A MONUMENT IN THE WILD.
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
There is no one solution to save the planet and the only solution is a cumulative collaboration throughout all industries and professions to better our routines and practices in order to save the planet. Architecture has perhaps one the more direct relationships with the environment, and it is our duty as professionals in the construction industry to innovate and engage in creative solutions to design and build on our dying planet.
Some of the more popular solutions to sustainability may look like the Bosco Verticale, in Milan Italy, where sustainability is achieved by the vertical forest the building allows to happen. The provocation with this building is in the nature of forests and gardens that are traditionally on earth, and lateral. Replanting trees and gardens in the city, where space shrinks by the year, may have to look up, into the sky. The building does have a fair share of criticisms, as would anything that defies the normality of society, but the point of the structure is to change how we think about replanting trees and gardens.
I would like to present a though, that this kind of solution is only one type that architecture touches on, a solution that deals with the building itself, and a way to make itself more sustainable. Architecture can play a much bigger role in society, one that is not looking for a solution, but looking to educate the context it lives in.
In the early years of my BA(Hons) at the University of Brighton, Luis Diaz, my tutor at the time suggested a perspective on respecting the environment that has always stuck with me. He suggested that:
Respecting the environment does not always mean you should mimic it or try to incorporate as much of it into the building, however, respect can be attained by doing the exact opposite!
Crazy I know, but stay with me. Designing a building that respects the environment can proclaim its respect by stating the clear difference between the structure and the context it lies in. Think of this as a marriage between two cultures where instead if trying to imitate each other, where this appropriation is actually deemed offensive, but they respect the differences are left to fully express each other. It is only in the face of each other, that they are both noticed and treated accordingly. Are you still with me?
A site with nothing on it is just a site, you think nothing else of it. However, the moment you place an object that looks out of place, suddenly, you realise that there is something out of place as your psyche wants to understand what is happening there. The contrast creates a moment inside of you, that wants to understand the difference, that wants to understand the environment and the building, the wants to know the implications and therefore educate yourself. It is this provocation and contrast that may perhaps create a society that is always looking to understand the contrast, looking to understand the monument and the wild.
Architecture can be the structure of a solution, just like the Bosco Verticale in Milan, but it can also be the facade of a conversation that goes beyond the building. The contrast due to the respect the building has on the context it lays could also talk about the injustice between the social classes of society, and the next example would show.
The image above highlights an architectural structure, that if it were placed in the city, the only conversation that would revolve around it would be the technological advancement that would allow the monumental structure to be built. However, the context in which sits in begs for a deeper conversation between the social structures of society, and how this building would improve the lives of the people around it. The structure is, bringing attention to itself, and therefore attention to the slums it dwells in. This strategy may perhaps create pressure on the governing authorities to do something about the condition of the slums, as the buildings contrast will highlight the poor condition of this area.
I leave you with this. Architecture can provide a solution as we saw in Milan, which is a viable strategy, as it would indeed solve something. However, the educational limits of architecture, through the idea of creating a deliberate and sensitive contrast to its environment, may catalyse conversations that go beyond the structural sustainability of the buildings, but conversations that yearn to understand why this contrast exists, and find different perhaps more effective solutions.