David J. Bennett
Every human community creates an architecture of sorts as a byproduct of building shelter to accommodate physical needs and to house social functions. The elevation of shelter to Architecture is a judgment made by the community itself, or its observers, that the shelter transpires basic function and expresses a higher symbolic level of inspired problem-solving or spiritual aspiration. Because human beings are constitutionally symbol makers, the symbolic significance of of he architecture eventually takes on a greater and greater importance. It then goes through a process of maturation in which the symbolic considerations finally overwhelm the the functional needs. When this happens, it usually signals the approaching end of an architectural era. In ancient Greece this is called the Hellenistic period, best symbolized by the Corinthian column capital with its overabundance of acanthus leaves. In European Gothic architecture it is called the Flamboyant period, with its overabundance of flying buttresses, extended pointed arches and ever thinner and elaborately carved stone columns. In western Neoclassicism, it is the Baroque period with its overly complex and tortured decorative motifs, called Rococo. We appear to have now reached that stage in Modern architecture.
As much as humanity is a symbol maker, we are equally a tool maker. For all that civilization is shaped by the social forces of religion, politics and economics, it is as much shaped, or at least facilitated, by technology. For the builder, construction technology is what language is to the writer, the hammer and chisel to the sculptor, and numbers to the mathematician. It is the fundamental means by which the builder realizes the idea and solves the problem. Technology relies on the physical, material, intellectual and spiritual resources of the community in which building occurs. It is sometimes identified as an Age, in which development of a principal natural material has become the central source of achievement. Thus we recognize a Stone Age, a Bronze Age, an Iron Age, and our own, the Industrial Age. We may be on the threshold of the Environmental Age. It is also sometimes identified as an historical Period, during which a particular civilization, or complex of civilizations representing a recognizable set of ideas is dominant. So we refer the the Ancient Period, the Medieval Period, the Neoclassical Period, the Renaissance Period and our own Modern Period, in the west. In pre-twentieth century China, equivalents to these periods are sometimes identified as Dynasties
As is often the case, the relationship between a civilization's technology and its architecture is complex and varied. For the builder, technology is a means to satisfy the demands of a particular problem. For the architect, as concerned with the symbolic as the functional, the expressive use of technology is as important, often more important, than the functional. In imperial Rome, the arch was was employed as a practical solution for creating great public works, like aqueducts and stadia, but the older, more structurally limited stone post-and-lintel architecture was retained for religious and important civic buildings, at first because of its Greek heritage and later its association with high culture. Eventually the two were combined to create a distinctively Roman architecture, as in the Pantheon. In our Industrial Age, iron and then steel framed structures were used regularly to construct bridges and other civil works long before they were used in buildings. Exceptional architectural examples, like Paxton's Crystal Palace, were at first for demonstration purposes, rather than a part of the normal architectural lexicon.
Prior to the Industrial Age, the construction of static structures - buildings, bridges, civil works - were at the cutting edge of technology. No longer. In the twentieth century that position was assumed by dynamic structures - ground transportation, ships, planes and, finally, subspace vehicles. We now build ships which can house the population of a small city, planes which can transport an entire urban neighborhood to the other side of the world in hours, and rockets taller than most of the buildings in the center of an industrial city. The technologies required to operate these are well in advance of that for the most sophisticated twentieth century building.
The last great technological achievement in building construction was the the tall building - the skyscraper. The technolgies which created it, the steel frame, the elevator, centralized plumbing and electrical distribution, were conceived at the end of the nineteenth century. About a hundred years later, in the twilight of the Modern Period, no fundamentally new ideas have been added, only increasingly idiosyncratic elaboration - the Rococo of Modernism. The social and economic forces which brought the skyscraper into being are being superseded. Only the symbol remains viable and powerful. Some day future tourists will visit our clusters of late twentieth century "vanity" skyscrapers with the same bemused curiosity as we now visit San Gimignano in Italy.
