PLEA is an organization engaged in a worldwide discourse on sustainable architecture and urban design through annual international conferences, workshops and publications. PLEA is the acronym for “Passive and Low Energy Architecture”, a commitment to the development, documentation and diffusion of the principles of bioclimatic design and the application of natural and innovative techniques for sustainable architecture and urban design.
PLEA pursues its objectives through international conferences and workshops; expert group meetings and consultancies; scientific and technical publications; and architectural competitions and exhibitions. Participation in PLEA activities is open to all whose work deals with architecture and the built environment, who share our objectives and who attend PLEA events. It has a membership of several thousand professionals, academics and students from over 40 countries.
PLEA serves as an open, international, interdisciplinary forum to promote high quality research, practice and education in environmentally sustainable design.
Lance Williams recently spoke with Cal Poly Pomona Architecture professor Pablo La Roche about the organization and its upcoming conference in Los Angeles, July 11-13, 2016. For information, visit http://plea-arch.org.
Okapi: Tell us a little bit about your personal background, Pablo. Where were you born? What were your early years like? How did you become interested in a career as an architect and social activist? Where did you study and what were some early accomplishments? What attracted you to the idea of PLEA?
Pablo La Roche: I was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Both of my parents were University professors. They provided us with a good education combined with a strong sense of social responsibility. I was attracted to architecture and how it could help solve some of the larger problems of society; a rather naïve view, but one that I still think is important. Read More
Okapi: You describe your work with PLEA as a “labor of love”. How so?
PLR: We are a group of volunteers from three universities and other organizations that are investing a considerable amount of time in the organization of the conference. It’s simple, this is something that we believe in and that we want to do as best we can.
Okapi: There is an impressive collaboration of international professionals brought together under the PLEA aegis. What do you, as a group, have in common professionally, as well as in worldview? How do collectively differ?
PLR: This is a group that believes in environmentally responsible architecture, the power of socially, economically and environmentally responsible architecture, from the building systems to the cities. PLEA is a combination of hundreds of educators, practicing architects, faculty and students. We share similar values and the understanding of what we think is important. We are different in our priorities which are typically adjusted to regional or local issues.
Okapi: How does the PLEA leadership group make decisions about important organizational priorities and activities?
PLR: Conferences are the main annual PLEA event and where many of these issues are discussed. The conference organizers have an important role in setting this direction.
Okapi: Is your use of the term “PLEA” a metaphor for the need for people to aggressively address climate change and long-term environmental sustainability?
PLR: I don’t know but it is very possible.
Okapi: Tell us about the upcoming conference in Los Angeles. How many people are you expecting? Who is coming? What are some of this year’s conference themes? Besides the involvement of your sponsors that include universities and private sector interests, what other collaborations are you expecting to develop?
PLR: We are expecting between 300 and 400 attendees. PLEA conferences are relatively small, the goal being to create an intimate atmosphere more conducive to good discussions. More like a family in which we all know each other. The quality of attendees is excellent, it’s a very knowledgeable group and the conference is very international with people coming from all over the world.
Okapi: The conference features a very proactive, robust agenda and advocacy initiatives. Since there are many events of this type going on throughout the year, how does the PLEA conference focus specific attention on the participants’ interests?
PLR: The fact that there are many conferences such as this one just speaks to the importance of this topic. Conference attendees are mostly in the design profession and are interested in the resolution of environmental problems through design more than through mechanical systems. The focus is on research and the implementation of the research in systems, buildings and cities.
Okapi: How do you decide to stage your conference in a given city? Is the amount of attention to environmental challenges by its leaders a factor?
PLR: We decide based on proposals and it is very competitive. The PLEA conference has been held all over the world. Last year it was in Italy, this year in LA, next year in Scotland, and in 2018 in Hong Kong.
Okapi: How does the combination of conference events that you present shed light on the host city, in this case Los Angeles?
PLR: We try to highlight some of our local problems and we will have sessions that address net zero energy, carbon neutral architecture, daylighting, and water conservation all of this from an integrative perspective. Being a conference with many visitors from other countries we are also highlighting many of the architectural values that make Los Angeles special, from the case study houses which we are highlighting in our tours to exceptional contemporary architecture from award winning Los Angeles architects in our keynotes.
Okapi: What types of subsequent actions are set in motion once the conference focuses attention on a host city?
PLR: The conference is an opportunity to exchange ideas and many types of collaboration between different entities are established to work together solving environmental problems at all levels.