Hedonistic Sustainability

People say “Money buys everything.” It is an untrue statement. The recent event of “David and Goliath” in Boulder, Colorado has become an attention towards the issue of sustainability. The local community in Boulder, Colorado have voted their own sustainable energy resources, forcing out the monopolize big corporation, Xcel Fuel. They rejected the company from further drilling for oil, which destroys the environment by maintaining their own wind powered energy. It has clearly showed us the importance of sustainability about improving the quality of our life and a need in our future life. But certain people do not see sustainability as an importance in our life. They find it as frustration and annoyance in their daily life. Starting from big corporations, such as Xcel Fuel Energy Company, they labeled sustainability as an illusion of our life. They begin covering up the press media, screening misleading advertisement and blackmailing the local community in order to gain back their selfish profits. In the “Green Roots Campaign” video from YouTube, the video depicts the Boulder, Colorado community running against the big corporation to fight for their own sustainable energy, this leads to the end scenario of either a winner and a loser. I find it not appealing as a third party, why is there no way to go for a win-win situation? In an architectural approach, holistic view is often incorporated. Architects would often prefer to combine the happiness and frustration of both worlds into one so that we could engage and help to further improve the course of sustainability. As have mentioned in the main title, Hedonistic Sustainability is the higher road to achieve sustainability.
As a beginning introduction to the word “Hedonistic”, it is a term in pursuit of pleasure while doing something. But in contrast, the term “sustainability” is currently painted by the capitalist as a burden in progress to achieve a “sustainable” society. Therefore, in BIG’s TED talk, Bjarke introduces the architecture alchemy of “Hedonistic” and “Sustainability”. Bjarke insists that sustainability cannot be taken as a moral sacrifice or a political dilemma but should taken as a design challenge. He points out that most capitalist, such as Xcel Fossil Group, labels sustainability as a new idea of “you have to get hurt in order to do well”. It means that in order to achieve sustainability we will need to go through a course of crash and burn. The misconception of sustainability drives people to think that sustainable life is less fun than normal life, and recently the idea has become prominent that sustainable life is only achievable by one who can financially afford it. Which is why as mentioned before, the new term of “Hedonistic Sustainability” comes into play which function as taking the best of both sides’ and integrate them together, changing the capitalists’ believes into finding pleasure while achieving sustainability. Because according to Ingels, “Pragmatic Utopianism lies within our influence.” Being a capitalist or a magnate, one will have the sufficient amount of resources and influence to make the course of sustainability in progress instead of further creating tension with the community. Which means, if the capitalist were given a chance to change the course of sustainability, they must try to wedge in as many qualities as possible. Because what is really going to change the world is not a thousand conferences on climate change, but it is accumulated with the specific examples that do specific things that can be observed, enjoyed then there will be more people copying the footsteps. Then, the idea of Hedonistic Sustainability can be achieve, and sustainability is not a burden but that a sustainable city in fact can improve the capitalist and the quality of a community’s life will be sustained.
Regarding the controversy issue of sustainability, Verstegen and Hanekamp also state in their own article that, in order to achieve sustainability, the economic growth of big corporations cannot continue, because capitalist draws a belief in “Infinite Resources”. Such belief is not realistic, therefore it will destroy nature and the human society (349). Such case is therefore usually labelled as “pessimistic”. And this scenario is unhealthy for the stability and balance of the society, because big corporations couldn’t adapt and survive with the current trend of sustainable society, they still expect things should be running the way they wanted it. This pessimistic attitude is categorized – in the view of Darwin’s, the cause of “Extinction”. (Marris 148). Because the current idea of capitalist does not accommodate the multiple interests of everyone, as time goes by, the event of “David and Goliath” will repeat itself, which is unfavorable for the Capitalist. It is understood that human life should evolve through adaptation to changes in the nature course. Besides that, Verstegena and Hanekamp also point out that, without any economic growth, it would only stimulate the fight over the spoils between rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless, a battle the poor surely will lose (359). Therefore, the ending will result will result in victor and loser, which goes against the more inclusive concept of Hedonistic Sustainability.
As the theme of Hedonistic Sustainability, because it rises up the challenging bar, forcing one to find the fine line, accommodating to the needs between the capitalist and the local community needs, thus it inspires the evolution of a better lifestyle and standard of living. This is easier said than done. But Ingels initiated his philosophy into his design project for a power plant company in downtown Copenhagen. As we all know like all bio fossil fuel company, they do not contribute to environmental sustainability. Unlike Xcel Fuel Company in Boulder, Colorado, the Danish Energy Company, however, didn’t go against the community’s concern, but transformed it owns headquartersm making its roof a public civic space, The roof is turned into a 31m^2 ski slope of varying skills levels for the citizens of Copenhagen, its neighbouring municipalities and visitors, mobilizing the concept of sustainability hedonistically by rising its reputation as a powerful yet responsible corporation but also redefining the relationship between the waste plant and the community, expanding the recreational activities in its surrounding area. Besides that, the slope is ecological using a recycled synthetic granular. By making its ski slope as an attraction point, one will need to access via an elevator along the plant’s smokestack providing views into the plant, giving visitors glimpses of its internal workings and then finally reaching an observation platform 100m above giving sightseers an unobstructed views throughout Copenhagen. Such controversial steps taken by the energy company is indeed a breakthrough for sustainability course. Just as Darwin states, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” (Marris 351) Which best explains that the Danish Energy Company recognize its difficulties it will soon face and molding itself to be a more locally welcoming corporation by meeting the public needs. Besides that, in order to educate the public awareness about environment, the Danish power plant innovated its chimney to compress and release a ring shaped smoke after every 100 kilos is accumulated. In a way of Hedonistic approach, by taking the symbol of a problem of the pollution of the chimney and turn it into something playful. Because one of the main drivers of the change is the knowledge. Ingels reminds his audience that, “when people do not know they cannot act”. Therefore, the Danish power plant is not just playing its role as a sustainable energy company, but it is also socially sustainable, turning part of its power plant into a public park and skiing park. SO by concluding Ingels’s design for the Danish power plant, he has not just incorporated the public interest but has also brought back the positive income for the power plant company, an accomplishment of a win – win situation.
Hedonistic Sustainability occurs the moment one will stop the thought about how much profits they are making, or buildings as mere structures and start putting them all in the consideration of the ecosystem. Because when buildings or actions of an individual are part of the ecosystem, they can be used to help create a closed loop for recycling energy, minimizing the environmental impact and creating more positive effects, a higher quality of life. Another recent project inspired by the theme of sustainability is the “Loop City”. It is an urban project for the future growth in and around Copenhagen, Denmark. Similar to the San Francisco Bay area, the community within the “Loop City” has the potential to sustain itself because it has enough development areas to contain the growth of the region and will be develop into a dense and super recreational development for the region. The focus of the project is largely on reimagining Copenhagen by creating an urbanity connection around a light rail system that would ultimately be a part of a larger transportation and development loop that would extend around the Oresund Region. By combing the rail with the strategy exchange, waste management, water treatment and electric car stations, the infrastructure becomes the base for a new sustainable ring of development around Denmark and southern Sweden, with the Kattegat bay in the center Ingels pictures the “Loop City” as a rail itself becomes a building almost like a Roman aqueduct