Prior to the Industrial Age, regional building design and construction were prevalent. Although the projection of symbolic architecture from a center of power to its farthest reaches goes back to Mesopotamia and ancient China, the construction of ordinary buildings and the organization of communities relied on local materials and resources constrained by the economic and technological limitations of transportation and communication.. The Industrial Age changed that. Twentieth Century industrialization is about centralization - of production, of energy, of power. Its organizing principal is to bring all materials and information to point locations where they are transformed and then redistributed. The result is to proliferate a uniform product available on a mass basis which flattens regional distinctions and creates a universal industrial environment. The architectural expression of this is called the International Style. To do this requires a concentration of people, energy and management. Hence, the high-rise industrial city, in which efficiency and economic viability relies on the transportation and communication technologies (mostly trains and telephones - later airplanes) developed at the end of the Nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. All of that is now slowly but steadily becoming obsolete.
New and rapidly developing societies tend to begin by imitating the most powerful and attractive models visible - and then to go on to pass them by as the forces and opportunities of new technologies make them unworkable. By current example, the rapidly developing cities of countries in Asia, such as China, India, Korea and Indonesia, are quickly building tall buildings and concentrated central cities in imitation of the successfu-appearing models of the West. At the same time, they are acquiring a host of Post Industrial technologies - from personal-rapid-transit (the automobile) to computerization, sattelite-based wireless communication and robotics, all of which explode the concentrated central city and require new patterns of community organization and new kinds of shelter. Eventually, these two directions will have to divide. Most likely, they will live side by side, in the same awkward duality which western industrial cities currently share with the honored remnants of their own pre-industrial predecessors.
Cities in developed countries, particularly in the US, are already experiencing the duality of a concentrated vertical central urban core surrounded by a spreading horizontal development, exploded by the the automobile and electronic communication. In the small and midsize cities of the middle and western US, (unlike the great coastal and Great Lakes cities with enormous critical mass already in place) efforts to arrest this "suburban sprawl", much less reverse it, have proven futile. Pathetically tiny collections of a few high rise towers are surrounded by vast fields of repetitive horizontal development, dominated by an infrastructure of roads, wires and pipes. This mess may be no more than the nascent Post Industrial community struggling to born, dragging its umbilical history behind it. Meanwhile, the technology of concentration of the Industrial Age and a new technology, which mitigates against it, pulls the city in opposite directions. The outcome is likely to be an organization which resembles neither city nor suburb as they currently exist.
There is little argument any more that nineteenth and twentieth century industrialization has contributed to the deterioration of the global environment, to say nothing of local and regional degradation. The only remaining question is how much. The deniers continue to claim, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that it the the magnitude of the effects do not require an overhaul of the industrial system. Much of this resistance would diminish if a viable process to achieve a transition to an alternative technological system which does not require individual sacrifice or threaten vested interests could be found. In the absence of this, gradualism is more likely to succeed than expedition.
Almost all of the technological advances at the end of the twentieth century mitigate against concentration. The new Post Industrial technology is the technology of decentralization. To the extent that technology facilitates social and political organization, it is a technology of democracy. It has begun by decentralizing communication. Within the Industrial community, which is organized vertically like a pyramid and horizontally like a spoked wheel - information and power flowing to and from the top and center - there has already grown a nascent virtual community in which information can flow through a decentralized network, more or less like a three dimensional lattice or grid, and power can quickly concentrate virtually anywhere - and equally quickly dissipate. The evidence of this is already visible in the diminished ability of authoritarian government to control social change and of capitalist economies to manage the marketplace from the center.
Transportation, primarily because of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), despite being currently represented by the automobile with its filthy primitive system of locomotion and its reliance on paved roads, actually preceded the information system in the development of a lattice based organization. The growth of the much maligned suburb is a visible example of this phenomenon. Home-to-work trips which used to resemble the spoked wheel as people traveled to and from the central core to work, now more resembles a lattice as more and more people travel from home to work from one suburban location to another. This pattern makes urban mass transit on fixed guideways a less and less viable alternative for developing communities. All of this may change again, however, as more tasks become virtual, requiring less frequent physical travel, and sometimes none at all.
This certainly does not suggest the end of the city. Cities are as old as human civilization, as marketplaces and centers of governance and culture . Human beings are primates, and as such need to gather, to be in close proxmity and to touch. Even if the technology allows transactions to be conducted at great distances more efficently than face-to-face gathering can accomplish, the human need for proximity will require physical excahnage. It only suggests that cities as centers of manufacturing and employment may be repalced by cities devoted primarily to other puposes - entertainment. culture, governance and selective forms of commercial transaction.
