When Tad Fettig and Karena Albers, castaways from the world of commercial advertising (they met in Hawaii on a shoot for Degree deodorant), conceived of a show about eco-architecture, they imagined a small-bore project: “Sort of like This Old House meets green,” Fettig says. But as they began research for what became the PBS documentary series e2 design—which, in its first year, featured Chicago’s green roofs and China’s growth—they found that environmentally friendly design was about much more than changing a lightbulb.
Beginning in November, the second season broadened the show’s banner of sustainability even further. The subject of one episode, Arup’s Druk White Lotus School, in Kashmir, shows as much attention to local culture as it is does to passive solar heating. And a profile of Thom Mayne’s San Francisco Federal Building asks how sustainable a project can be if the community hates it. At first, Fettig says, “we were looking for the skyscrapers as opposed to how the environmental issues are all tangled up together. It’s a much trickier problem: an organism as opposed to a subject.”