Tag Archives: nature

Natalie Jeremijenko: creative sustainability

I very much like the work of Natalie Jeremijenko. I first encountered it at Mass MoCA. At the time I hated it. But since I have come to appreciate it. This piece talks about many things: the tenacity of nature; the strange stresses that we humans place on the natural world; the interaction between the natural and the artificial (I’d love other comments about interpretations).

Natalie Jeremijenko at Mass MoCA

Her TED talk is also quite nice. In particular I like the way she thinks about the built environment and its role in remediating industrial ills. I especially like the solar chimney in its elegant simplicity. It takes advantage of two very fundamental concepts: hot air rises; and the color black absorbs the most amount of sun, creating hot air.

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Language

I’ve been struggling with how to get at the teaching of environmental issues in the studio. What I am coming to recognize is that it is not an issue of understanding some technology, but a more fundamental understanding of and appreciation for the way natural systems work, and how buildings can manipulate or be manipulated by those systems.

So, how do we get at this, yet retain the poetry of our formal investigations? After all, this is how we were raised as architects, dedicated to formal and spatial preoccupations.

My answer is language. Change the focus of the investigation. I have questioned language in the studio for many years, in one form or another. Usually I question culturally loaded words, and ask to challenge the received meaning. Words like window and door are dangerous, especially today in the world of Revit, where they are lazy blocks or families, casually inserted. Instead, use a more ambiguous term like aperture, and begin to describe the qualities desired.

So, too, with engaging natural systems. The goals of poetic form are there, but in the service of engaging the natural world. The focus changes, but the development of architectural language proceeds. Issues of spatial sequencing, tectonic language, scale, hierarchy, rhythm, linear, planar, volumetric, all this continues unabated.

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