Eco Folly title banner. featuring a plan view of the site of intervension, with 10 icons representing the student projects

Exhibition Opening Event: Friday September 16, 4:30-6pm, Frances Loeb Library

Our exhibition develops the folly as a typological springboard for coalescing formal creativity with sustainable imperatives. Whether at the scale of the structure, garden, or machine, the folly is a playful moniker in which the useless, the mad, the extreme, the theatrical, and the daring are made to intervene in both intimate and civic spaces. With fantastical properties in mind, we use the folly opportunistically as a vehicle to foreground issues involving ecologics, sustainable innovations, and environmental processes. For us, the folly offers a means to translate theory into practice; by leveraging its discursive status, diverse scales, and programmatic flexibility, we create a space of design experimentation in which to explore the behavior of materials, the potential of first principles, and evaluate sustainable consequences.

Environmental implications ground the twelve projects of this exhibit, which is the outcome of a studio and seminar jointly taught by a designer and a historian, Professors Grace La and Erika Naginski, at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Spring 2022 and sponsored by the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities. The projects, sited on the Crane Estate near Ipswich, Massachusetts, leverage the diverse micro-climates of Cape Ann along with its unique maritime history and ecological opportunities. These projects demonstrate outcomes in three forms, which, taken together, form the basis of the exhibition: written, made, and measured. A series of questions underpin this work: How might we imagine buildings to be more self-sustaining through a deeper understanding of fundamental techniques? How might we reveal hidden dimensions of resource abundance and depletion? How might we tailor networks of production, distribution, and consumption to environmental concerns as well as to local and regional conditions? How might we reconfigure the folly to focus on evolving techniques of ventilation, touch-the-earth-lightly, siting, and the reparation of the landscape? How can the folly serve as a precursor to the act of building itself, nesting responsive design parameters into architectural forms?

ECO FOLLY takes a speculative approach to sustainability. Informed by research in the history of science, aesthetic philosophy, architectural technology, and other sources, these projects engage with a range of precedents: from the vertical Windmills of Nashtifan and the sun-machines of the early modern Huguenot architect and engineer Salomon de Caus to the Milanese architect and industrial designer Gae Aulenti’s Grotta Rosa on the Amalfi Coast and Studio Olafur Eliasson’s recent exhibition work Life at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen/Basel. Oscillating between art and techne, ECO FOLLY demonstrates how pleasure and beauty can be daringly connected with green architecture. Weaving sustainable imperatives into formalist sensibilities, these twelve projects generate imaginative responses to one of the most pressing problems of our time.

Studio and Seminar Faculty

Grace La, Professor of Architecture, Principal of LA DALLMAN

Erika Naginski, Robert P. Hubbard Professor of Architectural History


Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities

Ali Malkawi, Professor of Architectural Technology, Founding Director of the Harvard CGBC


Studio and Seminar Students

Rand Abu-Al-Sha’r, MArch I ‘23; Nicolas Carmona Guzman, MArch II ‘22 (Studio Teaching Assistant); Pablo Castillo Luna, MArch II ‘23; Wai Tat Justin Cheng, MArch I ‘23; Oonagh Davis, MArch II ‘23; Nida Ekenel, MArch II ‘23; Nicola Ho, MArch I ‘23; Meredith Hutto, MArch II ‘23; Chelsea Jno Baptiste, MArch I ‘23; Matthew Lopez, MDes ‘23 (Seminar Teaching Assistant); Remi McClain, MArch II ‘22; Dhruv Mehta, MArch II ‘23; Krista Mileva-Frank, PhD Student in History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art, MIT; Leonard Palmer, MArch I ‘23; Moises Quintero Morales, MArch II ‘23; Jack Raymond, MArch I ‘23


Guest Speakers

Vivian Loftness, University Professor, Carnegie Mellon University
David Benjamin, Associate Professor, Columbia GSAAP
Holly Samuelson, Associate Professor of Architecture, Harvard GSD


Harvard Graduate School of Design

Sarah Whiting, Dean of the Harvard GSD, Josep Luís Sert Professor of Architecture
Mark Lee, Chair of the Department of Architecture
Dan Borelli, Director of Exhibitions
David Zimmerman-Stuart, Exhibitions Coordinator
Ann Whiteside, Librarian and Assistant Dean for Information Services
Alla Armstrong, Director of Finance for Academic Affairs, Arin Gregorian, Financial Associate, Pilar Raynor Jordan, Manager of Student Payroll Operations, Nhu Pham, Academic Programs Business Office


Trustees of Reservations

Lisa Forestell, Visitor Experience Coordinator, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate, Ipswich, MA, Paul Seaman, Visitor Experience Interpreter, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate, Ipswich, MA


Studio Critics and Jurors

Sean Canty, James T. Dallman, Iman Fayyad, Jenny French, Jeanne Gang, Rania Ghosn, Jonathan Grinham, Eric Höweler, Daniel Ibañez, Sharon Johnston, Jungyoon Kim, Amy Kulper, Christopher C. M. Lee, Mark Lee, Jon Lott, David Solomon, Yasmin Vobis, Ron Witte


Studio Exhibition Team

Pablo Castillo Luna, Nicolas Carmona Guzman, Oonagh Davis, Grace La, Matthew Lopez, Erika Naginski, Leonard Palmer, Jack Raymond