Ar C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – International Expert on Sustainability Implementation + Accessibility-for-All + Fire Safety for All + Sustainable Fire Engineering
2020-09-22: Adopted at the International Fire Conference: SFE 2016 DUBLIN (www.sfe-fire.eu) …
Many years have passed since the 1972 UN Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment and the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. In 2016, Sustainable Development remains an intricate, open, dynamic and continually evolving concept. The guide and driver for frontline practitioners, policy and decision makers must be a personal Code of Ethics … an integrated and inter-related whole which cannot be reduced to fixed rules inviting game playing and ‘trade-offs’. After working with this Code, it may be necessary to expand on and discuss its principles and/or some of the issues raised … not to narrow its focus, but to broaden interpretation.
The realization of a Safe, Inclusive, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment demands a concerted, collaborative, very creative and widely trans-disciplinary effort at national, local, regional and international levels across the whole planet – Our Common Home. The informed operation of appropriate legislation, administrative procedures, performance monitoring and targeting, and incentives/disincentives, at all of these levels, will facilitate initial progress towards this objective … but not the quantity, quality or speed of progress necessary. Our time is running out !
This Code of Ethics applies … for those who subscribe to its values … to policy and decision makers, and the many different individuals and organizations directly and indirectly involved in the design, engineering, construction, and operation (management and maintenance) of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for ALL.
The Purpose of this Code of Ethics is to guide the work of competent individuals and organizations in a context where incomplete or inadequate legislation, administrative procedures and incentives/disincentives exist … but, more importantly, where they do not exist at all … and, amid much confusion and obfuscation of the terms, to ensure that implementation is authentically ‘sustainable’, and reliably ‘safe’ and ‘resilient’ for every person in the receiving community, society or culture … before it is too late !
2020-07-23: Time is fast running out. You have to ask yourself: “Do I feel lucky ? Am I a GreenWasher“ – do I enjoy playing with numbers, relaxing with estimates having tenuous links to reality, cheating the ‘system’ (just like Germany’s Dieselgate), or convincing myself (and everybody else) that progress is being made when the evidence clearly shows that things are getting worse … “or an Implementor ??” – establishing meaningful Benchmarks, setting (and iteratively re-setting) ambitious Performance Targets using reliable, up-to-date data and statistics, then closely monitoring Positive Progress, and reporting Real Verifiable Results …
In 2015 … 193 World Leaders, representing all of the United Nations’ Member States, adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) … placing our world, i.e. its people, environment and limited resources, on a path towards a more sustainable future … more specifically, aiming to ‘free humanity from poverty, secure a healthy planet for future generations, and build peaceful, inclusive societies as a foundation for ensuring lives of dignity for all’.
To properly track the implementation of these consensus goals … reliable, quality, and timely data is vital. Yet, five years later too much of the data is still out-of-date or unavailable, and too many people are being left behind in the numbers. Half of the data used to measure the SDG Target Performance Indicators are missing. Two-thirds of poverty data from Sub-Saharan Africa and global deforestation figures are five years out-of-date. Only 100 countries in the world have nationally-representative data on violence against women, and more than 25 million refugees around the world go uncounted in national statistics.
With only 10 years left to achieve the SDG Targets, there is a critical need NOW for a Data Platform which makes quality and timely data for the SDG’s Accessible to All, improves knowledge of geospatial tools and Geographic Information Systems (#GIS), and builds capacity to use these tools to support global policy and decision making …
In partnership with the Environmental Systems Research Institute (#ESRI) and National Geographic … SDG’s Today: Global Portal for Real-Time Data … is a platform developed by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (#SDSN). This one-of-a-kind open access data platform has the potential to revolutionize how we understand and communicate the urgency of the SDG’s and how solutions are developed, by providing a much-needed virtual space where key stakeholders from around the world can access and engage with timely data (updated annually or in more frequent intervals) on the SDG’s, and learn how to use the data effectively to push Agenda 2030 forward. The platform also houses GIS training and education resources and supports countries and other institutions to produce, share, and engage with the data to help ensure that, together, we meet the global goals by 2030.
Using Data To Effectively Implement The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development …
The Court of Auditors assessed whether EU co-funded energy efficiency investments in buildings had cost-effectively helped the EU towards meeting its 2020 energy saving target. The Auditors concluded that operational programmes and project selection were not driven by a cost-effectiveness rationale. While Member States required buildings to be renovated to save a minimum of energy and improve their energy rating, this sometimes happened at a high cost. Because of a lack of comparative assessment of project merits and of minimum/maximum thresholds for cost-effectiveness, projects delivering higher energy savings or other benefits at lower cost were not prioritised. In overly-polite language, they recommend improving the planning, selection and monitoring of investments to improve the cost-effectiveness of spending.
