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The future of Ecological Architecture

Ecological Architecture is a subject much in debate now with the growing consciousness of global warming, especially since it appears buildings are the first greenhouse gas emitters, before industry, transport and any other sector. The challenge of ecological architecture is a time battle because of the escalating damage due to colossal real estate and urban development, particularly in developing countries and new hot spots such as Dubai and Shanghai. Even though these can also be seen as opportunities, it is most likely that much of what will be built in the near future will dramatically increase our ecological footprint, and unless viable and exiting solutions make some headway, we will continue to exert pressure on our environment with consequences we cannot predict fully but that are obviously not desirable.

The purpose of this event is to demonstrate that there are true "visions" out there being tested and experimented that actually develop and enhance our lifestyles instead of simply constraining them. Much of the efforts are concentrated on breaking the pace of building and diminishing consumption, which although necessary as a temporary palliative, in some respect degrade our very appreciated sense of freedom that we have dearly acquired, and worst of all do not compel us to better alternatives.

The stimulus needed should ideally be that there is not only a collective understanding of the imperative, but an ambition that is driven by envy, opening the gate towards a "conscious holistic hedonism" as corner phrased by Niels Peter Flint who founded O2 20 years ago. In other terms, ecological architecture is part of defining lifestyle 2.0 as much as it is wants to safeguard our planet.

Implying we can construct in symbiosis with nature requires that full size living labs experiment a new understanding of dwelling, one that reflects autonomous neighbourhoods, sustainable in terms of functioning and upgradeability. Let us gather and challenge our notions and ordinary conceptions of what architecture is to lift the issue of the environment to increase our quality of life rather than impoverishing it.
We know this will not stand the test of time and unless people think it is enjoyable as much as it makes sense, tax cuts and education will not be enough.

We propose to focus on ecological architecture from the standpoint of the self-sustainable neighbourhood, partly because it sets the problem in urban context, but also allows for new urban design to emerge, even in the countryside, and suburbia will be the main problem in the near future. Also, it is a dimension, which is grounded in reality while allowing space for some dreams and a bit of utopia, and not the least includes industrial partners because of the economies of scale that cannot be achieved by single buildings.

Examples are more and more numerous and beyond looking at ideas, we can debate around the existing good practice performed in places such as Bedzed (UK), or planned in Dongtan (China).

Concept by our moderator Thomas Ugo Ermacora, Founder and creative director, Etikstudio

The topics are:

Malcolm Smith, Director of Integrated Urbanism, ARUP
Human civilization in undergoing a change unparallelled in history. The way in which we live is being fundamentally questioned as we appreciate the impacts that result and the possible consequences. We are beginning to recognize that we need to re-establish a balanced relationship with the environment. Arup sees this as the beginning of 'living in the ecological age', and through our integrated urbanism projects, particularly the Dongtan eco-city project in Shanghai, we are exploring how we can re-establish living in balance with the environment.

Bill Holdsworth, environmental, architectural and energy engineer
Design with a global impact
Ecological design acknowledges that all design has a global impact because of ecosystem connectivity.

In comparison to maintaining a functional integrity of the ecosystem as developed through sustainable actions, ecological design can be seen as environmentally beneficial and productive, a positive contribution to the natural environment. Further ecological design should be a positive act of repair, restoration and renewal of the natural system of the living environment.

The challenge confronting the ecological designer today is to bring a synergy of designing with nature in an environmentally responsible way as well as a positively-contributive way.

Thomas Rau, Director, Rau Architects
RAU meets the world in a spirit of care and respect. In aiming for the unique gestalt to suit the location, the people and the times, we engage with nature in a well-considered and conscientious way, striving in each of our designs to create an example of socially and environmentally responsible architecture.


the future of Ecological Architecture
March 20, 2008
Registration: 18:30-19:00, Conference: 19:00-21:15

Where: Netherlands Architecture Institute, Museumpark 25, 3015 CB ROTTERDAM

The speakers are
Malcolm Smith, Director of Integrated Urbanism, ARUP
About the Dongtan eco-city project in Shanghai

Bill Holdsworth, environmental, architectural and energy engineer
Design with a global impact

Thomas Rau, Director, Rau Architects

Moderated by Thomas Ugo Ermacora, Founder and Creative Director, Etikstudio

We would like to thank our supporters Netherlands Architecture Institute, Etikstudio and Innergy Creations.

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