The many faces of sustainability

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Sustainability is referred to as related to…

  • energy efficient high-tech, low-tech, or vernacular strategies
  • health, well-being, and quality of life issues
  • an analogy to natural forms or from processes in natural systems
  • performance over appearance
  • appearance over performance
  • intelligent and responsive materials, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable
  • sensory perception
  • resilience and circular economy
  • not building at all and instead promote virtualization
  • ecological footprinting and consumerist lifestyles
  • best practice guidelines, assessment methods

All above-mentioned concepts are context-specific and inevitably contested. Enacting and translating sustainability in arch design practices can occur in different stages of the design/build process:

  • during the design brief phase that defines the sustainability targets: translating the concept of sustainability into design practices, recognizing the controversial issues to tackle/ those is in charge of giving directions should ask those bidding to work on giving meaning to these goals
  • when analyzing the ways in which design strategies are constructed between the distinct vocational design actors
  • when establishing supposed equivalences between projected and actual design

References

Schröder, T. (2018). Giving meaning to the concept of sustainability in architectural design practices: Setting out the analytical framework of translation. Sustainability10(6), 1-15. [1710]. DOI: 10.3390/su10061710

The value of detailed maps at the neighborhood level

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The author claims the need of a systematic approach “that brings together the design of built environments with the best scientific knowledge of processes of change in complex natural and social systems.” Urban planning must work within these systems that require local info (through participatory practices) and the creation of technical solutions. He thinks the challenge is mapping informality as cities grow in unpredictable ways. He also claims that cities are about connections: “the socioeconomic and physical links that allow each one of us to make a living, obtain services that make our lives easier, and learn and invest our time and resources.”

The effects of connections can be traced as the concentration of social networks in space and time where the value of a group is not proportional to the group’s numbers, but to its interactions. GPS tracking, and smart phone technologies can help track the networks.

New methods from urban science allow the accelerated evolution of these neighborhoods to follow natural urban processes. They are based in part on the mathematical analysis of detailed maps, including the development of algorithms to optimize building access, delivery of services, formalization of land, and taxation, with minimal disturbance and cost.

Planning through the development of detailed maps at the neighborhood level is also an effective way to capture local, person-centric knowledge, providing a clear vehicle for better local politics via the coordination of priorities and action from communities, local governments, and other stakeholders. The convergence of a networked science of cities, quantitative methods of spatial analysis, and information technology tools is key to allow users to participate.

Full text available here

Luís M. A. Bettencourt (2019) Designing for Complexity: The Challenge to Spatial Design from Sustainable Human Development in Cities Technology|Architecture + Design, 3:1, 24-32, DOI: 10.1080/24751448.2019.1571793

Design-Build: Definitions and Criticisms

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Definitions

Abdullah, 2011: separation of design and building could be the philosophical difference between thinkers (designers) and doers (builders)

Harriss & Widder, 2014: Design build projects exist between the two tectonic plates of learning in academia and practice

Vlahos, 2000: Conventional studio projects present a disconnect from the needs of people and places and the understanding of different cultures. The outcomes of the theoretical studio projects are strongly developed, controlled, formal solutions with little understanding of the architectural intervention in communities. Students engage predominantly with theoretical, fictional projects.

Nepveux, 2010: Being involved physically in building allows students to reconcile their drawings with real structures they can build, weld, wire and plumb

Delport, 2016: Design-build projects have as outcome a physical product made through a process that can vary greatly in scope, focus and intent. They bring in tacit knowledge to the curriculum. The object contributes to social change and improving the lives of others

Van der Wath, 2013: it is an oscillation between the abstract to the concrete that allows students to develop the intellectual agility to tackle the complexities of arch innovation and experimentation that they will use in prof. practice

Brown, 2014: Live Projects’ greatest opportunity is not that it is a place to reflect on one’s own learning but, that it is a place to share that learning and reflection with others (Engestrom: a collective activity system is driven by a deeply communal motive)