With all of the Hot Air and Ridiculous Hoopla about improving Energy Conservation and Efficiency in New Buildings (Green, BREEAM, PassivHaus, LEED, nZEB, etc., etc.) … by far the biggest Energy Problem is with Europe’s Existing Building Stock. This Auditor’s Report shows that Progress in Meeting Agreed EU Targets is dismal, and there is still a cynical approach in Member States to the use of EU Funding …
The words ‘green’, ‘environmental’, ‘ecological’ and ‘sustainable’ are becoming part of everyday language in the Developed World, but are frequently interchanged without understanding. To date, however, the concept of Sustainable Development has been hijacked by Environmentalists. For example, no connection at all may be seen between a ‘sustainable’ building and ensuring that it can be safely and conveniently entered and used by ordinary people.
In other parts of the World, the ambiguous WCED / Brundtland Definition of Sustainable Development is being systematically rejected ; the concept is viewed as an unaffordable luxury and/or as a means of continued domination and control by the ‘North’. Yet, sustainability must be a global compact.
In this intolerant and more fundamentalist 21st Century, the United Nations System, International Law, and Social Justice continue to come under sustained attack. And the Beslan School Tragedy* demonstrates that it is far more hazardous for disadvantaged, vulnerable and indigenous peoples in every society.
Some specific objectives for the 2004 Rio Declaration were as follows …
To present a 2nd Generation Definition of Sustainable Development which is more acceptable to the Developing World ;
To restore primacy to the Social Aspects of Sustainable Development … and particularly the ethical values of Social Justice, Solidarity and Inclusion-for-All ;
To embed the concept of the ‘Person’ in Sustainable Development … rather than the fleeting reference to ‘People’ which too often results in Disadvantaged, Vulnerable and Indigenous Groups being left behind ;
To signal one of the main challenges of Sustainable Development ahead – which will be to establish a framework of horizontal co-ordination at the many institutional levels … and between the many actors and end users … in the human environment.
Adopted in December 2004, at the Brazil Designing for the 21st Century III Conference, the Rio Declaration consists of a Preamble, 10 Principles and 5 Appendices ; its central concern involves People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF).
This Declaration extols implementation, and the targeting and monitoring of ‘real’ performance – as opposed to ‘imagined’ or ‘paper’ performance.
2019-04-05: Let us imagine, for a moment, that we are in another dimension … The Twilight Zone …
… and that this is a Positive Energy Building, set in a sprawling, diverse, interconnected and flourishing Woodland … an idealized scene … the Sustainability Idyll …
But … is it … ??
What percentage of the world’s population would ever, ever have the opportunity to live this way ???
And … lurking all around this beautiful scene, is an inherent and growing threat to life, property, and those trees and shrubs … Wildfires !
The Aim of Sustainable Fire Engineering (SFE) is to dramatically reduce direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment (including the social, built, economic, virtual, and institutional environments) … to protect the Natural Environment … and, within Buildings, to ensure that there is an effective level of Fire Safety for All Users/Occupants, not just for Some, during the full building life cycle.
[ Human Environment: Anywhere there is, or has been, an intrusion by a human being in the Natural Environment.]
So … how do we reduce direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment … and improve its Resilience ?
A recent publication provides a good platform to begin this serious conversation …
December 2018 … the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), which is based in Vienna, published Occasional Paper No. 32: ‘GLOBAL FIRE CHALLENGES IN A WARMING WORLD – Summary Note of a Global Expert Workshop on Fire and Climate Change’ …
Today, catastrophic wildfires are increasingly common across the globe. Recent disasters have attracted media attention and strengthened the perception of wildfires as ‘bad’ events, a plague worsened by climate change that has yet to be eradicated. Although it is true that fire has a destructive potential, the reality of global fire activity depicts a much more complex picture in which fire can be a useful, if not necessary, tool for food security and the preservation of cultural landscapes, as well as a an integral element of many ecosystems and their biodiversity.
