Architectural Roots of Ecological Crisis

Activity: External talk or presentationInvited talk


Invited presentation given in the context of the Analysis of Precedent module of Masters of Architectural Design at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University.

In this talk I introduce some ideas from cybernetics in order to expand the scope of analysing and designing architecture in ecological terms. What do we mean when we say a building is environmentally friendly or sustainable? Often this is thought about in a technical sense in terms of mitigating the harm that the construction and use of buildings cause to their environment. For instance, we try to minimise the energy that buildings consume, the waste they produce, or the habitats they destroy. Some design approaches go further by giving back to the environment in some way, for instance by creating new habitats that replace those lost elsewhere.

While there is an urgent need to reduce (and, if possible, reverse) the harm caused by the built environment, this is not the extent of the opportunities and responsibilities to address environmental concerns that come with designing architecture. Cybernetician Gregory Bateson understood one root of ecological crisis as humans’ tendency to see themselves as separate to and above their environment. As the built environment contributes to how humans see their relationship to the environment in both implicit and explicit ways, it is possible to think of architecture as an opportunity to address the causes of ecological crisis as well as its effects. I explore some possible ways of thinking about this using historic and contemporary precedents.
Period22 Jan 2021
Held atCardiff University, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational