Concentration – Architecture’s Capability to Restructure Built Environments

Summary

Architecture shapes urban areas just as those urban areas create the needs for specific types of architectural design. According to the United Nations, 55% of people currently live in urban areas and by 2050 they expect 68% of people to live in urban areas (“68% of the World Population Projected to Live in Urban Areas by 2050, Says UN” 2018).  Cities have drastically changed our relationships with natural resources and land cover. Modern cities contain the greatest intensification of human activity ever in history. Climate change is being accelerated by urbanization. “cities disproportionately contribute as much as 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, although they occupy just 2 percent of the land area” (“Addressing the Sustainable Urbanization Challenge” 2012). Although they are not directly affecting land use in volume, cities are dramatically changing landscapes. Waste from cities has to be put in landfills, pollution from cities drifts into the air and bodies of water, and resources are depleted to use as fuel. It is unavoidable for the human population of the world to urbanize. Among other benefits, urban centers increase the gross domestic product of countries and they allow populations to become more dense rather than spreading out. We need to rationalize how we can adapt in the post-modern city dwelling without completely depleting and destroying the planet. The architecture of buildings fundamentally contributes to how we structure urban environments. If used appropriately, architecture can be used as a tool for efficient urbanization.

Personally, I am interested in how architecture and the development of new urban systems can help us adapt to modernity without depleting all of our natural resources. American architect James Wines wrote: “Far beyond the usual self-conscious motivations of style and theory, the shape of buildings will finally be forced to respond to the demands of limited resources and earth-centric imperatives,” (Wines 2000). Throughout history, architecture has responded to the needs and fascinations of the populus. Today, our greatest need is preserve the planet we live on. New technologies can act as our fascination that will help us in preservation. Technologies must be implemented on both a small and large scale. On the small scale, buildings can be made of recycled materials and feature systems that require less resources for upkeep. In terms of the large scale, cities are just a construction of multiple elements of urban design, specifically buildings. The implementation of technologies can be done without totally reconstructing cities. Repurposing and redeveloping buildings and other structures is just as important, if not more so, than spending resources to construct new structures that are less impactful (Attoe and Logan 1989). My personal focus is on the architecture of individual buildings, but it impossible to understand them without studying their surrounding built environment.

Like a lot of topics in environmentalism, sustainable/green architecture is a relatively new and vague term. Simon Guy and Steven A. Moore, in their review of pluralism in sustainable architecture, wrote that “we cease to view green buildings as merely differently configured technical structures but as pluralist practices, often competing and contested, of design and development,”(Guy and Moore 2007). Today, Architecture is influenced by both the decades of design principle predating it and the environmental sciences. This new field of architecture is about socially situating structures to serve communities in a resource responsible way as much as it is about implementing flashy new technologies. In my concentration, I hope to do more research into the history of architecture that is situated in its environment. Understanding the application of architecture in environmentalism in the past will make it easier to create a definition of the role it needs to play today. With the intensification of urbanization, it is important to recognize architecture as tool to both preserve the planet and culture that exists within and before cities.

Questions

  • Descriptive
    • How have architects in the past implemented environmentalism in their design?
  • Explanatory
    • How has the history of architecture in the last century shaped our relationships with the built environment?
  • Evaluative
    • Who or what is being left out in the advancement towards urbanization that preserves space and materials?
  • Instrumental
    • How can modern architecture be designed to preserve culture and resources/landscapes?

Courses

SOAN 282 Pacific Rim Cities, Fall 2019 – This class will help me understand the culture of a unique set of cities. Cities on the Pacific are important to investigate as they will be affected by sea level rise due to global warming.

HIST 239 Constructing the American Landscape, Spring 2019 – This will help me understand the history development and expansion in America. American’s built landscapes are interesting to look at because they carry the influences of a number of different cultures.

ENVS 460 Topics in Environmental Law and Policy, Fall 2019 – This will help me understand the laws and policies that dictate urban development. Understanding the policy that governs cities is important to learning about how they grow.

SOAN 222 City and Society Spring, 2019 –  This class aims to understand how society is shaped by cities and vice versa. This will be important in looking at how people and cultures shape their urban built environments.

References

“68% of the World Population Projected to Live in Urban Areas by 2050, Says UN.” 2018. UN DESA | United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. May 16, 2018. https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html.

“Addressing the Sustainable Urbanization Challenge | UN Chronicle.” n.d. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://unchronicle.un.org/article/addressing-sustainable-urbanization-challenge.

Attoe, Wayne, and Donn Logan. 1989. American Urban Architecture: Catalysts in the Design of Cities. University of California Press.

Guy, Simon, and Graham Farmer. 2001. “Reinterpreting Sustainable Architecture: The Place of Technology.” Journal of Architectural Education (1984-) 54 (3): 140–48.

Guy, Simon, and Steven A. Moore. 2007. “Sustainable Architecture and the Pluralist Imagination.” Journal of Architectural Education (1984-) 60 (4): 15–23.

Miller, David E. 2005. Toward a New Regionalism: Environmental Architecture in the Pacific Northwest. Sustainable Design Solutions from the Pacific Northwest. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Thornes, John E. 2008. “A Rough Guide to Environmental Art.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 33 (1): 391–411. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.environ.31.042605.134920.

Vellinga, Marcel. 2005. “Anthropology and the Challenges of Sustainable Architecture.” Anthropology Today 21 (3): 3–7.

Wines, James. 2000. Green Architecture. Architecture & Design Series. Köln ; New York: Taschen.

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