Criticism

Erdman, 2002: hands-on built projects in attempting to close the gap between designing and building replace the reflective process of design with the active process of building (-) they resist theorizing and critical discourse (-)

Chiles & Till, 2004: balance between practice and education encourages students to position themselves politically (+) prevarication is also not possible as the luxury of long-term studio development is removed (+)

Christenson & Srivastava, 2005: Focus on completion within a specific time frame overrides the value of process

Foot, 2012: where the completion and the focus on the end product are taken out of the equation, the notion of reflection, open-endedness and non linearity allows students to discover a variety of possible solutions

References

Hermie Elizabeth Delport, 2016, Towards Design-Build Architectural Education and Practice: Exploring Lessons from Educational Design-Build Projects, PhD Thesis, Prof Johannes Cronjé, Faculty of Informatics and Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology

La MéMé experience of participatory design

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Students protest the classical pastiche designs made for the Medical School (1968) at the University of Louvain/ University agrees to the formation of a student committee/ Students produce a counterproposal by Lucien Kroll who had no ties to the University/ Kroll organises collaborators and students into teams and turns design into an assemblage of disparate political fractions/ Work is done in his studio at a distance from the institution to ensure freedom/ Collaboration becomes “a kind of architectural method acting” accepting every outcome even if it defies prevailing arch conventions (de Graaf)/ Kroll, when denied the participation of le Roy, his preferred gardener, also engages the adjacent community into participating in the landscape component/ For two years this is an harmonious collaboration/ However, University representatives who visit the site oppose the outcome and the budget increase and fire Kroll/ Kroll exposes the contractor for high pricing but is then accused of vandalising the building site during his open call to the neighbouring community/ The building is highly criticised as a “failed experiment” and “less than a sum of its parts” (de Graaf)/ Petitions for the building’s demolition are opposed by massive support (Excerpts from Reinier de Graaf’s book: Four Walls and a Roof)

In a DOMUS article dated back in 2010, Kroll is presented as “icon of democratic architecture”:

Communication through architecture is an eminently political act, Kroll maintains: the architect is the catalyst of a creative process and social dynamic, in respect to which they make their knowledge available for the translation of interpersonal relationships into a suitable space (…) architects must step out of themselves and put themselves in the shoes of future residents.

Full article available here
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The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam, Jan Rothuizen

ROTHUISEN

From the WeMakeTheCity Festival website:

Jan Rothuizen loves to map his surroundings, drawing more than streets and buildings: he shows how people experience the city and visualises the atmosphere and the diversity of the population. He also includes economic and social changes of neighbourhoods. Amsterdam is a wonderful playground, as the city changes every day, on a large and small scale. Rothuizen witnesses and documents these changes with his very personal wit and enthusiasm.

 

Theory of Man-Environment Relations, by Irwin Altman

IRWIN ALTMAN

Four philosophical models of the human:

  1. mechanistic model: the human as a task-oriented organism, understood and described only in relation to the task at hand/ human as a passive agent merely enacting the designer’s plan of use and having no agency
  2. perceptual-cognitive-motivational model: the human as an ‘internal processing organism’ with subjective traits
  3. behaviorist model: this focused on external human actions in the environment instead of internal thoughts and feelings and intentions. (it does not identify however with Skinner’s operant psychology)/ Altman classifies here all action-centric and interactionalist descriptions of human engagements with the environment without excluding intentions and motivational states
  4. ecological model: declared human behavior and environment a mutually constituting, dynamic ensemble/ Behavior itself, in other words, resided in the relation between the human and social and material contexts/ this model promoted an agentive understanding of the human/ Altman also emphasized its model’s utility for establishing a common ground among social scientists and designers thus cultivating the conditions of interdisciplinary collaboration/ it offered a reconciliatory mechanism between the unit and the whole, the small and the large scale, analysis and synthesis, thus urging scientists and practitioners to “surpass the provincialism of their parent professions”

 

References

Vardouli, Th., 2016. User Design: Constructions of the “user” in the history of design research. In 2016 Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference, 27-30 June 2016, Brighton, UK

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