Environment and Architecture

Below is the essay topic

Week 6: How does anthropocentrism come across in thinking about the built environment? How does architecture activate biological and cultural understanding? Do human sensibilities (feelings, anxieties, etc.) have a history; if so, how are they demonstrated? 

13) Discuss instances where environmental thinking, broadly conceived, has impacted on contemporary architecture theory, education and practice. Try to identify recent debates that articulate the ethical context for such instances. Is the embrace of ESD [environmentally sustainable design] principles the panacea that many put forward?


            Architectural theory can be traced to the traditional thinking as a chronological flow of movements and styles that conflicted in history, drawing its application in the 20th-century postmodernism, modernism, and the Gothic styles of the 19th century.  The classification of certain architectural designs through naming them is based on the traditional mindset of the effect of environment on architectural designs.  Environment defined as the immediate surroundings of man has shaped the architectural designs since time immemorial. Paleontologists believe that the early man did not live in an enclosed structure due to the climate and environment that favored sustenance and there were no diseases. However, in the wake of industrial revolutions, the resultant effect of civilization gave rise to new forms of architecture. The man started changing the outlook regarding the need to have an architecture that could satisfy the needs requested by the changing environment. As contested by David (2002), the Classical architects did not have a good term to describe the concept of environment amid the 1970s.

Before the commencement of the 20th century, there was a recorded significant position that man had taken, regarding the effect and relation of architectural designs and environment.[1] The concept of environmentalism has diverged, evolved and developed into a multifaceted network of philosophies, behaviors and ideas. The network of ideas and philosophies has resulted in the concept of anthropocentrism, where man is regarded as the central creature in the umbrella of environmental ethics that deals with human beings and the need to value the environment. The effect of human beings on the environment is due to the activities that make environment vulnerable and unworthy of living. Man is the main species that anthropocentric philosophies view to be affected by a misused environment. Biblical perspective about the plenitude of nature, trace back to the ties of Adam and Eve (David 2002). The perspective about the creation of architects that serve as the comfort is culturally reflected by the Biblical belief of the existence of paradise on earth.

Recent Debates: Anthropocentrism and Built Environment

There have been recent environmental debates regarding the role of environment in shaping the postmodern architectural forms. While most people could reason that the growing global population has resulted in limited resources due to exploitation to satisfy the basic human needs such as shelter, food, and clothing, the cornucopian philosophers have a different view. The cornucopian anthropocentric philosophers advocate the famous cornucopian environmental perspective that disapproves the claims that the resources presented by nature are under a serious phase of depletion.[2] Furthermore, the cornucopian point of view disagrees with the proposal by postmodern and modern environmentalists that when the human population capacity exceed the Earth’s carrying capacity, it will result in famine, war, and conflicts for scarce resources. The cornucopian stand is that technology will be established to save the Earth’s most special species, man, from problems presented by resource scarcity. The argument is that the rate of population growth and depletion of natural resources is an exaggerated aspect as nature reacts in a way that counteracts the inadequacies. Their proponents are that man should not be placed under legal control so as to stop exploiting what nature has for him. The protection environment should come second after valuing the existence of man…

[1] Fieldson, Rosi. 2014. Architecture & Environmentalism: Movements & Theory in Practice. 2. UK: University of Newcastle.

[2] Guy, and Farmer. 2001. ” Reinterpreting Sustainable Architecture: The Place of Technology.” Journal of Architectural Education 140-148.

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