Of all of the systems under the Industrial Age regimes, the one which is by nature most decentralized is the also the one which has been most resistant to it. That is the production and distribution of energy. As long as burning fossil fuel remains the primary source of energy to drive the Industrial system, this centralization will prevail. The source location of fossil fuel, coal, oil, gas, is determined by nature, often at locations remote from its end-users. Control of its extraction, processing, transportation and distribution provides the the opportunity for centralization of political and economic power, and has driven private profit and public policy for decades.
Prior to the Industrial Age, building design and community organization reflected the limits imposed by local natural conditions and the responses necessary to mitigate their most undesirable effects, at least from the perspective of human utility and comfort. The technology to respond to excessive heat or cold, too much or little rainfall, or a host of other more complex natural phenomena was limited. The Industrial system responded to these limitations by creating a parallel artificial environment, sealed off, in effect, from the natural world. The unintended consequence of that strategy has been a progressive assault on the natural environment because the industrial system has been constructed so that creating a balance with nature is not economically feasible. It is not that industrial products and systems cannot be designed to maintain this balance, but that the entire physical, political, social and economic enterprise is configured against it. At the core is a cosmology, a philosophical worldview that humanity has a special relationship to the rest of the natural world which not only allows, but demands that the natural world has be altered to fulfill human destiny.
The cost of this has been higher than most people can conceive. While the great majority busy themselves with immediate concerns, comforted by the certain belief that nature can absorb any level of human assault, a small but growing community of people are acutely aware that this is becoming less so year by year. Their alarms are largely background noise, readily suppressed or unattended to when they threaten to demand more than a few gestures of change. It is more appealing to listen to the comforting assurances of stability promised by maintaining the current industrial system, or the strident voices of more visible and immediate social, economic and political concerns.
Electromagnetic power - electricity and light - is, on the other hand, more ubiquitous in location and more flexible in its modes of production and distribution. Some of its sources, hydroelectric and geothermal energy, for instance, are geographically limited. Others, sun and wind are virtually everywhere. The development of controllable electromagnetic nuclear energy, rather than as a thermonuclear reaction producing heat, like a particularity dangerous fossil fuel, is still in the future, if achievable at all. What distinguishes the rest of this form of energy, electricity and light, from fossil fuel is that the conversion from its natural state to a usable one occurs at the source. Distribution does not require an elaborate transportation infrastructure - wires will do, and in the future even they may be dispensed with - and is flexible through a grid, much like the new information system. Concentration of power to manage the grid is a superimposition of Industrial Age thinking on a technology - particularly with the recent developments in wind and photovoltaic sources - which by nature lends itself to decentralization. Experiences with the manipulation of the grid for profit in market capitalist economies and for political power in authoritarian societies only serves to underline the extent to which these forms of energy could be more effectively used in a decentralized "grid" system.
Even aside from the strong resistance to thier wider application from vested interests in maintaining the fossil fuel monopoly, wind, sun and water based energy will not soon replace fossil fuel unless it proves economically competitive and competitively reliable. Economic competitiveness would be helped, of course, if development of these sources received even a small fraction of the public subsidy the fossil fuel industry enjoys. Comparative reliability may be helped if the centralized structure of the industrial state proves unable to protect the reliability of fossil fuel sources from attacks by non-governmental enemies whose own decentralized network proves the relative vulnerability of old-fashioned centralized organizations.
Since the most ubiquitous sources of raw energy, sun, wind and running water are available almost anywhere there is human habitation, the the end user is always at the source. Anything more than short terrn storage and limited reserve capacity is not necessary. It already exists in the natural environment. This makes self-sufficiency and small scale community based energy production feasible. So is the idea of producing energy everywhere, so to speak, and distributing it on demand through a universal grid. Post Industrial technology, with the incorporation of computerization and electronic networking could, with proper programming, resolve the daunting management tasks such a system would entail. In fact, in such a system, utility agencies would not produce energy at all, but simply manage its distribution. Link together all the places in the world where the sun is shining, the wind is blowing, water is flowing and the temperature is changing, and no one place is without resource.
