Ethics: anything to do with architecture?

 

Ethics: anything to do with architecture?

 

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Built environment causes approximately:

·      Half of all climate damage

·      Half of all pollution

 

It also causes transport and traffic, increasing its impact to 2/3 of all negative impacts

 

Too much of our everyday built environment assaults health: body, soul and spirit

 

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Are these mutually opposed themes, requiring conflicting approaches: scientific and artistic?

 

Or

 

Are they two faces of one issue: an attitude that disregards environmental, social and spiritual responsibility?

 

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Should solutions be technological?

Structural?

Material-fact-based?

 

Or

 

Experiential?

Hence perception-based?

Aesthetic?

 

Or

 

Both?

The structural and experiential reinforcing each other?

The artistic/aesthetic leavening the scientific/technological?

 

And

 

The scientific/technological grounding the artistic/aesthetic?

 

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Technologically

 

Most climate damage is due to CO2

Most CO2 is due to energy-production

75% of Europe building energy is for heating

Globally, air conditioning uses 1 trillion kWh/year of electricity

 

Whole-building heating is a modern concept

Air-conditioning is a modern invention

 

 

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Traditional methods, refined by modern understanding, reduce both heating and cooling demands

 

e.g. insulation, solar heating, solar-driven cooling, natural ventilation, vegetative shading, thermal storage/delay

 

These have aesthetic and sensory implications

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Experientially:

 

Built environment surrounds us some 90% of out time, awake and asleep

 

It affects how we feel, behave and our health

It affects social relationships and behaviour

Pics: Nazi stadia, FFB

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Asleep (24-hour) issues:

Sick or healthy building:

Chemicals (e.g. VOCs), electro-environment (e.g. EMF), airborn particulate, bio-pathogens (e.g. mould)

 

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Healthy human habitat:

·      Archetypal (e.g. greenery)

·      Practical (e.g. ergonomic)

·      Nutritional (air, water, food, sensory environment)

·      Climatic – especially microclimatic

 

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Awake (16-hour) influences:

Ambient mood, Sensory nourishment: all senses

 

This is about ambience

 

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Visually/spatially:

Gesture:

e.g.

·      Calm horizontals, awakening verticals, dynamic diagonals

·      Cramping or expansive space, oppressive lowness or awe-inspiring space-height.

·      Compelling axies, inviting routes, confronting planes, aggressive points or gentle corners

·      Cramping or embracing angles

 

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Visual meetings:

·      Ground-building meetings (rooting in place)

·      Shape-to-shape, colour-to-colour (etc) meetings (mood-induction by conflict or mutually-responsive conversation)

·      Building-to-sky meetings (eye-movement along outlines)

 

 

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Place mood

·      Mood needs vary over time and situation:

       e.g. excitement, calm; security, challenge; graceful order, chaotic vitality.

 

·      Different tasks need different moods.

 

·      Moving from one task, room and soul-state to another requires an inner-mood transition. Architectural support includes gateways, bridges, stairs, doorways, floor-texture, acoustic, light and thermal variation.

 

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Soul nourishment

·      Partly multi-sensory

·      Partly embodied by a process that allows makers to input soul

e.g. craftsmanship, design involvement

 

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Spirit nourishment:

·      Beauty raises us to another plane: it’s deeply healing

 

·      Embodied spirit:

Values and intentions (e.g. profit or service, nourishment or exploitation) become embodied at all stages.

We can’t fake values or motives.

Subliminally, everyone ‘reads’ these messages.

 

 

 

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Embodied spirit is founded upon attitude:

·      Truth: multi-layer integrity

·      Beauty: harmony

·      Goodness: social harmony

 

 

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Design for whom/what?

·      Profit?

·      People?

·      Global/natural environment?

………..

Profit: good or bad?

 

Without profit, no business is viable.

But which is the driving aim: profit or service?

  • Unethical strategies can bring high short-term profits at high risk.
  • Ethical strategies’ profits are modest, but safer and inherently sustainable

 

Who pays? Not designers. Do architects have any right to design the buildings they want with someone else’s money?

 

Does having a creative job entitle architects to higher incomes than those with soul-destroying jobs?

 

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People:

Who are we: body or spirit?

Or body and spirit?

Our multiple layers of being

Environmental qualities needed for health

Spirit

We recognize it, but can’t define it.

Invisible and intangible: but the core of ‘us’.

Embodied values, transformative beauty.

Soul

We feel it, but can’t define it.

