Section XI: Reimagining and Reinventing Culture

Track 7: (BiLingual) The Built Environment
(Matthew Witt and Zonghao Bao
)

 

In recent days, ecological crisis roots mainly in social problems. Several cities in China started exploring new models of eco-city and to attempt practical construction with a new concept of ecological civilization. The case analysis of Sino-Singapore Eco-Town in Tianjin, China will be presented at the track, including the construction concept, the value orientation, and the new model of social development and management.

当前,生态危机有着深层次的社会问题根源,如果不彻底解决社会问题, 生态问题就不可能 被正确认识,更不可能得到破解。为此,中国部分城市以一 种新的生态文明理念开始了“生 态城”建设的实践探索。在会议上,将介绍中国 案例“中新天津生态城”建设的经验,包括建 设理念、价值导向以及社会发展与 管理的新模式。

 

The Logic of Our Inquiry:

The built environment is the most extensive, encompassing and fast-growing human artifact.

The technologies, processes and inheritances which together produce and re-produce the built environment are inextricably tied into and reflective of our common metaphysics.

The built environment is not a passive container for our lives but actively shapes and constitutes the feeling and meaning, the structure and movement of our lives. Like any artifact or technology, the built environment at large is a manifestation of values.

The trouble is that a simple critique of our built environment (like the framework of LEED-type “sustainability”) will not yield a real transformation: we must critically engage our metaphysics (our notion of what is real, and in what way it comes to be and how change and novelty emerge, and how healing occurs) and then transform our built environment in a way that takes seriously these fundamental questions, rather than just paying lip-service.

Because we are process thinkers, the aim is partly to stop asking what forms, what structures, are better or worse, more or less ecological. We can’t foresee the answers to these questions, and if we could, they would only be temporary answers. The questions should instead be: how can we transform the processes and technologies themselves which produce the built environment, at all levels, so that these processes are more in line with the ongoing metaphysical and physical process of creativity which is nature “naturing”, natura naturans. So, we want not to ask how to mimic natural forms, or how to respect, preserve and manage a “separate” and alien nature, but rather: how to process and create as nature does, through time in a generative process. For example: we believe that it may not be possible to create a healthy and well-formed built environment until capitalist industry is replaced with flexible, local processes and local sourcing of truly re-generative materials. The question is not a matter of ‘design’ in the traditional sense, but rather a question of process. This is a shift which is already beginning in the world, but in a very weak form.

We view the creation of an ecological society to be ultimately a matter of learning how to dwell on this earth. In the same sense, we view the creation and transformation of our built environment to be the primary locus of this new dwelling. The built environment is not secondary, a shell in which our lives take place. Rather, in a Whiteheadian sense, we view the built environment as simultaneously the largest human material artifact and the most immediate and immutable human symbol or nexus of meaning and fundamental communication. As such, we view the built environment, and its interface with the natural environment, to be one of the few most important locations for a critical engagement with our future, politically, ecologically, socially, artistically, psychically and spiritually.

 

List of Presenters:

  • Paul Faulstich
  • Hooman Fazly
  • Devon Hartman
  • Paul Krafel
  • Lissa McCullough
  • Marcela Oliva
  • Michael Rendler
  • Daniel Schwab
  • Brooke Smiley
  • Paul Steinberg
  • Seth Wachtel
  • Matthew Witt

Panelist and session

Presentation

Matthew Witt (serving as panel host)

Panel 1

Friday: 2:00-3:30

Film documentary, “Urbanization”, followed by discussion roundtable.

Lissa McCullough

Panel 2

Friday: 4:00-5:30

This presentation will highlight Paolo Soleri’s exceptional realism as an urban thinker. Beginning early in his career in the 1950s, his thinking focused on huge-population cities and the compelling need—given the urgent reality of the human population explosion—to think about city design for massive populations in the millions. In connection with this realism, Soleri continually emphasized consideration of logistics as the inescapable key to coherent city design. This means that especially when designing habitat for millions and billions, the frugality principle is indispensable: intensely concentrating urban space (space always translates into time and energy), saving energy and time, sparing all types of resources by designing for comprehensive and coordinated logistical efficiencies. The sober realism of Soleri’s life work is a wake up call to urban planning, the architectural profession, and to all citizens of the twenty-first century: we must get real about vital needs or face catastrophe and extinction. Along the way I will also draw connections between Soleri and Whitehead as process thinkers. Presentation to be accompanied by images of Soleri’s work over six decades. 

Daniel Schwab

Panel 2

Friday: 4:00-5:30

I would like to speak on wilderness-based urbanism. The central idea of  wilderness-based urbanism is that where we are changes the way we think. If we wish to design with nature, we have to think in an a way that is patterned by nature. An ecological society will have habits of ecological thought: ecological thought demands ecological relations of body and mind. This is our evolutionary heritage. However an urban surround makes this difficult. Going into the wilderness opens up the possibility to rewild our thought, making it more compatible with the demands of nature. I thus argue that wilderness-based thought is a prerequisite for coherent ecological theorizing. 

Seth Wachtel

Panel 3

Saturday: 11:00 – 12:30

Engaged Design

In each of my design studio courses, Community Design Outreach, International Projects, and Construction Innovation Lab, I work with student teams on real projects for local and international underserved communities. We work only on projects that have been identified and defined by the community partner and the design process is interactive and driven by community feedback. For local projects students engage directly with the community through visits and design meeting at the project site. For international projects the interaction is through email, PDF design attachments and Skype conference calls. All projects are focused on finding culturally connected solutions that reinforce local traditions and rely on locally available skills and materials. Projects I’m considering using are a tea processing facility for formerly subsistence farmers in Nepal, a community center in rural Nicaragua, a cultural and education center for the Maasai in Tanzania, and a food security garden in San Francisco.