Post Industrial technology, then, is distinct from Industrial technology. Industrial technology produces energy by burning material, polluting the air, soil and water, and leaving a residue behind in the process. Post Industrial technology redirects already existing sources of energy by changing them from one form to another. Wind, sun, geothermal and moving water are all forms of energy already. Transforming them requires neither destruction nor pollution. A photovoltaic cell transforms light into electricity; the electricity can be turned back into light. Nothing is destroyed. In reality, the actuality is more complicated and the transformation not quite so simple, but the principle remains the same. Energy does not have to be created; it already exists. It only needs to be collected, transformed and redistributed. Like money, it is fungible.
This is not to ignore the importance of regional differences. Quite the opposite, unlike the Industrial system, which seeks to flatten regional differences by making the same products which are burned to create energy available everywhere, PostIndustrial technology relies on regional differences not only to balance the system, but to be net producers. Each longitude and latitude, each local environment, has a different potential to produce energy in excess of local needs. One has an abundance of solar energy, another huge seasonal temperature swings, a third is almost constantly windy, a fourth many rivers and waterfalls, a fifth fissures to the hot core of the earth, and so on. These differences not only suggest that local users may find one source more reliable than others, but that a global system of distribution can rely on energy always being available for transformation and instantaneous transportation to where it can be consumed.
This has clear implications for regional differences in the design of buildings and the organization of communities. This is not a new idea; it is a new cycle of a very old one. Prior to the Industrial Age, regional distinctions in building and community organization were the norm. They were driven by limitations in the availability and transportation of building materials, of communication and of the ability to control local climatic conditions. All of this was concurrent, of course, with the development of local culture. The countervailing force against regional differentiation was social, economic and military, but was technologically limited. The Roman Empire planted its emblematic baths and temples in every land it conquered, but in the end had to recognize that Mediterranean housing was simply not feasible in the wintery north of Gaul.
This old regionalism ended with the coming of the Industrial Age. Under the banner of the "conquest of nature", the industrial system relentlessly set about creating a globally uniform man made environment. Unlike the pre-industrial attempts at super-regionalism which had preceded it, industrial technology is indeed capable of making the same building equally habitable in the Mediterranean and the north of France. But one hundred years later, the ecological bill is coming due. The limitations of the industrial system is not its inability to provide a high level of utility and comfort, but that it requires an enormous level of waste and destruction to do so. And even that is not entirely true. Industrial technology is intrinsically capable of much greater efficiency in the use of resources and energy, but the economics of the industrial enterprise mitigate against this in the interest of maximizing short-term profit. Technology, after all, is as much a political and economic system as a physical one.
In theory, in a free market economic system, intrinsically better ideas - meaning more efficient, therefore more potentially profitable - will prevail. But in reality, the forces of vested interest are almost always ranged against change. In a democratic free market consumer-driven system, the force of popular opinion, particularly if it is expressed in effective political and economic terms - voting and buying - can effect change. But resistance to change is not based solely on rational assessments of political and economic benefit. In fact, the most stubborn resistance to change is often cultural, just because it is irrational. The appeal of certain comforts, habits, products and lifestyles, and the reluctance to give them up, even if reason dictates otherwise, is a more powerful factor in the resistance to change than either economic or political decisions. Most Americans, for instance, express a great concern about global environmental degradation, but confronted with the idea of changing their lifestyle choices - driving a smaller, more fuel efficient car, or living on more densely planned communities with more compact infrastructures, for instance - will rationalize and resist against making even small sacrifices. In this respect. Americans are probably no different from the rest of humanity.
Sustainability, as it is currently practiced, relies largely on the idea of conservation. Sustainable approaches are primarily concerned with using less. Less (if any )fertilizer and insecticide in agriculture, less fossil fuel in transportation, less artificially processed materials in manufacture. It is also concerned with reducing waste by recycling. Mostly it is concerned with maintaining the natural environment and the balance of natural systems. These goals, admirable as they may be, do not offer alternatives to the powerful productive capacity and functionality of a technological system which has allmost doubled the average the human life span and made it possible to be equally comfortable indoors at the Arctic Circle and the Equator.
