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The Sciences

MacArthur Highlights Day

Better PlanetBy Benjamin NugentSeptember 24, 2008 7:42 PM

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Two green MacArthur recipients were named yesterday. (A MacArthur Fellowship, or "genius grant," is $500,000 you can spend however you want, disbursed over the course of five years.) I keep wondering if there will be a news story about a MacArthur Fellow found floating in a pool in The Bellagio, but this never seems to happen, so they must have some kind of vetting process. Will Allen--a pro ball player turned urban farmer--is the obviously green one this year. But I think John Oschendorf counts too.

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He has this group or program or something at MIT devoted to masonry. Old stone stuff. How to keep it around, what you can learn from it about making buildings sustainable. If you understand green architecture as building new, more sustainable dwellings, you're missing a fundamental point: it's generally greener to figure out how to modify and preserve old structures. Any young hotshot architect whose powers of invention are focused on making flying buttresses new again deserves as much attention from the green movement as an urban farmer, no matter how amazing Allen's baby swiss chard may be.

Image: flickr/Phillie Casablanca

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