Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

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Session Overview
C: Paper Session_C2: Bio-Design, Linguistics and Social Change
Thursday, 08/Apr/2021:
1:45pm - 3:15pm

Panel Moderator: Laura Holden Hollengreen

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Towards a Post-Anthropocene Bio-Design Practice

Assia Stefanova

Newcastle University, United Kingdom

The paper seeks to identify two different epistemological approaches within bio-design that have emerged as a result of historical and scientific influences, which are differentiated by methodological, linguistic, and ethical factors. The paper examines how such differences impact the design process and a framework for eco-centric design thinking is proposed.

Biological processes and living organisms have entered the fields of architecture and design, offering new solutions to ecological problems. In employing other species within the built environment, ethical implications for working with living organisms arise. The attitudes and methods adopted within the field of bio-design can be traced back to our historical relationship with nature. Humanity’s views on nature and the environment were radically redefined during the Enlightenment, adopting a mechanistic framework, depriving nature of its agency through a virulent rejection of mysticism, animism, and the Earth Mother image. These views were strengthened by the Industrial Revolution and later, 20th century practices enabled mass production and gluttonous use of finite natural resources. Within design, these mechanistic principles have been applied in the field of bio-technology that is at the service of humanity, being integrated into the built environment in a similar way to inanimate matter. At the other end of the spectrum lies a non-anthropocentric bio-design practice that is based upon pre-Enlightenment thinking and the shift in rhetoric brought about by research into animal sentience, symbiosis and Gaia theory, which highlights human participation in complex interspecies networks. This ecological discourse postulates new modes of thinking within the field of design, placing humanity within a multitude of interdependent relationships, highlighting the need for human responsibility towards living organisms in the built environment and bringing forth a different set of ethical considerations within bio-design practice.

Utterances and Similes: An Exploration of Participation and Linguistics in Architecture

Noémie Despland-Lichtert, Brendan Sullivan Shea

Texas Tech University, Lubbock, United States of America

In 1955, philosopher and linguist John Langshaw Austin coined the concept of "performative utterance", a form of speech that both includes a call for action and a transformation of reality. This type of short sentence is both describing reality and, simultaneously, changing it through the power of speech. Another figure of speech, comparing two different things by explicitly highlighting their similarities, is known as the simile. This paper explores how the concept of performative utterance and simile can be applied to architecture, to comprehend interactive, participatory, and durational “performative spaces”. The paper asks: how a space can intrinsically call for its own transformation? How can an environment explicitly respond and transform itself through interaction and participation? What is the meaning of a simile in architecture? What is the role of Architecture Curating? In this paper, we investigate performative projects—those calling for action and triggering their own transformation through users' participation—by examining a series of interactive, transformative, and durational spaces and curatorial projects. Ultimately, we argue that the ephemeral and interactive nature of performative spaces serves to transfer agency from architects and curators to audiences, including new spectators and users, inclusive participants, and activators, therefore creating an expanded cultural dialogue and critical discourse for the discipline of architecture.

New Reality. New Architecture.

Salah Imam1, Brian Sinclair2

1School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Calgary + McFarlane Biggar architects inc., Canada; 2School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Calgary + sinclairstudio inc., Canada

The last few decades can be characterized, socially and physically, by rapid shifts and intense impacts. Climate changes year after year, as does advanced technology and human behaviour. Environmental catastrophes and infectious outbreaks—such as global warming and COVID-19—force the re-forming of entire cities and regions, imposing high human and economic costs. The built environment cannot keep up with these deviations—rather it simply, in best case scenarios, endeavour to limit damages. Through our ongoing research into flexible architecture, particularly in residential projects, the most common perceptions have expensive and negative connotations. For many industry professionals, flexible design has been branded as costly, difficult to deploy, and demanding state-of-the-art gadgetry. Such views have been driven, in part, by technical attempts to future proof buildings through the application of specific parameters such as movable partitions or pursuing over-engineering.

Why then, after more than a century of attempts to design for flexibility, the issue is still marginalized to the profession at large? Through synthesizing of the existing literature, it became obvious that design approaches have focused primarily on physical flexibility. This overly narrow approach leaves the user and the environment out of the equation, leading to inevitable failure of the built-environment’s capacity to respond to social or environmental changes. The present research argues that achieving flexible buildings demands a more balanced and integrated approach, namely the pursuit and realization of Agile Architecture. A re-conceptualization is needed that goes beyond matters of durability to more nuanced views of buildings as socialized products constantly in the making and always responding to a milieu of change.

The authors’ initial impressions reveal limited studies about architecture that responds to change, expressed in generalized texts and case studies. Through comprehensive review, it is apparent that the subject of change in architecture is not only linguistically disjointed but offers little critical reflection on what had been proposed and/or built. In responding to that realization, the present research contextualizes the gap by underlining the industry mindset (via a survey to illuminate contextual barriers against formulating/implementing such an innovative approach) and studying current residential design practices (via seminal cases of projects strategically drawn from global cities, illustrating progressive concepts within the design, legislative and/or financial ethos). The paper positions Agile Architecture in the context of environmental, social and economic sustainability, then delineates progress along a multifaceted journey that aspires to dramatically reconsider the way we design buildings.

In many respects, this research is about the future, about changing conservative design thinking where ideas are at best variations of the status quo. The unprecedented consequences of COVID-19 and climate change, mark what the authors see as the beginning of the end of traditional architecture design. Incongruously, almost every traditional AEC organization, while trying to figure out its place in this changing world, is stubbornly trying to build a bulwark to protect old models that can’t possibly survive the sea of change under way. Thus, from the authors’ perspective, if change is the new problem; Agility is the new solution.

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