In building design, sustainablilty has been translated into reducing the reliance on industrial technology by reintroducing natural systems, for ventilation and daylighting, passive solar heating, with the addition of some technologies which may be energy conservative - solar heating and photovoltaic panels, for instance. But the buildings themselves are only marginally different, if at all, from other buildings designed to be served by industrialized mechanical equipment. Whether it is, at the least, a matter of putting solar panels on the south sloping roof of a neo Tudor house, or, at the most, shaping, orienting and fenestrating a building to maximize sunlight and natural ventilation, this is a far cry from the departure which. "Modern" industrialized buildings took from their neoclassical and baroque predecessors in the last century.
At its earliest stages at the turn of the twentieth century, the new architecture of industrialism proclaimed its connection to an entirely new technological regime. Even when the early modern buildings retained the surface appearance of their pre-modern predecessors - the Woolworth Tower in New York, for instance - their very configuration set them apart. That is in part because the most dramatic technological departure was structural. The introduction of the steel frame in building construction and the resulting separation of structure from enclosure created the opportunity for a visible departure from the massive stone and masonry exterior structural bearing walls of the past. The introduction of lightweight enclosure materials, like metal and glass, were the natural, if not then obvious, next step. From there the emblematic architecture of the Industrial Age became the dominant symbol of the twentieth century built environment.
For the twenty first century building, the need for a departure is no less compelling. But it is not in structure. It is in systems; the mechanical and electrical systems which make buildings - and cities - functional and comfortable more often, for longer periods and in more locations than could even been imagined in the pre industrial world. The challenge is to find the ways to do this without the cost in waste, pollution and environmental degradation which is the cost Industrial Age technology imposes. This requires the continued development of a Post Industrial technology which is better able to provide the same functionality and comfort at competitive cost and without the environmental degradation of its Industrial Age predecessor.
The architecture which should result from this is Environmental Architecture. It incorporates sustainable design, but seeks to do something more than balance human needs with natural systems. Instead, it is based on the principle of entering into the existing stream of natural conditions and deflecting some of it to human purposes, then returning it restored to the main stream. It can be likened to creating a channel parallel to a flowing river, without damming the river itself, using the substance and energy of the water's flow, and returning it downstream at the same velocity and in the same volume as the uninterrupted river. In doing this it seeks new form of expression, derived from a new technological base and a new vision of expression..
Much as Modern Architecture derived its expression from the then new technology if industrialism, this will not happen suddenly. Its apprehension will derive from a retrospective realization long after it has begun. It may occur with what is recognized as a "breakthrough" expression long after the fact, as did its predecessor styles. (Buffington patented the steel frame in 1878. The International Style, which after the early work of the Prairie School in the US and De Stjil in Europe, did not fully deploy until more than forty years later. The steel frame technology was the symbolic "breakthrough" for Modern Architecture. But without the entire complex of new technologies of the industrial age - the elevator, telephone, electric light and so on, all set within the infrastructure of electric power generation and transportation - the emblematic architecture of the twentieth century, the skyscraper, could never have come into being).
Change is an evolutionary process. A revolutionary event actually is no more than a sign of an evolutionary process boiling to the surface. Environmental Architecture will not come fully into being until the following process has advanced further and the components of change described below are fully deployed:
POST INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY
Energy Collection and Distribution - Energy, generated by solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and waste decomposition sources are transformed by photovoltaics, wind generation, hydroelectric generation, geothermal generation, and methane-driven generation into electrical energy. The generators may be at any scale Even the smallest source, a single building which has excess energy generated when its fluctuating demand is down, can feed energy into a management and distribution Grid, just as each single raindrop feeds a storm. As much as the transformation devices are part of the Post Industrial technology, the Grid is the infrastructure which makes them effective. Composed of computer-driven, interconnected regional, national and global grids, the Grid will be the product of computerization and communication not achievable in the Industrial Age. .
The Grid will be the outgrowth of the existing system of regional grids currently in use for shunting electrical energy from one location to another. By the same token, dispersed installations of wind and photovoltaic generation are already in operation. Hydroelectric generation has long been in use, but a new generation of hydroelectricity would employ microgeneration, employing small scattered natural waterfalls, rather than the Industrial Age massive dams on major rivers, creating artificial lakes behind them, and which have wreaked so much environmental damage.
System Integration - Until the Grid is in place and fully operational, the transition will involve the local user integrating locally generated power with energy currently being supplied by the existing utility. This too is beginning to occur on a limited basis where wind and photovoltaic generation installations already in place.
