Dezeen promotion: Wolfgang Rieder, owner of concrete brand Rieder Group, has become the first Austrian design entrepreneur to be granted a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University.
As one of the Loeb Fellows, the Austrian-based owner of the Rieder Group will spend the 2019/2020 semester at Harvard University in Cambridge devoting himself to topics including climate protection and sustainable building in order to actively advocate better and more resilient architecture.
The fellowship, which is linked to the Harvard University School of Design, was established in 1968 through a foundation set up by entrepreneur and philanthropist Frances and John L Loeb.
It was created for civic leaders, journalists, architects, technologists, urban planners and designers, activists, landscape architects, policy makers, and public artists.
Rieder was one of nine scholarship holders to be appointed a Loeb Fellow out of more than 200 applicants.
Each of the chosen fellows will cover a different industrial sector, from transportation and sustainability to arts and culture and public interest design.
Rieder plans to use his time at Harvard to learn more about sustainability.
"In order to counteract the climate crisis, we need to break away from the material fetishism in architecture and engage in a substantive debate on sustainability." said Rieder.
"I don't want to be reproached for our generations destroying the planet Earth. I would never forgive myself for not having committed myself against my better knowledge and for not having brought about concrete changes."
The design entrepreneur has set up a zero-waste initiative, as well as launching more sustainable products like the scrapcrete, which aims to use construction industry waste in new applications.
In 2018 he started the ecological reorganisation of the Rieder Group. And for some time now he has also been active in the fields of organic farming and sustainable tourism.
According to Rieder's calculations, his company currently emits 7,100 tons of CO2 per year. He plans to initiate a reforestation project as part of a project to offset this
"Everyone is talking about climate protection, but the order of the day is to do something at an individual level", said Rieder.
According to the designer, he wants to act and not delegate responsibility.
"I would like to use my stay [at Harvard] to take a fresh look at the relationship between industry, politics, architecture and design while being guided by the latest research," he said.
"The architectural world, too, must finally leave its ivory tower and stop being helpless in the face of the ecocide on our planet," he added.
Rieder believes that the industry needs to take charge in the fight against climate change, and in order for architects and designers to be well prepared to do this they need the right education.
"The curricula must be reformed accordingly," he explained. "Theories for an ecologisation of construction (from the production of building materials to environmentally friendly mobility and eco-social urban development) have been around for a long time."
"Now we must take concrete action at every level in order to make possible solutions comprehensible and to show that the critical situation is manageable," he added.
More information about the company, and Rieder's appointment as Loeb Fellowship, can be found on the Rieder Group website.