The birth of the green

If nature is again in a position to influence architecture as much, if not more than any other cultural domain, how is this to be manifested? If, as this chapter suggests, the division between nature and culture is becoming increasingly blurred, how can 'nature' be a clear paradigm at all? The answer lies in the cause of this loss of demarcation. There is a blur because culture is able increasingly to understand and imitate the operations of nature. This imitation is of a very different order from mimicking the way that parts of it look, or are organized. It is the flexibility, the reactive and transformational capacities of the organic that scientists are now seeking to emulate in materials, computers and robotics, rather than the traditional idea of the organic as forms that ape those found in nature, or as the use of 'natural' materials, or as a perfectly organized whole in which all the parts are essential and propor tionally related. In 'biomimesis', scientists look at everything from the way the brain learns through trial and error, so that robots may do the same, to the way a fish moves through the water, so that submarines can become similarly flexible and energy efficient:

The apparent veil between the organic and the manufactured has crumpled to reveal that the two really are, and always have been, of one being...[There is a] common soul between organic communities we know of as organisms and ecologies, and their manufactured counterparts of robots, corporations, economies and computer circuits... (Kelly, 1994: 3).

This suggests a radical reappraisal of the building as physical object, and consequently, of the relationship between architecture and nature. John Frazer is both closer to it and further away than, say, Gehry or Eisenman. Closer, in that he is attempting to approach design in terms of 'active' rather than inert matter; further away, in that this evolutionary architecture can't, or can't yet, be built. What, then, is possible if we stay within the parameters of that which is buildable, however 'deconstructed'? Present environmental architecture imitates the organic in its adaptation to differing climatic and physical conditions, as this is immediately achievable within existing environmental and architectural economies. Dynamic operation is being explored by those formerly dedicated to older mechanical technologies, architects like Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, but it is still in its infancy: a few condition-sensitive moving parts run by computers that can barely cope with even this level of complexity. A new generation of materials and systems is required to begin to realize in built form Frazer's 'living' computer creations:

The ultimate smart structure would design itself. Imagine a bridge which accretes materials as vehicles move over it and it is blown by the wind. It detects the areas where it is overstretched...and adds material until the deformation falls back within a prescribed limit...The paradigm is our own skeleton (Beukers and van Hinte, 1999: 47).

Neither the formal experiment of Eisenman, however, nor the technophilia of Foster and Rogers embraces all aspects of nature-as-complexity. Both, in their widely divergent ways, over-generalize in environmental terms. This generalization is valuable, in that it enables us to perceive something that would otherwise remain implicit, and therefore invisible, within the particular. But such generalization excludes another aspect of complexity-within-nature: differentiation. In this context, differentiation refers to different ecosystems in different climates and different topographies. By emerging from the (differentiated) ground up, vernacular architecture has traditionally embodied the differentiation found in nature. Industrial technology, on the other hand, is incapable of differentiating without conscious efforts to inflect itself. 'Operationalists' like Rogers and Foster do not see the need to do so, and are replacing universal mechanical technology with a new universal 'green' technology of photovoltaic cells, reactive glazing and computers. The results, like Foster's Reichstag resurrection, at first gave little visibil ity to the profound cultural shift such a technological shift implies (Plate 13). In later projects of both Foster and Rogers, however, there are significant changes in the palette of materials used, and thus in the message being conveyed. For example, the use of wood by these architects is markedly on the increase (Plate 14). Limiting the degree of architectural transformation - particularly in choice of materials - reduces the environmental benefit of such buildings. Why do it? To preserve an established architectural identity, or a particular kind of performance, over maximum energy efficiency. When scientists pursuing biomimesis produce artificial 'smart skins' that act successfully like living skin, which are impermeable to water and permeable to air, heal themselves, and grow an insulating layer when needed and shed it when not, these 'High Tech' architects will no doubt be the first to experiment with them. When technologies are developed that enable the building to track the sun like a flower, moving around to face it or hide from it, opening up or closing down to allow or exclude more solar gain; when, in short, buildings have the technological capacity to regulate themselves automatically to maintain internal equilibrium the way organisms do, these architects will doubtless lead the way, but where? 'Where Chaos begins, classical science stops' (Gleick, 1994: 3), and, perhaps, where nature-as-complexity begins, conventional assumptions about architecture stop.

Such claims of an end to architecture-as-we-know-it have been made before, most recently by those who experimented with deconstruction. Those claims, however, were made on the basis of formal disruptions. Underneath, the buildings remained resolutely conventional in their pursuit of an ordered internal environment, in the consumption of fossil fuels to this end, and in the economic and political relationships that made the production of such a 'rebellion' possible, with such work almost always commissioned by institutional (i.e. establishment) clients. In fact, the work currently being produced by Foster, Rogers, Grimshaw, Future Systems, etc., dubbed 'Eco-Tech' by Catherine Slessor (1998), embodies a more profound shift away from 'imperial modernism' than either historicist or deconstructive post-modernism. Though no less embedded in the political and economic status quo, 'Eco-Tech' seeks a different relationship between building and physical environment from the conventional one, and achieves it by trying to push high technology past its 'imperial' phase, rather than abandoning it altogether. An enormous amount of research goes into these projects. In fact, the only reason we can discuss buildings as miniature power stations, putting new clean energy into the grid, is because some of these architects have picked up the R&D ball and run with it (Figs. 2.8-9). 'Eco-Tech', however, is only a beginning, some exigent environmentalists would say a false start, in establishing a more symbiotic relation between the built and natural environments. The model of nature-as-complexity suggests possible directions for architecture that environmental architecture, whatever its stripe, has barely begun to entertain.