Conservation - Conservation of energy is a critical to the Post Industrial system. Reduction of demand magnifies the impact of local energy generation. Improvements in conservation and generation strategies are reciprocal technologies.
Recycling - Recycling is another critical component of the Post Industrial system, because waste has become a major economic, health and management cost worldwide. But the decomposition of organic waste, particularly agricultural waste also creates a resource in methane gas which can be used as a fuel, rather than adding to atmospheric pollution.
Regional Differentiation - Environmental Architecture requires that each design responds to the local conditions of geography climate, topography and geology. It is a concept based on universal in principles, locally differentiated in application. In contrast to Industrial Age Architecture in which the same building may be built at the Arctic Circle or the Equator, with no more than an adjustment of its mechanical equipment, Post Industrial architecture wil require a substantially different design approach in each lattitude and geographicly unique area.
Site Specific Design - Environmental Architecture, along with sustainable enterprise in all areas, seeks to respond both to natural conditions and the industrial threat to the natural balance by developing a new relationship between the powerful capabilities of industrial technology and the growing awareness that a new kind of balance with nature is becoming a matter of survival. It proposes to do this by using both the existing industrial technology and the emerging Post Industrial technology, by addressing local natural conditions as opportunities to be developed rather than constraints to be overcome. In other words, the unique conditions of each specific location and site is an opportunity to invent and/or assemble an appropriate array of components, and to give the assembly form, so that the resulting architecture is a response which uses the local conditions. The design task is to create human utility and comfort without destabilizing the local natural environment in the process. This will result in a site-specific, rather than a universal architectural design approach applied to every site.
DEMONSTRATION PROJECTS ON THE ASSOCIATED WEB SITE
The projects shown in the SUSTAINABLE DESIGN section of this site, are not yet Environmental Architecture. At best they are precursor examples. But they each attempt to demonstrate an effort to design for unique conditions of location and demand, or to suggest approaches which would do so. In that the built projects do not demonstrate a dramatic departure from familiar architectural form and finish, that reflects the limits imposed by the immediate opportunities contained within the charge of the commission. More of the theoretical designs, which will be added periodically to this site in the future, will demonstrate less constraint.
In each instance, a specific aspect of the application of the concept of Environmental Architecture is demonstrated:
Click on: Underground Space in web site, which...
...demonstrates Regional Differentiation. It describes an approach most appropriate to latitudes in which the annual temperature swing is extreme, closer to the Equator and Arctic Circle, and areas in the temperate zone which experience dramatic daily temperature swings, like deserts and high elevations. Building underground moves the construction from a zone of wide temperature variation to a temperature-stable environment, something like the equivalent of moving the building from Minnesota to Hawaii. Underground, the building grows a surrounding thermal "bubble" the same temperature as the building's interior, which because of the lag in seasonal temperature changes between the earth and the atmosphere, always remains the same at the building's surface, and shrinks and grows seasonally at its outer perimeter. The effect of this on energy conservation varies widely. Buildings with more occupants, requiring many air changes, are less benefited then those with fewer occupants.
There are other reasons for building underground. Areas where surface land, to permit circulation, to provide premium open space, or where an additional building is an unwelcome intrusion on an surface environment are examples shown. Also, there are instances in which building down, rather than building up is a unique opportunity provided by specific conditions of topography, geology and infrastructure. That too is illustrated here.
Click on: Solar Optical Lighting in web site, which...
...demonstrates Energy Collection and Distribution, the concept of transforming and transporting energy, rather than generating it. Solar Optical Lighting was developed to use optical lens technology to beam sunlight into deep interior spaces which otherwise would not be reached by natural lighting. Although first applied to earth sheltered and underground buildings, the concept has valid application to many building types. Most office buildings, for instance, are daylight accessible for only about 20% of their floor area.
The optical system employed in the projects shown on this site the uses inexpensive flat (Fresnel) lenses to project light. A more flexible and sophisticated development employing fiber optics may be developed some time in the future but is currently not considered technically or economically feasible. However, the potential for focusing the light into lensed tubes in which can then distributed, like fluorescent lighting, throughout a building is described.