passing through the suburbs, while along the rail, occasionally it forms small pockets of urbanity around each of the rail stops. This new proposed light rail will create a new 50 year development perspective for a cross border region between Sweden and Denmark. Thus, this loop forms into a ring cycle linking a string of various urban nodes, universities and working spaces, escaping itself from a typical centralize metropolis city plan. This way, it is another strategy to reduce the carbon footprint by decreasing the volume of car usage and increasing the rail train system usage. Besides by playfully forming a ring connection for the Copenhagen community, it also influence its neighboring country, Sweden to join into the “Loop City” strategy. Both worlds would be able to benefit from each other’s resources and improve the quality of life of each city. Although the project attracted investors who may have had selfish intentions, but in a bigger picture each individual investor is actually helping in realizing the hedonistic yet sustainable idea of a “Loop City”. In this case, it shares the similar feedback as the Danish power plant project
By developing the concept of Hedonistic Sustainability and incorporating it into our lives, the community who lives under such influence will be able to establish a harmony and tension free situation in order to sustain their own energy and not waste renewable resources. As suggested earlier, capitalist can still keep their identity while adapting to their community needs just as the community will need to educate themselves into a sustainable life. Ultimately, Hedonistic Sustainability is meant to achieve a win-win situation for all, both the rich and the poor, and those in between.

Verstegen, S. W., and J. C. Hanekamp. “The Sustainability Debate: Idealism Versus Conformism—The Controversy Over Economic Growth.” Globalizations 2.3 (2005): 349-3 62. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
Marris, Emma. “Evolution: Darwin’s City.” Nature 474.7350 (2011): 146-149. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

“Bjarke Ingels: 3 warp- architecture tales.” YouTube. YouTube, Sept 15th 2009. Web. March 9th



  1. I know I replied to your other post regarding capitalism but I don’t think I specifically addressed this but I would say capitalism does not operate on the idea of unlimited resources. Capitalism operates on the idea of supply and demand – whereas supply is defined by it’s limited presence.

    if there was only 10,000,000 barrels of oil left in the world, supply would go way down and demand would go up causing prices to rise. If there was a discovery of a new massive formation of fuel (like what the Marcel shell was) then demand would stay even/go down and prices would fall.

    The reason why that oil company wants to drill in Colorado is to increase their supply so that as demand rises, then can deliver their goods into the economy.

    The loop city idea sounds cool and it reminds me of the idea behind an Arcology.

    • I understand the definition of “Infinite Resource” could be confusing at times. But what i am trying to explain that, the system of Capitalism works it is “As If” there is infinite resources in the Earth. This is because the system believe in one person’s earnings could not be further increased except at the expense of another’s. This is indeed the true definiton of a Capitalism. You can find any sources to back this definition up.

      Besides that, because Capitalist tend to measure Resources with Money. So is money limited? No, it is not. Money is just a symbol of worth in order to allow Merchants in older age carry around. But resources in another hand is the origin birth of “Money” & “Trading”.
      I agree with the Supply and Demand theory. It is of course the Macro Economics terms. But the event in Boulder, Colorado, was because of the Community choose to have a cleaner energy, (which causes the demand of oil to drop in the area), but the Capitalism finds it is in their disadvantage. ( because demand drops, supply goes high, thus prices goes down). Therefore, the Capitalist in order to sustain the company’s demand to be in order, they put a huge legal and politics against the Boulder people’s needs.
      So in this case, i was arguing that the Oil Company, if they do want to survive and fit into the community, they have to make a big change within their Capitalist system instead of being “Pessimist” not wanting to take any course of changes.

      Overall, i really appreciate your reply. This has indeed spiked up the argument for me to convince the audience.

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