Global fire activity is shaped by diverse social, economic, and natural drivers influencing the fire environment. The culminating complexity of these factors defines, in turn, the likelihood of a landscape to burn and the potential positive or negative outcomes for communities and ecosystems that can result from a blaze. Although many regions remain understudied, the effects of ongoing climate change associated with other planetary changes are already visible, transforming fire activity in ways that are not well understood but are likely to be dramatic, with potential dire consequences for nature, and society in case of adaptation failure.
Based on the limited available statistics, there is a growing trend in the cost of wildfires. In addition to human lives that are lost to flames or smoke and the billions of euros imputable to firefighting and insurance coverage, the growing interest in costs linked to healthcare, business stability, or the provision of ecosystem services such as drinking-water indicates negative economic consequences impacting countries’ GDP and social stability. Attempts to evaluate the future costs of wildfire disasters point at a worsening situation, yet the list of possible social and economic effects is incomplete and the magnitude of envisaged impacts is conservative.
Notwithstanding the difficulties inherent to global climate modelling, there is a scientific consensus on the future increase in the frequency of fire-conducive weather associated with drier ecosystems, a mix that will eventually result in more frequent and intense fire activity. When combined with an ever-growing world population and unsustainable land uses, the conditions leading to fire disaster will only be intensified. Although fire governance has historically advocated for fire suppression, a No Fire motto is not an option anymore in the new fire reality. Current policies aiming at total fire suppression have been shown to be detrimental and are therefore outdated. The key to wildfire disaster risk reduction in a changing world now lies in learning to live with fire.
Investments in international co-operation, integrated management, local community involvement, cutting-edge technologies, and long-term data collection are critically needed to ensure the future of fire disaster risk mitigation. Moreover, future land development policies must prioritize the protection and the restoration of natural and cultural landscapes that have been degraded by the inappropriate use of fire or, conversely, by historical fire exclusion; keeping a place for fire in forest resource management and landscape restoration has been shown to be a cost-effective and efficient solution to reduce fire hazard.
Overall, synthesis of globally available scientific evidence revealed the following key issues for landscape management and governance:
Climate change, with longer, hotter, and drier fire seasons, in combination with other environmental changes linked to population growth and unsustainable land-use practices, is contributing to extreme wildfire events that exceed existing fire management capacities. The world is entering a ‘new reality’ that demands new approaches to fire governance.
Fire is an inherent feature of the Earth System and many ecosystems, including their fauna, are dependent on it for their long-term survival; nevertheless, ongoing changes in global fire activity in terms of location, intensity, severity, and frequency will have immense costs for biodiversity, ecosystem services, human well-being and livelihoods, and national economies – to extents that have yet to be evaluated. Investment in social, economic, and environmental monitoring is therefore urgent, especially in under-studied regions.
Integrated fire risk reduction is key to adapting to ongoing changes in global fire risk. Future sustainable fire risk mitigation demands integrated region-specific approaches based on a clear understanding of fires in context, population awareness and preparedness, fire surveillance and early-warning systems, adaptive suppression strategies, fire-regime restoration, landscape-scale fuel management, changes to many land use practices, and active restoration of landscapes.
Engagement with local communities, land-owners, businesses and public stakeholders – via multiple tiers of governance – is crucial to restore and maintain landscapes that are biodiverse and functional, respectful of local cultures and identities, economically productive, and above all, fire-resilient.
People have historically achieved sustainable co-existence with flammable ecosystems and have often used fire as a land-management tool, thereby shaping many modern and long-standing landscapes around the world. Traditional fire knowledge is thus key to adapting to local changes in fire activity, using known techniques for the reduction of dangerous fuel loads, prescribed burning and sustainable landscape management practices.
Building adaptive capacity to confront fires must be based on knowledge of the natural and cultural roles of fire, how they have shaped our modern landscapes, and their importance in the long-term functioning of socio-ecological systems. Further developments in land-system science, geospatial technologies, and computer modelling will enhance our understanding of the long-term ecological and socio-economic drivers of fire through the widespread collection and distribution of harmonized fire data at the global level. However, creating and sharing such knowledge requires national and international investments in scientific and operational fire science programmes.
Catastrophic fires are undeniably part of our future. Current scientific estimates are conservative, meaning that changes in fire activity might be worse than anticipated. We have to act now to mitigate catastrophic fires and limit the occurrence of disastrous situations. Given disparities but also similarities in the levels of fire risk around the world, and the capacities to manage it, knowledge and technology transfers through international cooperation will be a paramount factor in learning to live with fire.
