Waste management and ecological issues have been absorbed into recent architectural pedagogy but are only yet being interrogated for the conceptual demand placed on the discipline. How might one transfer material research beyond the technology sequence? How do we understand waste, excess and progress as a biological and cultural imperative that might need reconsideration and reinvention within the contemporary architectural design paradigm?
Matter: Excess vs. Optimization
Jason Payne, University of California, Los Angeles
Matter, as a foundational subject, is a relatively recent addition to architectural curricula. Typically, matter has either been a subject of practice-oriented courses on material science and construction, or as the province of philosophers and scientists. Architecture only occasionally accesses thought on this most fundamental subject. Matter increasingly stands as a subject itself.
There appears to be a recurring tendency toward optimization in all aspects of architectural production, from parametricism to sustainability. How might we encourage a more optimistic, even libertine approach to the subject of matter and its consolidation into material formations in design practice, one where more efflorescent and excessive expenditures of material support behavior and logic championed by scientists and theorists of complexity? Conceptual principles and polemical directions not immediately tethered to the practice of building come to the fore: behavior and performance, composition and organization, and economies of expenditure are issues fundamental to matter that have gained increasing traction in the academy.
How, then, might the architectural academy properly incorporate previous scholarship and contemporary speculation on matter into its own pedagogy? Beginning with the proposition that matter comprises the foundation of any architectural object, this session calls for rigorous exercises in course construction on the subject of matter in architecture. In keeping with the projective objectives of the conference, this session asks for presentations in the form of course syllabi and the ensuing conversation will center on strong, discrete examples of ideas for new core pedagogy .
Hugh Hynes, California College of the Arts
“Research is badly needed into the anonymous history of our period, tracing our mode of life as affected by mechanization... Research is needed into the links existing between industrial methods and methods used outside industry—in art, in visualization... Nothing of the kind is earnestly provided for in curricula of present-day universities.”
- Siegfried Giedion, 1947
Since Giedion’s call for action the mechanisms of industrial production and their turbulent, often deleterious effects have become integral with practices producing architecture. The discrete architectural objects is subject to en masse architectural systems that proliferate, expand, deploy, and infiltrate territorial conditions (brownfields, manufactured landscapes), resources (smart materials, resilient composites), and production techniques (mass customization, component assembly). Distinguishing between architectural and industrial production is difficult if not impossible.
Not surprisingly, this amplified scale of production precipitates many of the same dilemmas encountered by industry over two centuries: technical breakdowns, waste byproducts, labor & efficiency issues, bloated control protocols, etc. Both the scope of the problems that we take on, and the current techniques that we employ, continually cast us in the role of agents of mass production, and our discipline as a new form of industry. Architects become directly embedded in the industrial practices of procurement, process management, implementation and logistics as we choreograph dynamic materials, tools, resources, assembly lines and schedules. Effectiveness relies on the ability to orchestrate the fluctuating sequence of events that govern organization, control and delivery. But the amplified scale of architectural production precipitates the dilemmas of industry: technical breakdowns, waste byproducts, labor & efficiency, and bloated control protocols.
This session invites papers to assess architecture’s current industrial status, and to critically evaluate the ability of our practices to perform effectively. What new forms of industry are emerging in practice and what new protocols can support industrial-scaled modes of production? Do evolving logistical and management tasks require new skills to improve effectiveness and is the architectural academy positioned to develop those capabilities? What new dilemmas are created by en masse production, by our predilections for deploying vast quantities of matter and resource? What lessons can be learned from industrial practices that address the speed, effectiveness, and resilience of architectural skillsets? What opportunities do methods like operations research, and supply chain management offer for architectural practice?
Less is More: Creativy Through Scarcity
Elizabeth Golden, University of Washington
Gundula Proksch, University of Washington
When innovation is driven by necessity, design can move building technology beyond conventional resource and economic patterns. In one view, architectural modernism’s aesthetic expression evolved from both a reduction and efficient management of resources. Today economy of means continues to be an important demand on architecture. Climate change, economic uncertainty, and finite natural resources will likely inform almost every aspect of the built environment. It has become common practice for architects and engineers to accept the challenges of working with less, creating efficient environments including prefabricated buildings, high performance facades, lightweight structural systems, net-zero housing and post-carbon cities.
What influence do scarcity and constraint have on design? Rather than viewing scarcity as something negative, something to be overcome, could it instead be viewed as a catalyst in the design process that carries with it creative potential and prospective innovation? The origin of the word ‘scarcity’ is derived from the Anglo-Norman escars, meaning “plucked out, or selected.” Selection brings ideas into focus. Anything that is scarce can become the subject of intense scrutiny and study, giving way to innovation.
This session invites submissions that explore a productive dialogue between scarcity, creativity, efficiency, and innovation. This can be examined in form of theoretical discussions, rigorous case studies, innovative studio projects, and speculative design or built projects. As resources are becoming increasingly limited globally, the intention of this session is to highlight creative approaches to efficient design, whether in respect to material expenditure, energy use, space consumption, or architectural expression.
Burn it. Bury it. Or send it on a Caribbean Cruise
El Hadi Jazairy, University of Michigan
Rania Ghosn, University of Michigan
These are the four things Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, said could be done with garbage in the wake of the roaming Gar-barge episode. In 1987, the Mobro4000 infamously hauled 3000 tons of trash from New York to Belize and back until it was finally incinerated in Brooklyn and the ash buried where it originated. The mediagenic incident was emblematic of the crisis in solid-waste disposal in American cities. Such episodes, as well as the closure of the Fresh Kills Landfill, make visible the spatiality of waste and fuel the imaginaries of alternative disposal strategies.
The panel addresses the geographic scale where the mass waste disposal intersects with law, politics, ecologies and global economy. By spatially grounding the question of waste, we seek to identify trash’s materialist, political, and representational geographies. Proposals should address waste from a range of different streams: municipal (sewage system, slaughterhouse, incinerator, construction material), industrial (manufacturing, fossil fuel infrastructure), agricultural (poultry farming and food processing plants), military/energetic (decommissioned base, nuclear storage and testing site). The panel will engage contributions on technologies of recycling, re-use and reduction; consider waste as a resource (from the production of energy to its value in market creation); and approaches that explore waste not as an endpoint disposal question, but as a fundamental part of all economic activity. What are the design conditions of the mass burning, burial, abandonment, or exile of economic excess and what new contexts and rituals might designers project?
Alan Berger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Drosscape” describes the full body of residues from economic production leftover in urban areas. Worldwide millions of vacant, abandoned and contaminated former industrial sites exist within the cores of urban territories. The reconceptualization of Drosscape is an epochal moment in urban history now that cities have accumulated more surface residue than at any time in the past century. Drosscape follows the laws of the natural world, most notably the second law of thermodynamics--which work under the rubric that there is no growth without waste. Progress in both nature and civilization produces waste. Waste is necessary. Subsequently, designers shouldn’t chase the illusion of a wasteless world but should promote innovative solutions, at all scales, for inevitable waste to come. To expect a planned city to function without permanent waste (such as in a cradle to cradle approach), which represents the in situ or exported excess not only of its growth but of its maintenance, is as naïve as expecting an animal to thrive in a sensory deprivation tank.
Papers submitted to this subgroup should consider the following issues: How can urban areas, regions, landscapes, infrastructures, be designed to simultaneously use Drosscape as it accumulates? What are innovative approaches to landscape growth and feedback systems in urban evolution. How can cities be explored as active arenas marked by continuous energy flows and transformations of which landscapes and physical buildings and other parts are not permanent but transitional structures? What are Drosscape reprogramming and remediation/containment/cleansing opportunities that include creative planning and design?