 

Recording Built Heritage

Historic buildings and sites that represent our physical cultural heritage are vulnerable to loss or alteration due to war, natural disaster, lack of maintenance, or economic pressure. Current methods of recording require skilled professionals and expensive technologies. This limits the number of recorded sites to high profile targets, leaving out thousands of worthy and vulnerable sites. This project will demonstrate integrated use of crowdsourcing, low-cost recording devices and open source Internet technologies to achieve high volume recording of heritage sites that may otherwise never be recorded before they are lost. The focus is historically and culturally significant low-visibility sites. Recording includes site, geographic location, images, architectural attributes and 3D models generated from digital images. Volunteers are recruited using social networks. Low-cost recording devices include digital camera, camera-capable mobile phone and Internet-connected computer. Technical infrastructure includes a website for collecting and disseminating recorded documentation.

Paul Faulstich

Panel 3

Saturday: 11:00 – 12:30

Biological diversity and cultural diversity are linked, and as one diminishes, so too does the other. Awareness of the need to protect Earth’s diminishing biological richness has focused greater attention on Indigenous peoples for a couple of reasons; their homelands are increasingly understood as places worthy of protected status, and their knowledge of these areas is unique and unparalleled. One piece of the sustainability puzzle lies in the incorporation of traditional ecological knowledge. By deconstructing old ways of doing environmentalism while simultaneously reconstructing new ways, we can begin to build a new vision of sustainability for an interconnected world. The ultimate question for human ecology is whether it is possible to create modern socionatural systems that are truly sustaining; that is, that avoid the features of contemporary systems in which the human factor dominates to the detriment of the environment. This question cannot be answered with any degree of hope so long as the concepts of growth, technological neutrality, and unlimited gratification prevail. Social policies shaped by these concepts, offer little hope for sustained-resource programs. An environmental goal should be to honor diversity—both cultural diversity and biological diversity—and to seek organic models of nature and wildness that are inclusive rather than exclusive. By deconstructing old ways of doing environmentalism while simultaneously reconstructing new ways, we can begin to build a new vision of sustainability for an interconnected world.

Brooke Smiley

Panel 4

Saturday: 2:00-3:30

The Body and Building with the Earth

 

This presentation will look at the form, function and consciousness of our inner body in relationship to the Earth and Earth architecture.   Drawing on a personal practice of dance, movement research, and our body’s potential to heal, we will discuss embodiment as a practice of deepening connection and awareness to self, others and the environments in which we live.  By sharing examples of current movement research, derived from interpreting our own inner landscapes, we will ask what is our relationship to land? Through the mindful repetition of building with the Earth, what becomes available to the individual, a team, a community and in turn the Earth, is presented as an option for health, unity and freedom of expression. 

 

Brooke T. Smiley is an international dance artist, superadobe Earth builder and California General Contractor. 

Paul Krafel

Panel 4

Saturday: 2:00-3:30

http://www.chrysalischarterschool.com/Paul/index.html

Marcela Oliva

Panel 5

Saturday: 4:00-5:30

http://worldpeaceone.com/about-us/staff/marcela-oliva/

Hooman Fazly

Panel 5

Saturday: 4:00-5:30

Earth bag construction

Paul Steinberg Panel 6 (Joint with Section VII, Track 6)

Sunday: 11:00-12:30

Paul F. Steinberg
Malcolm Lewis Professor of Sustainabilty & Society
Professor of Political Science & Environmental Policy

Harvey Mudd College

The transition to sustainability requires much more than changes in personal lifestyles and consumer habits – it requires changing the very rules that underpin civilization.  This idea has a long pedigree within the social sciences (where it is called “institutional analysis”), but few members of the public have encountered it.  To make this idea more accessible, over 100 students from six universities in southern California have collaborated on The Social Rules Project – a multi-media initiative designed to reveal the hidden rules that shape our planet and our lives.  This presentation will include a discussion of the associated issues and a screening of the animated short film ‘Who Rules the Earth?’

http://www.paulsteinberg.org/

Devon Hartman

Panel 7

Sunday: 2:00-3:30

CHERP

Michael Rendler

Panel 7

Sunday: 2:00-3:30

http://m.e7studio.net/

Zonghao Bao

Panel 8

Sunday: 4:00-5:30

Sustainable urbanization in China: Report from site visitations

Matthew Witt

Panel 8

Sunday: 4:00-5:30

The symbolic uses of negative spaces: Embedded Narratives of the Capital Mall

The Capital Mall in Washington, DC, has been in a work in progress—much like the United States—for over 200 years. As such, this ground is layered with multiple narratives constituting a web of meaning that laces together the negative spaces between commemorative works. This presentation limns this webwork to identify how dominant, surface narratives and symbols are underlain by enduring, tenacious narratives of sustainability and egalitarianism; narratives that are instructive for a nation seeking to commemorate enduring alternatives to status quo presumptions.

Matthew Witt is Professor of Public Administration at the University of La Verne He teaches courses in urban theory and research methods. During 2011, Dr. Witt led a design team including La Verne Honors program art history students and faculty through the semifinal round of the National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument. His current research focus is police militarization in the United States.