Science and the Soul

By Mary-Margaret Zindren, EVP/Executive Vice President

What does the architecture community uniquely bring to leadership on climate change? More than expertise on design solutions, more than a command of the data related to greenhouse gas emissions from building processes and materials.

You bring imagination. And inspiration. And poetry.

Architecture is the bridge between science and the soul. I was recently reminded of this when re-reading this 2017
article from The Atlantic. The title/subtitle is long: “Walden wasn’t Thoreau’s MasterpieceIn his 2-million word journal, the transcendentalist discovered how to balance poetic wonder and scientific rigor as he explored the natural world.” The article is long, too, but worth the time.

The author brings attention to the context of Henry David Thoreau’s journals. “Especially pertinent two centuries after his birth, in an era haunted by inaction on climate change, he worried over a problem that felt personal but was also spiritual and political: how to be a rigorous scientist and a poet, imaginatively connected to the vast web of natural life.”

Thoreau asked, in a response to a series of natural-history reports published by the state of Massachusetts, “How could such dry summaries hold any interest for the general reader? Where…was the joy of nature?” As the author puts it, “For Thoreau, a sense of wonder–of awe toward, but also oneness with, nature–was essential. We will, he understood, protect only what we love.”

If we’re going to get people to think and act differently when it comes to climate change–through our advocacy efforts, our magazine and digital content, and pop-up Center for Architecture exhibits and events–our efforts will need to invoke the curiosity and wonder that moves people in a way that pure factual argument never will.

View the full August issue of Matrix.