Instances of ecological motivations in the production and use of space

Awan, Nishat; Schneider, Tatjana and Till, Jeremy. 2011. Instances of ecological motivations in the production and use of space. Field: A Free Journal for Architecture, 4(1), pp. 219-226. ISSN 1755-068 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Too often in mainstream architecture, environmental issues are directly attached to the building, in terms of control and mitigation. Buildings are treated as technical devices, and design for sustainability is focussed on the optimisation of systems to reduce energy use and in the choice of materials to reduce embodied energy, both in a move towards “low carbon” solutions. Clearly these are important issues, but this limiting of environmental understanding to the technical realm alone tends to treat it as an isolated system that can be dealt with on its own terms, typically those of efficiency and control. This leads to a sense that environmental issues can be dealt with through technical fixes, but this is in fact a false sense of security because it is clear that the environment is tied into much wider networks. Ecology, in relation to spatial agency, the environment is not isolated to matters of energy reduction and efficiency, but has to be understood in relation to the social, the global and virtual realms. In their important manifesto for an Urban Political Ecology, Nik Heynen, Maria Kaika, and Erik Swyngedouw note that “environmental and social changes co-determine each other.” In this light, acting motivated by ecological concerns means that one has to deal with the interchange of the social and the environmental – with how social conditions are linked with ecological conditions, as is most clearly identified in books such as Mike Davis’s Ecology of Fear. The authors of the manifesto talk of this relationship in terms of a metabolisms, recognizing the cause and effect that is built into all systems, so that “while environmental (both social and physical) qualities may be enhanced in some places and for some humans and non-humans, they often lead to a deterioration of social, physical and/or ecological conditions elsewhere.” It is an awareness of this interdependency of systems that the ecological spatial agent brings to the table.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures



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Date Deposited:

20 Nov 2018 19:14

Last Modified:

21 Nov 2018 12:24

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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