This Occasional Paper is the result of a large collaborative effort by fire scientists and practitioners who believe that learning to co-exist with changing fire activity is not only possible but necessary if we, as a global society, are to adapt to climate change and keep our natural and cultural landscapes healthy, resilient, and safe for the next generations. The work presented hereafter was developed during, and as follow-up to, the Global Expert Workshop on Fire and Climate Change hosted in Vienna, Austria, on 2-4 July 2018. It stresses the diversity and the complexity of the global fire situation, a situation that is evolving, positively or negatively, in unknown proportions due to global environmental changes — with climate change being the most acknowledged manifestation.
Conclusion – Learning To Live With Fire
We live on a flammable planet; although not everything is meant to burn, fire cannot be eliminated. Ongoing global climate change combined with other planetary changes is leading to more frequent and more extreme fires exposing vulnerable societies, economies, and ecosystems to disaster situations. The recognition of fire activity as a worsening hazard threatening human security is the necessary first step towards international co-operation for the mitigation of disaster risk situations in fire-prone areas.
However, we are not defenceless. Fire scientists in many regions of the world have been developing successful strategies and tools based on cutting-edge technologies for several years. Those are now mature enough to be up-scaled and adapted to other geographic contexts as part of national fire management frameworks. Additionally, integrating existing and future scientific knowledge on climate change and changing fire regimes, and systematically collecting long-term data on current and past fire uses will foster better informed decisions, models and enhanced efforts towards wildfire disaster risk reduction, as well as contribute to the development of sustainable Anthropocene fire regimes.
We hope this paper will be a catalyst for a paradigm shift, so fires are not seen as an enemy to fight but as natural and necessary phenomena, as well as a useful and necessary tool that can often help protect people and nature. It is paramount to revise, fund, and fulfil future management, research, and governance needs if we are, as world citizens, to trigger a societal change that will help us better live with fires.
The information and insights contained in this Occasional Paper connect together to promote the use of several existing solutions to the problem: defining national fire risk reduction frameworks, collecting and analyzing relevant traditional knowledge and biophysical fire data, investing in fire detection and prediction technologies, involving and preparing stakeholders, and improving fire use and landscape management in ways that help control the fuel load and the spread of fire, while limiting GHG emissions and protecting the communities and the landscapes they live in and often depend on.
The Status Quo is no longer an option; it is time to make integrated fire management the rule rather than the exception.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP – https://www.unenvironment.org/) has recently published the First Global Report on Environmental Rule of Law … which finds weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite the prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades.
The answer, of course, is rigorous implementation of environmental law … most particularly in those developed countries which have amassed their riches, over past centuries, from the plunder of natural, human and cultural resources in Central & South America, Africa and Asia.
If human society is to stay within the bounds of critical ecological thresholds, it is imperative that environmental laws are widely understood, respected, and enforced … and the benefits of environmental protection are enjoyed by people and the planet. Environmental rule of law offers a framework for addressing the gap between environmental laws on the books and in practice, and is key to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
Environmental laws have grown dramatically over the last three decades, as countries have come to understand the vital linkages between environment, economic growth, public health, social cohesion, and security. As of 2017, 176 countries have environmental framework laws; 150 countries have enshrined environmental protection or the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions; and 164 countries have created cabinet-level bodies responsible for environmental protection. These and other environmental laws, rights, and institutions have helped to slow – and in some cases to reverse – environmental degradation and to achieve the public health, economic, social, and human rights benefits which accompany environmental protection.
The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment brought the global environment into the public consciousness, leading to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme. Following the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (known as the Rio Earth Summit), many countries made a concerted effort to enact environmental laws, establish environment ministries and agencies, and enshrine environmental rights and protections in their national constitutions. By the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the focus had shifted to implementation of environmental laws, which is where progress has waned.
Too often, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations falls far short of what is required to address environmental challenges. Laws sometimes lack clear standards or necessary mandates. Others are not tailored to national and local contexts and so fail to address the conditions on the ground. Implementing ministries are often underfunded and politically weak in comparison to ministries responsible for economic or natural resource development. And while many countries are endeavouring to strengthen implementation of environmental law, a backlash has also occurred as environmental defenders are killed and funding for civil society restricted. These shortfalls are by no means limited to developing nations: reviews of developed nations have found their performance on environmental issues lacking in certain respects. In short, environmental rule of law is a challenge for all countries. This Report discusses the range of measures that countries are adopting to address this implementation gap – and to ensure that rule of law is effective in the environmental sphere.
