Design for Biodiversity: Architectural Approaches to Urban Ecology
The 2013 Hans and Roger Strauch Symposium on Sustainable Design
Urban Ecology is a field of inquiry concerned with the relations between living organisms and their urban environments. Since its emergence in the 1970s, Urban Ecology has produced a wealth of research and has led to the adoption of policies geared towards the preservation of species in and around cities. Most of these actions have addressed the city at the scale of urban planning. Architecture, at the building scale, has thus far not been extensively tackled, and so the questions arise: How might architecture actively support multi-species habitats? Can these habitats help us replace the existing, fossil fuel dependent, mechanistic systems that underpin our settlements with low impact, ecologically integrated systems that leverage natural sources and sinks of energy and material processing capacity? How does reimagining the city as a locus for multi-species mutualistic interaction change the way we think about urban form and phenomenology? And finally, what are the appropriate models to study? These questions offer fertile ground for experimentation in urban ecological thinking and practice, which seeks to extend access to a variety of species and systems, lending flexibility to function, and enabling more effective control of energy, material, and capital flows.
This year’s Strauch symposium will address these questions by focusing on the extended threshold between building and environment. In all ecosystems such zones are the locus of dynamic change driven by evolutionary pressures that emerge at the boundaries of established hierarchies of energy and material transformation. Such places are, by definition, the ideal location for architectural intervention. Urban ecologists and architects will present methods to explore the questions at hand and engage in a discussion to advance research at the intersection of architecture and ecology.