Invisible and intangible: but without feeling, living isn’t living.

Sensory and social/emotional attractiveness, embodied feeling/soul.

Life

We know what it is, but it eludes definition: e.g. when does life start and stop?[i]

Invisible (although sensible): but without this bodies are useless.

Healthy air, water, food, warmth and light. Energizing (invigorating and/or recuperative) surroundings.

Body

We know what it is, and can define it.

Visible and tangible: but not ‘us’. (Amputations don’t diminish our identity.)

Ergonomic, functional practicality.

 

 

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People:

Besides all ages, all types, all income-levels, two under-represented groups have specific needs:

·      Children

·      The elderly

Children’s needs centre on learning: about the world (curiosity) and living with others (play).

Magically beautiful surroundings nourish their innate sense of reverent wonder.

 

Design for the elderly centres on disabled accessibility.

Disabilities are very varied, not just physical: e.g. poor vision, hearing, memory, comprehension, social abilities, besides impaired mobility, stability and dexterity

 

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People:

Give-take-be balance: Work, shop, live

     How do these interrelate?

     How should these shape mixed use, development sequence and time-scale?

 

 

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Biological Environment: ecological stability/resilience, bio-habitat, microclimate, elemental inter-relationships

How can buildings, landscaping, spatial design, development improve and link habitats, modify microclimate, act as an eco-harmoniser?

 

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Material Environment: cycles, materials’ sources and destinations, cradle-to-cradle, use-cascades; social/ecological impacts

            Where do things come from?

            Where do they go?

            Are they fully used at all stages of that journey?

            What damage do they do?

            How are they reintegrated into natural cycles?

 

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Human Environment: buildings or place?

·      Every building makes, shapes or affects space between it and nearby things. It creates, enhances or compromises places.

·      Every place affects how we feel.

Places can depress, stress us and make us physically, psycho-somatically or psychologically ill. But they can also revive, re-vitalise, sooth, calm and heal us – both short- and long-term.

This gives all places, all buildings, an important role as soul-nourishers.

 

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Cultural (heritage) Environment:

Is the new shaped by continuity/reverence?

or is it imposed on what is already there?

 

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Participatory design

 

Design for client, or users?

For people or place?

For profit from or value for, community?

But must this be either or? Or can it be and and and?

Can it both fulfil community need and enhance, heal, place?

Improvements for both people and place, tend to ensure modest, but sustainable, profit.

 

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Consensus design

Isn’t someone’s brilliant idea always someone else’s nightmare?

The Consensus Design Process starts, therefore, with something everyone can agree on:

1.     The place’s physical characteristics

2.     But places change over time. And our responses depend on experience sequence.

3.     How do we feel in different bits?

4.     What does the place ‘say’ to us?

Design mirrors this process.

5.     What should the project ‘say’?

6.     What moods of place would support this?

7.     What sequence of experiences and enclosure gestures would support these moods?

8.     What form, materials and experience would support these?

 

As each decision supports the previous agreement, it’s relatively easy to rise above conflicting personal preferences.

 

This is design as a condensing process – the absolute opposite of idea-led design.

From the experience of over sixty projects, I know it works.

 

 

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As you’ll have noticed, many issues inter-relate.

 

This means:

·      Multiple aims

·      Multiple reasons for every design decision – which confers an integrity that solely aesthetic design can’t

·      Relationship-thinking

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As built environment so affects people, society, and planet, do we have any right to design buildings to express ourselves? Should we not serve the situation’s needs?

As built environment can kill our planet or harmonize with nature’s life and forces, doesn’t this place huge material responsibilities on architectural design?

As built environment can heal or harm, doesn’t this place huge spiritual responsibilities on architectural design?

 

Does this not make it an ethics-led art-form?

 

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Books:

 

The Eco-Home Design Guide: principles and practice for new-build and retrofit (Green Books, 2015)

Dying: or Learning to Live (Trafford Publishing, 2010)

Environment and Children (Architectural Press, 2007)

Places of the Soul (3rd ed. Architectural Press, 2014)

Consensus Design (Architectural Press, 2003)

Spirit & Place (Architectural Press, 2002)

A Haven for Childhood (Starborn Books, 1998)

Building with Heart (Green Books, 1990)

 

 

 

 




[i] Does a tree die when felled? Willow stakes can sprout many years after they were cut. Do humans die when the heart stops, brain damage is irreparable, hair stops growing or decomposition starts? When is the moment life ceases?