Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ecological v. Ego-logical

We overheard some criticism the other day: "I don't get it. There isn't really anything new about this."
And generally they're right. After fighting off the natural urge to argue that it is indeed new, I think it best to respond more nimbly. So a few counter-questions:

What does being "new" have to do with creating productive, meaningful, and responsible architecture? This urgency among us to constantly be creating anew what often is not broken; What good does it bring? A deviation from need, humility, and civic duty. The Moai of Easter Island are a perfect example. Labor- and material-intensive statues everywhere one looks, each one larger than the previous. They suggest a cultural battle for dominance which quickly leads to a collapsing civilization  unable to organize or feed itself.

This isn't to say that innovation should be halted, but rather that 'new' shouldn't exist only for new's sake. And having the knowledge of all those who have done these things before us - these things which are highly resourceful, effective, attainable, and sustainable - we might inquire why they aren't a more prevalent entity. This thesis directly seeks to call attention to that which is old, plain, and obvious: waste. It's the overlooking of all of this material that we find incredible. There is much to learn from primitive ways of working and living which is regularly overlooked in our so-called developed society. So what's new here?

A recognition of the flexibility in materials so regularly overlooked. A movement past professional and social taboos. Spaces which not only address cultural circumstances on a very intimate level but which establish a new aesthetic which at once modest and stimulating.

Buffalo isn't a part of a third world country. The house and our own lives are embedded within a modern culture of readily available water and energy and iPhones and a culture which practices a life very different from our own. How our mediated way of living begins to insert itself into this pervasive culture becomes part of the challenge and part of the intrigue.

Our work may be seen as a sort of exaggeration – a critique of consumerism and the indifference to waste which has become the norm, of the sterility and preciousness of “high design.” If the responsibility of the architect is to situate material among context, the challenge is not to achieve a trashless space, but more flexible aesthetic and functional criteria to embed it in. Waste isn’t something to be shunned, but an underutilized resource capable of far more than we generally like to admit – not only a driver of ecological systems and financial accessibility, but an instigator of new breeds of architecture.

And that's not to say that "high design" is bad or shouldn't exist or is entirely selfish. Rather, that with a billion squatters currently in the world and billions of others who haven't reached the bliss all-marble furniture and LED facades, the amount of time, energy, and investment (and education) that goes into such projects is disproportional to our current needs.

"Innovative architecture," Googled

Kowloon Walled City

We don’t seek to redefine the profession of architecture – but to realign it with some of the more fundamental human necessities and desires which spawned the profession – and do to so in a way that is not only retrospective, but sensitive to the current cultural and economic climate. We seek to provoke a way of practicing, way of thinking, way of life – that we hope can become a more prominent figure in architectural practice.

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