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Architecture and the urban environment - a vision for the new age- by derek thomas (pdf)

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CONTENTSAcknowledgements7Introduction9All great ages of architecture are known by their grand period titles - ours will probably be known as ‘Architecture in the…
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CONTENTSAcknowledgements7Introduction9All great ages of architecture are known by their grand period titles - ours will probably be known as ‘Architecture in the Age of Consumerism’ arising from the self-indulgent intemperance of the developed world, the declining quality of urban life globally, and a universal disregard for proper stewardship of the natural resources of the planet.The Urban Habitat .19In the planning and design of the urban setting the aim should be to create ‘ennobling’ and ‘enabling’ environments. Inevitably this demands a process based on peope-driven dynamics, in other words, based on the perceptions of the users of urban space.ACANV AS FOR ARCHITECTURE VAUniversal cultural needs Cultural needs and urban space The urban ecosystem Socio-spatial patterning Movement corridors and destinationsDirections in Architecture19 19 21 24 27 3237In the context of our environmentally stressed planet, it is not responsible to think of architecture as being ‘good’ only in terms of past design maxims.C H A R AAC CTERISA ATT I O NCultural Rhythms3756In the urban environment, the failure to meet the cultural needs of the community, the end user, threatens the amenity value of the social environment with potentially dire sociological consequencesRESPONSETO LIFESTYLESpaces that liberate Sense of community Optimum norms for shared streets Busy streets and pedestrians Outdoor urban life Security through the presence of others Territorial needs Commercial opportunity Space for informal marketing and jobs Recreational needs Urban culture and natural regimes56 56 58 64 64 66 67 69 69 71 73 74 3Urban Design in Response75The rigorous design axioms of the Modern Movement have caused streets to lose their attraction as gathering places. ‘As a consequence individual attitudes to urban space have been radically altered... Functionalism, which laid the groundwork for our loss of traditional space, became obsessed with efficiency.’ (Trancik 1986)THEYST POTENTIAL CA ATT A LLYURBANS PPA AT I A L S Y S T E M SMovement corridors Meaningful urban spaceURBANDESIGN GUIDELINESPublic squares free of buildings Shape and size criteria for public squares Visual closure and visual order Planned outdoor amenities Places to linger Controls on sun and wind Pedestrian density in a public area Pedestrians-only streets The residential/public interface Pollution-free spacesSENSEAC E O F P L A C E A N D S PPAA sense of neighbourhood Clusters Common land Personal spaceOPTIMUMUSER LEVELSSustainable density options The courtyard house Small stands Density test criteriaURBANIMPRINTS ON NA ATT U R A L R E G I M E SConserve ecological diversity Biogeographical principles Offset geomorphic impacts475 77 78 80 82 83 84 86 88 90 91 92 95 95 96 98 100 101 104 104 106 106 106 108 110 111 112 114 116Sensory Attributes121Nowhere do mathematics, science, philosophy and the natural senses permeate one another so intimately as in the understanding of the character of a piece of architecture and that of urban space.PROPORTIONAND SCALEProportion and aesthetics Human-related scale Movement affecting proportion and scaleC O LLO OURAND TEXTUREColour terminology Colour systems Modifying properties of texture Notion of ‘noticeable differences’Architecture in Response121 123 124 125 126 128 130 130 133135Much of what is currently presented under the banner of architecture and, curiously rewarded and applauded by architects themselves, is preoccupied with excess - such as designs which are inappropriate to climate, such as glass curtainwall structures in hot, sun-drenched climates, necessitating complete reliance on high-energy resources.THECONTEXTUAL EDGEActive building fronts Building edge design Architectural protocol Contemporary into traditional settings Sense of place Conservation135 136 137 138 139 141 146S U S TTAA I N A B L E148 152 155 158S U S TTAA I N A B L E c O N S T R U C T I O N166 169 171DESIGN Respect for the site Working with the climate Checklist for energy-conserving designMinimise resource consumption Maximise resource reuse and recyclingLANDSCAPING PROTECTTHE ENVIRONMENTTHE NA ATT U R A L E N V I R O N M E N TConserve site biodiversity Permaculture - living designHOLISMIN ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNEnd user and the design process Green principles and technological advance Sound aesthetic principlesORGANICDESIGN IN ARCHITECTUREFractal geometry Fractal geometry and architectural design172 176 177 177 178 180 180 182 183 185 1895On Environmental Economics194This branch of economics, otherwise resource economics, is perhaps the key to bridging the current huge divide between the expediency of