Click on: Layered Industrial Space in the web site, which...
...demonstrates Site Specific Design. This is a land use development and city planning project which responds to the unique characteristics of topography, geology and existing urban infrastructure at a specific location. This is an opportunity which cannot be replicated where these conditions do not exist. The alternatives, industrial development on the surface at this location and/or industrial development on open land at the perimeter of the urban core, are the types of "anywhere" universal solutions which have polluted central cities and contributed to urban sprawl throughout the twentieth century.
Click on: Integrated Energy Systems in the web site, which...
...demonstrates local generation of energy and recycling of resources. This proposal was for a mixed agricultural and self-contained urban new town in which a combination of technologies are combined. Among other things, it suggests ways to accumulate and store energy- generating sources incrementally, combining pre-industrial and post-industrial technologies. For instance, water perched at a higher elevation to run through microelectric generators can be be pumped up by wind in small increments over time, and methane gas can be generated from mulched agricultural waste over time and stored.
The products of architecture and planning are metaphors for human civilization. In them can be seen the hopes, fears and aspirations of each period and each place in human history. They are a physical response to phenomenal change.
During the 19th Century, long distance travel was reduced in time from months and weeks and then to weeks and days. In the 20th Century it was reduced to days and hours. Short distance personal travel was reduced from weeks and days to hours and minutes.
In the 19th Century personal communication (by signs) was reduced from months and weeks to minutes. In the 20th Century voice communication became common.
In the last half of the 20th Century, the ability to deliver nation-destroying crushing military force over great distances was reduced to minutes.
All of these phenomena tended toward centralization. Industrial Age development and design in the 19th and 20th Century sought to create an artificial world, replacing the natural world in the process. It continues to consume large quantities of natural resources without regard to future availability, retaining relatively little and discarding the remainder. Energy is created by burning fossil fuels, powering the industrial enterprise primarily by heat-transfer, an archaic technology, polluting and destabilizing the natural global environment in the process. Its architecture reflects a tendency toward universal uniformity which disregards variations in climate and geography and in unique local conditions.
In the last decade of 20th Century personal communication was reduced to seconds, worldwide. An idea can now be shared almost as soon as its articulated.
In the late 20th Century, the pattern of local ground transportation along spokes radiating from hubs (cities) steadily changed to a lattice pattern of of movement from node to node. Long distance air transportation, despite the creation of airport hubs, has assumed a similar pattern, which can be seen by overlaying airline route maps.
During the late 20th Century it became evident that human activity has the capacity to alter the natural history of the world, destabilizing the global climate and poisoning the natural environment.
In the late 20th Century control of the distribution of electrical energy shifted from point producer to grid manager, as was made evident by the scandals surrounding it. At the same time, energy production has begun to find new decentralized sources as indicated by the introduction of solar (photovoltaic) and wind power.
Setting these indisputable facts against the complex pattern of political, economic, cultural, intellectual, artistic, religious and physical human activity and the tendency toward inertia throughout human history, vested interest and institutional memory, it is impossible to predict with any certainty the impact of these phenomena on the future. But some new directions have to be tried.
Environmental Age development tends toward social patterns in which communication, transportation and energy are decentralized and can no longer be used to compel centralization. Social, political, economic and cultural power, which resides in communication, is distributed through a universal grid and can coalesce and disperse out of control of physical coercion. This same dynamism is at the heart of modern democracy enshrined in the vertical and horizontal divisions in both the American and parliamentary systems of government.
Environmental Age development proposes to create a world parallel to the natural environment, not destructive of it. It should be able to collect natural resources in sustainable quantities, replicating and recycling them through applications of science and technology, largely already in place, specifically developed to maintain the process of natural change. In order to assure a stable global environment, it should rely primarily on electromagnetic forms of energy, and molecular and chemical processes collected from the already existing pool in the natural world, transforming and redirecting them to power the industrial enterprise. The architecture should reflect global variations in climate and the opportunities for collecting, transforming and employing energy, and local approaches to expressing them.
Environmental Age development proposes a different approach to architecture, urban design and land development than the prevailing work of this Industrial Age. It proceeds from different conception of humankind's relationship to the rest of the natural world, and requires a Post Industrial technology, as described above, to build and maintain it.
to be continued...Return to: