A still from the final episode of the Built Ecologies: Architecture and Environment video series. © 2022 The Museum of Modern Art, New York

For our final episode in the Built Ecologies series, we turn to “green” architect Emilio Ambasz. Renowned for buildings that incorporate and frame luscious greenery, Ambasz here explores his lifelong commitment to creating architecture that harmoniously blends with nature and its surroundings. Rather than imposing the structure on the landscape, or seeing nature as an enemy, the “landscape frames the house”—it is impossible to disentangle one from the other.

For many, the Green over Gray slogan is emblematic of Ambasz’s architectural approach. Gardens provide an undeniable “serenity and pleasure,” and plants are a necessary “psychological requirement” to any structure, especially in densely populated cities paved with concrete. In Fukuoka, Japan, Ambasz’s ACROS building includes a “Step Garden” that boasts 120 varieties and approximately 50,000 plants, creating a public park among the complex. The greenery also acts as a passive cooling feature that enables the building to be more energy efficient by keeping temperatures cool during the city’s warmer months.

An avid writer, Ambasz has embraced the fable over the manifesto to narrate the role of buildings in the landscape. In his telling, architecture is not always about the structure itself, but about the process and context of its imagined designs, a sentiment echoed by other innovative architects featured in this series.