big business enterprise on the one hand and a more conservationist vision on the other.PROFITTHROUGH CONSERV AT I O N VABlueprint for a green economyA P P L I C AATT I O NOF ECONOMIC PRINCIPLESThe user-pays principle The pay back principleA L T E R N AATT I V ET E C H N O LLO OGIESThe Timeless Way194 197 206 206 208 211212The imprint of history shows that from earliest times there have been social inequalities in living conditions. This is generally congruent with the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ as the affluent, through economic and political strength, have gained greater access to resources.Appendices214-19 A P P E N D I X I: A L T E R N AATT I V E T E C H N O LLO OGIES: NU T SANDB O LLTT S 2 1 4Methods of heating Power generation by photovoltaic systems Solar panels and design Wind turbines and hybrids in design Conserving water measures Waste and pollution measuresA P P E N D I X II: W H AATTISISO14001?: E N V I R O N M E N TTAA L S P E C I F I C AATT I O N S 2 1 7Bibliography and Photographic sources220-22Index223-246ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS No man is an island, least of all authors who owe a debt to the society in which they were born; and as their lives unfold, they owe their view of the world and whatever clarity of perception they possess to the cultural milieu which others provide. I am indebted to my family, to friends and to colleagues, and to many others for their support throughout the production of the book. I can trace its origins over many years; from my formative days as a student, to the moulding I enjoyed in my early years as a fledgling architect followed by maturing experience and further study. Ultimately, through the insights gained, I felt the compulsion to write it down almost as a narrative. My principal text material gained richly from the work of others who are committed in their own individual ways to the quality of their environment and who are concerned with the issues I attempt to address. I pay tribute to the wider fraternity of professionals and colleagues who share the perceptions that inform the main focus of the book, but above all my sincere thanks are due to my wife Christine, Roger Harrison, Alice and Peter Wilkes, Paul van Niekerk, Quentin Miller, Bernie Oberholzer and my progeny, Andrew and Suzanne, I am most grateful to Mar y Anne Botha, whose professional guidance was crucial over the initial difficulties of setting the stage for the main theme and the final structuring of the text. The illustrative material is largely from my own collection but was generously supplemented by others who went to great lengths, even to the extent of travelling great distances, to capture illustrations so essential to the stor y. In particular, for their response to my calls for assistance with specific image material, with much appreciation I thank Roger Harrison, Alice Wilkes, Martine Ward, Paul van Niekerk, and my daughter Suzanne Allderman. For those who allowed me to raid their private slide collections, I am indebted to Klaus Scheid and Quentin Miller for their extensive contributions.For permission to publish material that has enriched the substance of certain themes, special thanks are due to particular professionals, namely, architects Mick Pearce and Ken Yeang, who practise in different parts of the world and who provided the images of their own impressive sustainable architecture, the Eastgate building, Harare, and the Menara Mesiniaga Tower, Kuala Lumpur, respectively. I must also record my appreciation to mathematician Dr Chonat Getz of Witwatersrand University and Elisabeth Lickendorf for permission to publish the images and extracts from the article on the science of izembenge. The editor of S A Country Life permitted the use of material on cob construction. I owe my thanks also to executives of the BRE building, Garston, UK, who kindly consented to the publication of the images of their environmental building that have substantially informed the discourse on responsible building design. All sources of image material are further acknowledged on page 222. Many others, simply through their support and our informal discussions, unwittingly heightened my desire to record the insights contained in the themes towards a wider appreciation of the tasks that lie ahead for sustainable development and proper stewardship of natural resources for this and future generations. The collective wisdoms that flow from time to time through the pages have vindicated my own convictions regarding the future role of architecture and urban design in effecting essential attitudinal change at this auspicious time, the start of a New Age. Derek Thomas Cape Town July 20027‘ Throughout the Universe there is order. In the movement of the planets... in Nature.... and in the functioning of the human mind. A mind that is in its natural state of order is in harmony with the Universe, and such a mind is timeless. Your life is an expression of your mind. You are the creator of your own Universe, for as a human being you are ‘ free to will’ whatever state of being you desire through the use of your thoughts and words. There is great power there. It can be a blessing or a curse. It is entirely up to you, for the quality of your life is brought about by the quality of your thinking.’ Akash’s wisdom in ‘Time’ - a rock opera. Clark (1986)8I NTRODUCTION All great ages of architecture are known by their grand period titles - ours will probably be known as ‘Architecture in the Age of Consumerism’ arising from the self-indulgent intemperance of the developed world, the declining quality of urban life globally, and a universal disregard for proper stewardship of the natural resources of the planet.Modern day individualism and eclectic trends have removed architecture from the root stem of its historic tree while choosing to give expression to assertive consumerism. During the latter half of the twentieth centur y, a time that has been marked by rapid urbanisation of Western societies accompanied by escalating global stress, urban environments have become impoverished and dysfunctional. Exclusivity in the practice of creating urban space as well as in the design of buildings has been allowed to flourish, so that the absence of both social and environmental accountability have become the ugly sisters of the plot. The practice of present day architecture appears in a state of indulgence and in the business of self-gratification, even narcissism, rather than in the search for meaningful direction. Often there is a sense of alienation in the rarified environments where architects ‘strut their stuff ’ for their peers. Even though individualistic expression in architecture is almost a right, there is evidence that the needs of ordinary people are not always considered to be within the architect ’s terms of reference. Contemporar y buildings and urban landscapes suggest not only a lack of cultural awareness but that of any environmental ethos, noticeable through the apparent disregard for the looming depletion of strategic natural resources. Although apathy towards real environmental issues can be seen as a reflection of the times, architects and urban designers should not ignore signals of global stress that are of significant social and ecological consequence. Not only architects and urban designers, but societies at large must develop a more focused vision to meet the changed cultural and environmental paradigms of this, the New Age. The pattern of architectural history in Western civilisations shows distinctive ‘cause and effect ’ tendencies, where the architectural styles of particular epochs respond closely to social, cultural and economic needs on the one hand, and the availability of technical and technological means on the other. Also politically, from the time of despotic rule during the Egyptian period, the role of the individual has evolved from slaver y to present day democratic empowerment of the individual. The historical 9INTRODUCTIONtree of architectural form and expression tends to be a faithful reflection of these influences. However, modern tendencies in architecture and urban design show a poor response to contemporary, and even traditional parameters, where lessons from the past could show the way. Within democracies, individuals are perhaps for the first time in a position to determine the quality of their urban environments, the architectural response to their needs and holistic stewardship of the planet ’s resources. Yet New Age architectural expression still remains elusive. Humanistic and environmental resource principles should become the driving creative forces in architecture and in shaping the urban landscape. A new responsiveness must arise to restore architecture to its rightful place in the public and private realms, from which could emerge built environments that enoble the urban experience. Architecture that is grounded purely on conceptual philosophising and expression, emulating trends in art and sculptural form, can easily become removed from the realities of daily urban living and no longer be of social relevance. The visionar y extraordinaire, Hundertwasser delivered an apt diagnosis of the malaise in his call for action to the Western world: ‘The time has come.u Traditional African city in asketch by G Burchell on expedition in the 1700s. A stable equilibrium through a horizontal relationship with nature and good stewardship of natural resources10The time of sur veillance has past. The time of waiting for paradise is past. The time of fruitless talking is past. The time for action has come.’ (Rand 1991)INTRODUCTION3Houston, USA, 1980s: The verticalcharacter of the archetypal American city, has destroyed physical connections in the city and contributed to the loss of meaningful urban space. The insatiable energy demand of the entire CBD coupled with the enforced dependence on the mobility of the energy guzzler, the motor vehicle, is of critical importance in the New AgeApart from the need to engage with social issues, the ver y technology which was designed to improve our lives, indeed our human habitat, has produced unexpected byproducts such as ‘sick building syndrome’. In effect, this raises cause for concern as to how healthy our homes and workplaces really are, since we have in fact relied on artificial, high energyconsuming means to correct what amounts to poor architectural design. Environments that are not energy-conser ving, and buildings built out of the exploitation of the world’s scarce resources, such as exotic timbers, and using methods which pollute and produce toxic wastes, are contributing to the rape of the environment and performing an assault on our health and our sensibilities. Hundertwasser also identifies a cure: ‘The Architect Doctor: Our houses have been sick for as long as there have been indoctrinated urban planners and standardised architects. They do not fall sick, but are conceived and brought into the world as sick houses... . So a new profession is needed: the architect doctor. The simple task of the architect doctor is to restore human dignity and harmony and nature and human creation.’ (Rand 1991) Architecture should not be a matter of economics only, nor should the aesthetic be the outcome of the indiscriminate use of mechanistic drawing aids. Creativity can also be overpowered by the pressures of expediency.11INTRODUCTION3 Houston, USA, 1970s: Interfirst Plaza: Corporate statement of 55 storeys of polished granite and matching glass - aesthetically aloof while heavily resource-dependent from construction and throughout its economic life6Jerusalem: Tourist accommodationat a Kibbutz: Clad in local stone to comply with the regulated aesthetic of the city yet the unrelieved monotony arises from concern mainly for square footageLOSING THE WAY Architecture that has abdicated to the false gods of Technology, Expediency and Exhibitionism can negatively shape the society we live in. Such buildings are associated with the Modernists and brought the Movement into disrepute, negatively influencing public perceptions about the worth of all contemporary work. In turn, as a reactionary movement, the Post-Modernists created a rarefied environment for practitioners of an individualistic new order that is yet to provide direction for the New Age.The decline of Modernism is essentially related to these trends in architectural practice so that throughout the developed countries, the resultant universalisation of style has become seamless with the prevailing culture. Apart from aesthetic and amenity aspects in architectural propositions, our concern for the resources of the planet are today found wanting in respect of spiritual commitment and committed environmental stewardship. The widely interpreted concept of ‘sustainability ’ in terms of architectural design begins to take on a significant and urgent message. In the mid-1980s, inspired by James Lovelock’s valuable contribution to a better understanding of our habitat, a new awareness emerged through the Gaia movement. In his book, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. Lovelock12INTRODUCTIONpropounds a compelling hypothesis: that the earth and all its life systems are an organic entity. Gaia (the ancient Greek earth goddess) is selfsustaining, and has the characteristics of a living organism. The major man-induced interventions threaten the capacity of the organism to sustain its functions - a demonstrable example being the depletion of the ozone layer and global warming which have induced extremes in climatic behaviour as evidenced during the past decades. On another front and advocating the use of traditional, natural materials and building methods, the Baubiologie (building biology) philosophy became a force for change in German-speaking countries. Born of disenchantment with much post-war building, and of prevalent green awareness and concern about chemical pollution from synthetic building materials, Baubiologie combines a scientific approach. Baubiologie aims to influence the design of buildings that meet our physical, biological and spiritual needs. The house is compared to an organism and its fabric to a skin - a third skin (our clothes the second skin), and fulfils essential living functions: protecting, insulating, breathing, absorbing,6 Houston, Texas, USA: Allied Bank Plaza: 71 storeys of glass curtainwalling: Genre of the energyconsuming giant on the endangered list and, with the prospect of resource depletion, facing the possibility of extinction5 Dallas, Texas, USA: Hyatt Regency Hotel (1970s): Clad with 7.85 acres of reflective glass that requires conditioned air to offset heat loss and gain daily and seasonally ENERGY CONSUMER GIANTS Glass enclosed buildings are major consumers in the energy budget and are not sustainable in terms of their continued dependence on dwindling natural energy resources. Constructed in the 1970s, issues of intergenerational responsibility for resource depletion arise, with negative global ramifications.13INTRODUCTIONAs proof emerges of the costliness of past architectural errors, and the
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