Visit “The Green House” at the Allentown Art Museum

This past gray, rainy Sunday, I had a chance to do something I haven’t done in years: visit the Allentown Art Museum. My last trip there was to see a Linda McCartney photo exhibit a couple years back, and before that, school field trips of yore.

But this past Sunday, the museum was fairly busy with people coming to see co-located eco exhibits — The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture & Design and Lehigh Valley Going Green.

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If there’s one thing people are abuzz about right now, it’s going green. And the Allentown Art Museum certainly isn’t the only one to pick up on this furor. A recent article in SmartMoney discussed the recent wave of prefab houses going green. The trend is everywhere, and for good reason. Whether it’s a desire to downsize and simplify, or the appeal of long-term financial savings, there is growing interest in sustainable living. At the forefront of both the green movement and the exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum is the ideal that stylish architecture, modern interior design, and environmental consciousness can coexist happily.

The Green House exhibit is billed as the first major exhibition to explore the dynamic field of green residential design. The display includes models, drawings and photographs from 21 green residences across the globe that are both sustainable and visually interesting.

From the beautifully converted warehouses of New York’s historic Front Street, complete with the cool, industrial aesthetic of exposed brick and structural beams, to the video tour of the window-filled Glidehouse in Novato, Calif., The Green House covers a range of residences and possibilities – the suburbs, the city, the desert, and even tropical locales.

The Lehigh Valley Going Green portion of the exhibit shows what strides the region is taking in the sustainability movement. Facts and photos line the walls, telling the stories of the Valley’s different green structures – higher education facilities like Lehigh, Moravian and Lafayette; local K-12 schools; buildings from the massive Lehigh Valley Health Network; the up-and-coming SteelStacks arts and cultural campus; the Illick’s Mill Educational Center; the Easton Silk Mill; and the West Ward Urban Ecology Project.

The main impression I got from this exhibit was the mindfulness at the root of it: the well thought out plans showcased here, which are supremely clever at times, and the drive for harmony and purpose in living spaces, attest to that. It’s all about considering your available resources, working with your surroundings and thinking strategically.

Overall, it was a small, but interesting look into the world of “green.” The exhibition is open until May 30, 2010, so if you’re looking for something to do other than grilling this Memorial Day weekend, give it a look. I think you’ll like what you find.

Elena Douvanis is a Bethlehem native, proud Penn State alum, and current Philadelphia resident. In her spare time, she likes to rediscover the Lehigh Valley, eat good food, read in an addictive fashion, and listen to John Mayer songs. You can find her on Twitter @elenadouvanis

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