Extreme Environments is a MArch Thesis Research lab run by Nataly Gattegno, Associate Professor of Architecture and eLAB coordinator. Link to our blog to follow the research, exploration and experiments developed by 10 MArch Thesis students at CCA. Extreme Environments is one of four research trajectories explored this year.
Ecosystems in ecology are described by networks of agents that self-organize into complex hierarchies of patterns and processes. The “system” in “ecosystem” implies the importance of interaction between multiple parts. Distinctly different from the evaluative term “environmental,” ecosystem ecology describes the behavioral logics of the system – the eco-logics: the inputs and triggers as opposed to the outputs and effects. An ecosystemic design process is not primarily concerned with an architecture of the object, but with the management of external environmental influences and internal programmatic energies. Energy management becomes the regulator and designer of these relationships.
Energy forms are distinctly different from postwar explorations into material optimization and efficiency. Energy forms privilege exchange and feedback and describe architectural systems that are in reciprocal relationship with their environments. Architecture is thus no longer conceived as a fixed entity determined by a singular energy type or influence. It is a highly complex ecosystem of multiple energies and influences that are in constant exchange with the environment in which they are situated.
This lab will explore these topics and investigate this expanded definition of ‘energy’ by exploring territories of excessive and moderate ‘energies’. In order to test this hypothesis we will explore conditions of minimal and maximal energy inputs and gage, design, experiment with the outputs. What are the implications of designing at the extreme – far beyond the normative? What are the implications for design at the minimum or maximum? What other territories of design are revealed in the folds of these conditions? How do we leverage them to question the normative, the conventional, the average and the mean? How do we design with and at the extreme?
This lab investigates design at the limits of our inhabitable environments, by exploring the possibilities of design at the edge of our comfort zones, the perimeter of our culture, the boundary of our politic, the border of our geographies and the limits of our technology. Territories of excess and deficit are usually conceived of as wastelands, drosscapes, terrain vagues – places where abundance and scarcity define inaccessible landscapes. Rarely are they conceived of as alternative places of occupation that question notions of site, energy, program, form and geometry.
Methodologically, excess and deficit will be interpreted as design tools – with directionality, intensity and temporality. What is an architecture of excess? Unexpected interdependencies are generated and new economies of scale and geometric and performative hybrids emerge that question conventional notions of occupation. The methodologies developed will therefore have to be resilient, adaptive, absorptive and able to recover from disturbance and accommodate change. Resilience at the extreme does not imply a condition of fortification and defense, but one of robustness and vigor. Resilient systems thrive and evolve.