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Architecture and design ideas to cool down

July 25, 2019

How are designers dealing with the soaring temperatures of the climate emergency? Ancient desert architecture, Bauhaus buildings or futuristic sustainable cities in Abu Dhabi: Intelligent solutions are already out there.

Planung der Masdar City, Entwurf
Image: Masdar

Europe is currently struck by another heat wave. With temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), people are running out of conventional wisdom and little tricks to beat the heat. As global warming is not expected to slow down at the current rate of industrial activity, long-term solutions are desperately needed to address sweltering summers on the continent and beyond.

Ned Cramer, editor-in-chief of Architect magazine goes as far as calling climate change primarily a "design problem" in an article dated October 2017. "The threat climate change poses is existential, and buildings are hugely complicit — even more so than that stock culprit, the automobile," he says, challenging architects and designers around the world to change the way we build homes, offices and entire cities to accommodate warmer temperatures.

Thankfully, there is a long tradition using intelligent design to curb the impact that hot summers can have on human health and well-being — as well as on the planet.

Israel Architektur Bauhaus in Tel Aviv
Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv is adapted to the city's climateImage: Getty Images

Plenty to learn from other cultures

There is also plenty of ancient wisdom available to learn from. After all, hot temperatures aren't a new occurrence — they are only reaching areas that aren't used to them.

People in desert nations have long adapted, finding ways to keep their lives as cool as possible way before the advent of electricity allowed them to even consider air conditioning. Cultures in the Far East have a long history of building houses on stilts, not only to protect their homes from flooding, but also to allow for a cooling mechanism from underneath. This has been copied in coastal areas of the US, especially in fishing communities along the Gulf of Mexico.

In more recent history, urban centers in Europe have prepared for long, hot summers by incorporating courtyards and parks into their city planning. Among other design schools, Bauhaus architects incorporated some practical solutions to make their buildings cope with the climate more efficiently over the past century.

Scroll through the gallery above to discover more of those solutions from the past, present and future  to beat the heat.

Sertan Sanderson Moderation
Sertan Sanderson DW journalist & human seeking to make sense of the world and understand what motivates other humansSertanSanderson