As the first assessment of the global environmental rule of law, this Report draws on experiences, challenges, viewpoints, and successes of diverse countries around the world, highlighting global trends as well as opportunities for countries and partners to strengthen the environmental rule of law.
The Report highlights the need to undertake a regular global assessment of the state of environmental rule of law. To track progress nationally and globally, it is necessary to utilize a set of consistent indicators. The Report proposes an indicator framework for environmental rule of law and highlights existing datasets that may be utilized in support of the global assessment.
The Report also calls for a concerted effort to support countries in pilot testing approaches to strengthen environmental rule of law. Such an initiative could support testing of approaches in diverse contexts, and then adapting them before scaling them up. It should also foster exchange of experiences between jurisdictions to foster learning.
In addition to these two cross-cutting recommendations, the Report highlights numerous actionable steps that States can take to support environmental rule of law. For example, States can evaluate the current mandates and structure of environmental institutions to identify regulatory overlap or underlap. States and partners can build the capacity of the public to engage thoughtfully and meaningfully with government and project proponents. They can prioritize protection of environmental defenders and whistle-blowers. States may consider the creation of specialized environmental courts and tribunals, and use administrative enforcement processes to handle minor offences. And there is an ongoing need to research which approaches are effective under what circumstances.
The benefits of environmental rule of law extend far beyond the environmental sector. While the most direct effects are in protection of the environment, it also strengthens rule of law more broadly, supports sustainable economic and social development, protects public health, contributes to peace and security by avoiding and defusing conflict, and protects human and constitutional rights. As such, it is a growing priority for all countries.
2015-11-06 ! We are very pleased to announce that the Fire Safe Europe Alliance … www.firesafeeurope.eu … has become actively involved, together with Glasgow Caledonian University and FireOx International, in co-hosting SFE 2016 DUBLIN. To facilitate the Network’s full engagement and provide sufficient time for promotion, etc … it was jointly agreed that the new dates for this Event shall be from 28-30 September 2016.
We have every confidence that SFE 2016 DUBLIN will now be a much better event … having a wider range of stakeholder participation.
Sustainable Fire Engineering – Effective Fire Safety for All in Sustainable Buildings ! 28-30 September 2016 Dublin, Ireland
———— www.sustainable-firengineering.ie or www.sfe-fire.eu
——— Approved Regional Sustainable Built Environment Conference in the 2016-17 Series
—— The Gresham Hotel, O’Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland
Céad Míle Fáilte (Hundred Thousand Welcomes) to Dublin, in Ireland … and to the First International Conference devoted to this complex subject !
The 21st Century has had a cruel and savage birth: extreme man-made events, hybrid disasters, severe natural events, complex humanitarian emergencies, with accelerating climate change and variability. The old certainties are crumbling before our eyes …
The resolute Answer to these threats and the rapidly changing social and environmental needs of our world is Sustainable Fire Engineering !
• SFE fulfils a critical role in the realization of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All ;
• SFE facilitates positive progress towards the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals & 169 Performance Targets, which were adopted in September 2015 ;
• SFE fast-tracks proper compliance with the Basic Requirements for Construction Works in the European Union’s Construction Products Regulation 305/2011 (Annex I), specifically the interlinked Requirements 7, 2, 1, 3 & 4.
Please join us in an informal, multidisciplinary and pre-normative forum … as we examine Sustainable Fire Engineering more deeply.
INTRODUCTION to SFE 2016 DUBLIN
Fire Losses – both direct and indirect – amount to a very significant percentage of GDP in all economies, whether they are rich or poor … and result in enormous environmental damage and social disruption. Fire Engineering, including Fire Prevention and Protection in Buildings, is a major multi-billion Euro/Dollar component of the Construction Industrial Sector – worldwide.
Unfortunately … a fundamental conflict exists between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the fire safety responses adopted in today’s Conventional Fire Engineering. To take a simple example: for cooling, heating or ventilation purposes in a Sustainable Building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural unobstructed patterns of air movement in that building. On the other hand, fire engineers in private practice and control personnel in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) will demand that building spaces be tightly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.
Unusual fire behaviour and a range of difficult fire safety issues (critical, in the case of firefighters) also arise from the Innovative Design Features (for example, ‘green’ roofs, elaborate intelligent façades) and Building Products / Systems (for example, photovoltaic panels) being installed in Sustainable Buildings.