In his book Out of Control, Kevin Kelly (1994) outlines what he calls the 'Nine Laws of God'. These govern what he calls 'the incubation of somethings from nothing', and are therefore certainly applicable to buildings. The commandments which could have some bearing on the

The Turbine Tower, Tokyo, Richard Rogers Partnership: research project with Ove Arup and Partners and Imperial College.

The Turbine Tower, Tokyo, Richard Rogers Partnership: research project with Ove Arup and Partners and Imperial College.

The Turbine Tower: section models showing thermal response of building in summer (left) and winter (right). On the winter model, wind turbines can be seen sitting between the aerodynamically designed office building and the service

The Turbine Tower: section models showing thermal response of building in summer (left) and winter (right). On the winter model, wind turbines can be seen sitting between the aerodynamically designed office building and the service building-as-physical-object, and by extension, the-building-as-cultural-object, instruct architects to (1) 'control from the bottom up', (2) 'maximize the fringes', (3) 'have multiple goals', and (4) 'seek persistent disequilibrium'.

(1) 'Control from the bottom up'

When everything is connected to everything in a distributed network, everything happens at once. When everything happens at once, wide and fast-moving problems simply route around any central authority. Therefore overall governance must arise from the most humble independent acts done locally in parallel, and not from a central command (Kelly, 1994: 469).

If applied to architecture on a technical level, this law means that one no longer tries to control, centrally and crudely, the overall internal conditions of a building. Instead, local sensors, informing a computer-controlled Building Management System (BMS), would enable the building to react locally to variable conditions, for example, to those on the north side as opposed to those on the south side. These multipli-citous local reactions would minimize energy expenditure and loss by organizing themselves into an intricately balanced overall reaction to external conditions: an overheating south side would provide heat for an underheated north side, for example.

(2) 'Maximize the fringes'

A diverse heterogeneous entity...can adapt to the world in a thousand daily mini-revolutions, staying in a state of permanent, but never fatal churning. Diversity favors...the outskirts...moments of chaos...In economic, ecological, evolutionary and institutional models, a healthy fringe speeds adaptation, increases resilience, and is almost always the source of innovations (Kelly, 1994: 469).

In other words, the rewards of the first law mentioned are spelled out in this second one: a building with a system of local, continuous compensatory reactions will provide greater adaptation, resilience and energy efficiency than a generalized model.

(3) 'Have multiple goals'

Simple machines can be efficient, but complex adaptive machinery cannot be. A complicated structure has many masters and none of them can be served exclusively (Kelly, 1994: 469).

A quite radical reconceiving of the building's task is implicit here. A conventional machine has one or several fixed tasks and performs them. It is a closed system: it does what it is designed to do. Once fixed, the machine will not respond to other tasks. There is thus a finitude in both machine and task. Similarly, in a conventional building of any kind, the task, both formal and environmental, is to defend the closed system. A 'free-running' building aims only for a range of temperatures that achieve a less precise level of comfort. An open, as opposed to a sealed, building cannot do otherwise. It makes itself vulnerable to external conditions in a way sealed buildings deliberately avoid. This multiplies the variables it must react to.

(4) 'Seek persistent disequilibrium'

Equilibrium is death. Yet unless a system stabilises to an equilibrium point, it is no better than an explosion and just as soon dead. A nothing, then, is both equilibrium and disequilibrium. A something is persistent disequilibrium - a continuous state of surfing on the edge between never stopping and never falling (Kelly, 1994: 469).

Disequilibrium is forced upon a building if it seeks to adapt to, rather than oppose, change. I am not referring here to demountable buildings, but to buildings, which, although enduring, may have constantly metamorphosing forms rather than a fixed configuration. Elements may be culturally identifiable, but in a reactive building, internal consistency may well be achieved through external flexibility. That is, if an environmental equilibrium is wanted inside, it may be achieved by a persistent formal disequilibrium outside. This does not necessarily imply the building looks like an organism, but that it operates like one. Amoebic forms are of interest to a certain group of architects exploring non-linearity (see Chapter 6), but are by no means the only option. A 'biomimetic' building implies a self-regulating operational order that emerges from the edges, rather than being imposed from the centre, but that in no way determines the form. There is no one design 'solution', no style that is dictated by nature-as-complexity. Architects would have as much autonomy and as many choices as they do now.

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

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