403C.2 Research Studio
Neil Denari, Professor

One of the central and ongoing issues within the larger debate on sustain- ability in urban and architectural design surrounds the extent to which buildings are (or can be) capable of becoming more like nature itself, a soft, self perpetuating eco sphere that responds to internal organizational systems and external forces. At odds with people and with most landscapes, buildings have in the past, at least in terms of energy, drawn from everything else and given nothing back, a less than reciprocal relationship that has placed a black cloud over the head of architecture.

This research studio, Of a Controlling Nature, is sponsored by a number of issues but first and foremost it is about the attack on architecture today: BUILDINGS MUST CHANGE OR ELSE! This headline can be read in one of two ways. One, yes they must, on a metabolic level, they should be lean, not fat. And Two, yes they should change, but can’t they still look weird. Can’t they evolve visually even as they attend very earnestly to the matters at hand? Let’s make the problem of aesthetics and the problem of the environment one and the same. Let’s try to make good on the thought that there are new or at least expanded forms to be found out of the tropes and systems that constitute environmentally sensitive design. There were rule books of great value written before (especially during the 1960’s) such as Ian McHarg’s Design with Nature that remain incredibly valuable, but today there are no rulebooks for how design should integrate nature into building. Reyner Banham’s 1969 book, The Architecture of the Well Tempered Environment was not a rulebook but an exhortation for architect’s to manage and manipulate the systems that artificially control the interior environments of buildings, thus giving a critical platform to the future of British High Tech (particularly the 1970’s and 80’s), which by the way, was no doubt the last great era of “responsible” environmental design. Banham sublimated his morals in design, so his texts read more like football (soccer) chants than Sunday morning sermons.


This studio will attempt, at least within its highly stipulated and rarified set – up, to engage the question of the design and representation of an architecture that, while one hesitates to call it (especially before it has been designed!) a new paradigm, is intended to introduce a technical style that is emblematic of BOTH the problems and solutions of contemporary architectural discourse revolving around the image of the sustainable.
Students: Derek Buell, John Gassaway, Jia Gu, Timothy Harmon, Farzad Mirshafiei, Fuk Man Mui, Tas Oszkay, Jaegeun Ryu, Nicholas Solakian.