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Friday, October 14, 2011

Design for Survival with Collaboration

Architecture combines a problem-solving thought process with a background of knowledge, the advice of collaborating technical disciplines and the influence of art. The result is defined in a set of contract documents that relate the information and knowledge assembled in a unique combination of drawings and specifications. These documents represent a tactical strategy executed by field commanders with a mind of their own. Architecture remains a tactical effort without a leadership strategy, however, because context knowledge is missing and environmental preservation remains a political tennis match.

Architects create tactical strategies for shelter construction. It is a collaborative effort that produces battles with nature across a planet that no longer appears to be an infinite source of shelter and survival. The age of preservation is upon us, but architects are limited by the knowledge they can borrow; and by owner decisions that are only limited by government regulation.

Architectural appearance has always symbolized the collaborative effort, decisions and cultural influences of the time; but image is the primary message conveyed over centuries, and architecture is now considered by many to be a fine art. As a result, education borrows technical knowledge from engineering and teaches problem-solving by emphasizing the instincts of creativity, but lacks the tools needed to evaluate hundreds of options in the time it takes to sketch one.

Environmental awareness gives new meaning to the collaboration required from art and science; and architects have been inadvertently prepared for the challenge with a design education that combines practical knowledge with creative problem-solving and collaborative awareness. Architecture is an expression of the collaboration and evaluation connected with design logic, and in exceptional circumstances its appearance ascends to the level of fine art.

Architects are beginning to recognize: (1) that design logic can connect land to shelter with development capacity evaluation and context decisions in the public and private interest; (2) that design evaluation is empowered with context knowledge; and (3) that design can contribute to land conservation and environmental preservation when it understands the context implications of shelter intensity options.

It helps to keep the goal in mind when pondering this issue. The goal is a limited Built Domain: (1) that protects its source of survival, the Natural Domain, and (2) that provides growing populations with shelter, movement, open space and life support solutions without compromising their physical, social, psychological and economic quality of life.

Context knowledge is a key. Development capacity forecasting is a tool for the prediction of shelter options within limits. Context knowledge is needed to evaluate the options predicted. Architecture can make a contribution to a leadership strategy for survival with this tool, but it requires collaboration with those beyond engineering to accumulate the context knowledge required for evaluation. This further complicates the architecture of city design, which is where confusion becomes visible and results become threatening.

The unrecognized premise of architecture, engineering, planning, and real estate law has been sprawl; but environmental science is implying that sprawl must be contained before it consumes our finite source of survival. If the implication is accepted, the challenge has multiplied before the design problem has been defined. This problem can be expressed with two questions: (1) What are the realistic limits for our Built Domain if the Natural Domain’s ability to support life is to be protected, and (2) What is the development capacity of land within the Built Domain to provide shelter, movement, open space and life support systems that protect our physical, social, psychological and economic health, safety and welfare?

The answer to Question (2) requires context measurement and collaborative evaluation to build knowledge; and it requires development capacity forecasting to predict options and consider implications based on the knowledge acquired. I’ve mentioned in my previous essays that this is the subject of my book and attached software for the Shelter Division of the Built Environment. Question (1) represents a design problem that must be written by others with the credibility to convince the population of a planet.

Collaboration, information and knowledge are pre-requisites for the creative design solutions needed to address the two questions posed. Architecture has a very long history of participating in similar efforts of smaller scope, but it cannot overcome a negative political climate without adequate representation. It is truly a challenge of gigantic proportions for future generations of networked specialists in need of leadership to design for survival.

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