Biology and Architecture the New Synthesis

In many ways architecture has failed to serve society. Since the turn ir re century, lacking a broad social context, architecture has become vas-l specialized—a bits and pieces business, measured in square feet. Frozen n me. much of current architecture is fad-prone, rapidly dated, and es-<ed from nature. In town planning functional architectural elements e become increasingly separated. People live in one kind of structure ¿re do business in another. Commerce, marketing, trading, and govern-nr-.i functions are all segregated, and manufacturing is located in indust--j.. parks. The growing of food is remote from all of them. The places » ere most of us work and live are separated by distances that only the car overcome.

Children are usually educated at some distance from home. Some of

- r saddest designs in architecture are those of schools—impersonal, often » rdowless, sometimes almost prison-like, buildings. The world of parents

- separate from this daily fortress of the child, and the business person is -- rurated from workers on the shop or factory floor. Few people ever come

- :o contact with the people who grow or process their food. In a frag-

- en ted society we are all victims, intellectually and emotionally. Children : not learn to connect or to see patterns with meaning deeper than trun-¿ ;ed parts of larger wholes. No amount of electronic information or televi-

- ■ n can alter this. In our work, we have distressingly frequently had the ex-renence of asking children where their food comes from. After initially re-

- rending "the store!" they draw a complete blank...they cannot picture re fields, the acres, the farmers, the middlemen of agri-business. The statement that the soil is alive—made up of living matter—usually draws _:ier disbelief-to some people it seems like a product which can only be made rich by the addition of chemicals. For the disparate parts of society to recome more reconnected, the model of nature needs to be studied. Build-res and architectural forms can be created in which living, manufacturing, rood growing and processing, selling, banking, schooling, waste purifica tion, energy production, religious activity, art guilds, governance and recreation are woven together on a neighborhood scale.

Restructuring the building blocks of towns and cities is now a possibility. This is partly because science and technology have reached an un-precendented juncture where centralization, specialization of function, and giantism are no longer either necessary or needed. All of the components of society, including energy, power, waste treatment, transport, and food growing can be decentralized, miniaturized, and integrated on a human scale. Such a restructuring of neighborhoods makes sound economic sense. It allows for more of the face-to-face, cashless exchanges and arrangements that make up the informal sector of economic life. It fosters the process economist Paul Hawken calls disintermediation,3 by which he means a reduction in the number of steps and people involved in the production and distribution of goods. In many cases the most obvious place to begin this process is in the production of food. Neighborhood-grown food from greenhouses or gardens can be sold directly to the consumer by the grower., Processing, packaging, transportation, and retailing are minimized or eliminated.

In the evolving synthesis of biology and architecture a neighborhood could begin to function in a manner analogous to an organism. On the proposed block or neighborhood scale, parts become symbiotic to the whole and the basic social and physical functions work together. The workings are felt and understood by residents, who live with and operate the components.

A town or city can be looked at as made up of building blocks which are smaller communities or neighborhoods, each one similar to more remote self-organizing villages or hamlets. The communities are connected to a central zone where certain larger cultural and political events take place. The relationships are like those of the organisms to the ecosystem of which they are a part. For expression of synthesis, we look to certain earlier settlements. Rudolfsky's book Architecture Without Architects* illustrates some beautiful and profound settlement patterns. Some of the hill towns of Italy, New World pueblos, African lobi, Seripe villages on the Volta, the walled towns of the Near East, and Balinese villages all contain some of the practical and aesthetic elements and relationships which can serve us as models of functioning small communities onto which advanced solar, material, electronic and biotechnical elements could be grafted. Bioshelters could provide the connective elements. Transparent, long-lived skins on struc-

Redesigning Communities

; ms*-ilka ra r tent-like tension forms, similar to the pillow dome at New Alchemy, Mntuc ¿low living, working, teaching, and growing to be part of an overall :rk>.:r-jcture. Such bioshelters could provide most of the energy needed ■awn -enewable energy sources and self heating and cooling in all seasons. 'HEW'1" ¿re capable of significant food production. All wastes would be within «tori: All of these functions reduce the need for transportation and there-- dicate smaller, simpler transportation networks.

Communities incorporating bioshelter technolgies would obviously c themselves for food and energy more than existing towns and cities, re*. would not be islands of complete independence. Interdependen-tr.e exchange of fully developed foods or specialized products, crafts, m still is necessary to provide spice to community life, but each neigh-kmr?< « <1 would be more complete supporting itself on the basic necessities.

Again there are helpful existing models. One of the most beautiful * :n»i Milage built by the extraordinary architect Hassan Fathy in his town, *lic-% i Vmrna, in Egypt. The photographs in his Architecture for the Poor5 are fair ttnglv beautiful. The drawings tell the tale of the workings of the town in« - however, lacks biological elements. A walled town like Qum in Iran i«»iiu_r:s many buildings with domed roofs. One can easily imagine these ■irr-_:cied of transparent materials, creating a peculiarly indigenous form m :»« shelter. Design for comparable communities in temperate areas •rniuo require that the whole village or neighborhood heat itself in winter <«r shaded and cooled in summer. It could have a single envelope roof, ,iar.s :>f which could open, or a series of roofs with a diverse mixture of (pur.r.; and vaulting to create ecosystems and provide private spaces and •; places. Agriculture, the production of electricity, waste purification, -awc-suon. commerce, and fabrication would become interacting elements, '«mi the outer walls would be espaliered orchards and the town could be iHir-r-i b\ lakes and gardens.

A village or community could be created in the form of a wheel. The pokes would be roads and the minor spokes walkway and bicycle ar-All lead to an interior ring or hub. At the center is a lake ringed by jatcr ts and trees framed by a floral border. The village is a mixture of solid uticr rials, transparent membranes, and mass linked to technical and biolog-ctii rements. It can be thought of as a single structure with varying degrees u ;> sure to the sky. It combines the orthodox functions of a village like » and commerce, with a range of biological activities. The sections r »edges designated for agriculture are open to the sky in warm and hot

TDLiir seasons and covered by tent-like transparent envelopes during cold, ing is compactly arranged, but each house has an individual solar yard that is seasonally adjustable. Waste is recycled in interconnect desic bioshelters. Manufacturing, maintenance, and processing are d structures linked by solar envelope canopies, which heat the buildin^ enclose ecosystems providing a living environment and purifying Some of the agricultural zones are open for gardening by residents there is also a section for growing aquatic foods, fishes, shellfish, fl: rice, and water vegetables.

There must, of course, be the familiar structures like churches, fices, and stores, although of necessity in somewhat different form, large aquaculture and agricultural bioshelters provide heating for all public buildings and use the purified wastes from public buildings in trient cycles. In a sense the whole town with its workings and environs comes the school. The village, thus conceived, is a truly autonomous or nism, a functioning whole.

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Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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