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The Most Powerful: An Article Articulating The Most Powerful Design Principle

The Most Powerful: An Article Articulating The Most Powerful Design Principle

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Published by Gregory Crawford
an attempt to name the most powerful sustainable design principle.
an attempt to name the most powerful sustainable design principle.

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Gregory Crawford on Mar 29, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/29/2011

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1
 
W
hat
did 
I find to be the most powerful/productivesustainable design technique, as I did indeed intend todiscover?
Car-free/pedestrian/slow streets? No. Living rooftops? No again. Urbanparks and gardens, then? No. It’s not quite as simple as all that. Albeit,these crucial elements of a healthy and sound design strategy, theserather obvious components, became quickly eclipsed.
The quarter’s research proffers no definitive, straightforward technique -such as, say, lightweightconcrete, recycled blue-jean insulation, or some other material, nor deep green skyscrapers,public transport, or other lone feature. None are substantial enough to sate my curiosity; assolitary techniques the aforementioned tend to be isolative and limiting, neglecting and evenignoring their surroundings, thereby diminishing potential impact. In other words, these creationsoften become mere pockets of adjustments in an otherwise unaffected cityscape; lonely piecesunable to engage with the puzzle. The city is a complex system; the city -as are all our builtenvironments- is a multi-faceted, interlocking and interacting collection, and it ought to betreated as such.Instead the 'technique' of greatest gravity and potential appears to be threefold and urges us to:
reconsider 
the magnitude and complexity of our cities;
imagine
advantageous alternatives andimprovements; and, finally,
react 
; I’ll start from the top.
W
hat is the city? “Cities are by far the largest creations of humanity (Register, 2006).” That’sdefinitely something. “We’re surrounded by the built environment at almost every moment of theday; it is the frame through which our experiences are filtered.” Continuing: “Operating them has
 
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the greatest destructive impact on nature than any human activity (…) yet (they) also shelter andlaunch many of our most creative collaborations and cultural adventures, arts, and artifacts.”Nevertheless, “we have no science, study, discipline, or art of ecologically healthy city building.”How can this be? That our largest creations -humanity’s greatest destruction and epicenter of creativity- are unstudied? This had better be an overstatement… otherwise it just may be theultimate human folly of all time.“As we build, so shall we live. The city -this arrangement of buildings, streets, vehicles, andplanned landscapes that serve as home- organizes our resources and technologies and
shapes our forms of expression
(emphasis added).” Shapes our forms of expression… “What we buildcreates possibilities for, and limits on the way we live.” Is Mr. Register suggesting that our citiesinfluence us to such an extent as to
create us?
Do the cities we make, make us? In creating our built environments, do we create ourselves? Conscious evolution... “It is the frame throughwhich our experiences are filtered” (Manaugh, 2009). This is the field considered undeserving of study?In fact -for lack of 
any
name- Richard Register invented a term to describe such a field of study.“Where is the science and art of investigating, describing, designing, and building healthy cities?Not having found it, I have tried to spell out its beginnings here in this book, and propose to callit “ecocitology” (Register, 2006).
 
W
hile Richard Register has invented new terminology to expand our understanding of, and our intimacy with the built environment, one Geoff Manaugh expands definitions. “Rethinkingarchitecture—rethinking landscapes, cities, and the way we’ve designed our everyday lives—is ashortcut to rethinking the whole world, and a great deal of this boils down to expanding our definition of architecture. Where architecture can be found, what it can be, and who created it.
 
1
(…) From airports and shopping malls to blockbuster action films, from
Bioshock 
(a video game)and prison camps to the canopies of giant sequoias, there are structures and spatial frameworkseverywhere. Mars rovers are architectural; they are structured explorations of landscape andspace. Haunted house novels are architectural. Mt. Everest base camps, Tokyo storm drains,abandoned biowarfare ranges in the former Soviet Union, and the inaudible songs of Libyan sanddunes: These are all wide open to architectural discussion” (Manaugh, 2009).Either way -inventing words or expanding existing ones- it is clear that we need to re-evaluateour perceptions of the built environment in order to understand it and our relationship to it. Ascrass as it sounds, we can barely manage even talking about cities, architecture, or design for lack of verbal adequacy.Unfortunately, this challenge isn’t the only stacked deck in the game. These ideas have been sofar removed from the general public that it is almost embarrassing. Because the design of thebuilt environment drastically affects (some would even say shapes) everyone, naturally it shouldnecessitate everyone’s awareness (to some degree; at the very least, simple recognition). In fact,participation should be encouraged and respected for what it is and what it can achieve. At leastsomeone has wondered: “what do janitors or security guards or novelists or even housewives--letalone prison guards or elevator-repair personnel--think about the buildings around them? Whatdo suburban teenagers think about contemporary home design, when their own bedrooms areright next door to their parent--or what do teenagers think about urban planning, when they haveto drive an hour each way to get to school?” Why aren’t these professions and these peopleincluded in design and planning? Aren’t they affected by design? Yes. Are their lives dictated bydesign? To a very real degree, yes again. Pray tell, why are they excluded? Geoff Manaughcontinues to call it out: “These sorts of apparently trivial experiences of the built environment are

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