Monday, September 24, 2012

Regenerative Architecture for the Future? [An Excerpt].

The Cornell Journal of Architecture: RE [Excerpt].
Full Journal See:

"In the many experimental design studios of Francois Roche and Mark Fornes, we are again confronted with intelligent forms of so-called primitive materiality, each of which defines a new relationship with the machinic.  Our strange fascination with these new artificial “natures” in their many distinct forms—seemingly symbolic compensatory acts that repeat our return to the discovery and exploitation of new “virgin” territories—often remain somewhat impotent when examined according to the performance of these projects in relation to actual living systems. We are acutely aware of the fact that the architectural emulation of growing, animate, or atmospheric environments as an investigation of new modes of architectural form generation or the material amplification and expression of its ambient affects, do not, despite their biomimetic appeal or communicative engagement, contribute in any fundamental way to the enhancement of real nature or the mitigation of its cultural instrumentalization. Conversely, those on the other side of the nature-culture continuum, who have been developing systemic explorations into energy-generating, bioremediating, and recyclable materials and systems (the environmentally “responsible,” rather than environmentally “affected”), although certainly not influenced by geometries that emulate natural formation or its primordial sensual affects, are overtly concerned with natural material, biological and chemical processes; yet where the material functions of these processes have often had little effect on the actual form generation, spatial disposition, or symbolic intentions—that is, the design—of the biodegradable artifacts they produce. The widening gap between those focused on creative formal, morphological, experiential, and interactive processes and those whose emphasis is on material technologies and their ecological functioning, exposes the lamentable segregations still evident in our design thinking. Despite the pervasiveness of our symbolic return to nature, the seemingly endless appropriation and instrumentalization of the natural world for the surplus products of culture, still reigns within the postindustrial and postcapitalist regimes within which we are operating. Against the backdrop of global warming and extreme environmental depletion, our absorption into this web has taken on a new urgency, foregrounding our own biological fragility within the context of the postnatural cyborgian future we have already created.

Perhaps one of the greatest future challenges that will dominate the design industry is initiating the inversion and integration of these principles, through the reduction, transformation, and recycling of cultural waste concurrent with the design and construction of newly acculturated natures in many different forms. Just as steel, concrete, and glass were the new homogeneous materials to represent the industrialization of 20th-century modernity, and plastics signified the utopian trajectory of the 1960s, for our postmillennial future, in addition to the continued development of new biotechnological materials, one of the most important raw materials for design will be trash. Our future return to matter, will therefore not only be through the sensuous deployment of form and the atmospheric extension of design, but also through something far more primitive—the ways in which we generate new processes that collect, sort, filter, pulverize, mix, melt, and modulate trash. Currently our largest renewable resource, trash will become our new postindustrial nature and future raw matter—an inherently heterogeneous mixture whose modes of typological and functional classification will be simultaneously determined by biological and technological properties. Within the context of this postnatural “real,” our framework for authenticity and origins is dissolved, as the endlessness of nature’s transformative operations are drawn on as models for cultural production, and as biotechnologically regenerated trash—a new form of raw repotentialized postacculturated matter—becomes the substantive material matrix for future design endeavors.

Despite the obvious fact that our current deleterious environmental impacts would be substantially reduced if we simply manufactured, built, used, and disposed of less—a concept that undermines the impulse toward excessive production that drives global capitalism—the true inversion of our modern obsession with production and consumption is not only to be found in their absence (for those who yearn toward a preindustrial future), but rather in their much needed reversal, by amplifying processes and designs that contribute to cultural digestion and regeneration. The “other” of production, therefore, refers not only to a redefinition of consumption that expands the parameters of both use and design, but also to the inversion of production through an emphasis on the disassembly reassembly process—an evolutionary, ecotechnological model of regeneration that would require that we spend as much of our energy on the strategic recycling of matter, form, and space as we do on the creative design of new objects. William McDonough’s proposition to incorporate the concept of biological and technological nutrients into our design parameters to transform the way we think about materiality (his now famous dictum: “waste = food”) is one strategy for ensuring that the physical substance of cultural products have the potential to be biologically “digested” when literally buried in landfills, or infinitely recycled when returned as secondary materials for industrial reprocessing.[10] In spite of the questionable application of intensive ecological strategies directed toward products, such as cars, seemingly by their very nature ecologically irresponsible artifacts, McDonough’s model U Ford concept car (2003), one of many new proposals for hydrogen-fueled electric hybrid vehicles, incorporated modular disassembly methods and plant-based manufacturing materials as a way of integrating digestive and regenerative strategies into the design process. Biopolymers such as polylactide (pla) fabrics derived from corn- as well as soy-based foam, and machined components used in its design ensured the potential biodegradability of parts of its vehicular apparatus while engendering new biotechnological continuities between cultural and natural systems."

Opus 2008, Francois Roche Studio GSAPP, Inviting Marc Fornes, Chi Chen Yang Student.

Aranda/Lasch’s Grotto project, Kokkugia’s ongoing research into wetFoam geometries, and mos’s growing Ivy project, for example, each establish analogical links to continuous and transformative natural material landscapes directly resulting from the intricate patterns of their evolutionary emergence.

(L) Grotto, Aranda\Lasch, PS-1 Entry 2005. (R) Algorithmic Wet Foam Study, Kokkugia.

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