A wide chasm separates the language and understanding of these two very different design disciplines. As a result, the performance of Sustainable Buildings can be seriously compromised. If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on site … it is fire safety which is weakened.
And because, in most countries, the emphasis is placed on pre-construction design intent rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed/occupied building … these problems are ignored and remain hidden … until a serious fire breaks out !
SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING’s AIM
The Aim of Sustainable Fire Engineering is to dramatically reduce all direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment (including social, built, economic, environmental, virtual, and institutional) … and to protect the Natural Environment.
Towards Zero Preventable Fires in the Built Environment !
In essence … Sustainable Fire Engineering heavily front-loads Fire Prevention and Fire Protection Measures … above and beyond the minimal and very limited fire safety objectives mandated by current legislation.
Adapted to local geography, climate change and variability, social need, economy, and culture ;
SFE 2016 DUBLIN OBJECTIVES
1. To initiate discussion and foster mutual understanding between the International Sustainable Development / Climate Change / Urban Resilience Communities and the International Fire Science & Engineering Community. 2. To bring together today’s disparate Sectors within the International Fire Science and Engineering Community … to encourage better communication between each and trans-disciplinary collaboration between all. 3. To transform Conventional Fire Engineering into an ethical and fully professional Sustainable Design Discipline which is fit for purpose in the 21st Century … meaning … that fire engineers can participate actively in a sustainable design process, and can respond creatively with sustainable fire engineering design solutions which result in Effective Fire Safety for All in Sustainable Buildings. 4. To launch a CIB W14 Research Working Group VI Reflection Document: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design & Construction’ … which will establish a framework for discussion on the future development of Sustainable Fire Engineering.
Download the Information on the Links Page … Review the wide range of Topics which will be examined and discussed at SFE 2016 DUBLIN … Submit an Abstract for a Paper … and Give serious consideration to becoming an Industry Exhibitor, or an Enlightened, Far-sighted Sponsor !!
2014-09-01: Continuing on from where I left off on this topic …
Creative Architecture In Context is not a revolutionary concept … not even a new concept … it is an ancient concept … practiced long, long before the pompous Architect of the 19th Century was born … and even before he was a gleam of excitement in his father’s eye !
The Kinkaku-ji Temple … also known as The Golden Pavilion … is a Buddhist Temple in the north-west of central Kyoto City, Japan. Very briefly … this building was commissioned in 1394 by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408), Japan’s 3rd Shogun, and completed in 1397. In accordance with his final wishes, it was transformed into a Zen Temple of the Rinzai School in 1419.
The Temple is a simple, elegant building … but, it exists in a specific setting … a landscape of Zen-style gardens, and a large pond which reflects the building. The pond (Kyoko-chi) was there before the Temple was built.
The landscaping around the building is a fine example of Muromachi-period (14th-16th Centuries) garden design … considered a classical age in Japan … where the relationship between a building and its setting was greatly emphasized … in a precise artistic way, fully integrating the structure within the landscape … resulting in a dynamic, harmonious balance between building and nature.
In this example … the word ‘Architecture’, on its own, is entirely inadequate to describe the symbiotic relationship between this building and its setting/context. Prefixes, such as ‘eco-‘ or ‘bio-‘ or ‘whatever-‘ before ‘Architecture’ … are also far too weak to communicate either the meaning or the importance of this relationship.
A Radically New Term is Necessary …
Its setting … nature, landscape, plants and animals, etc … must be considered at the earliest stages of a building’s design … with the aim of achieving, in the completed construction, a dynamic and harmonious balance between the two.
This is not how Architecture is taught today in the schools … or practiced by professionals, who are constrained by conventional and overly restrictive boundaries … and cannot or do not, therefore, look beyond their own buildings.
This must change !
And of course … the concept of Creative Architecture In Context must be re-interpreted and implemented in a manner which is suitably adapted to the 21st Century … but that is a story for another day !!
2014-08-28: Earlier this month … the final straw … as I caught up on a ‘piece’ in McGraw Hill’s Architectural Record … which reproduced an original, intriguing article from designMENA.com, posted on 12 August 2014, by Nick Ames …
Rebel Architects Star In New TV Show
Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera is to show a series of films focusing on radical architects from Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria, Spain, Palestine and Vietnam. The series – entitled ‘Rebel Architecture’ – focuses on architects using design to confront urban, environmental and social problems in their communities.
Dan Davies, producer of the series, said: “We couldn’t help noticing that despite all the problems afflicting humanity, many of which architecture uniquely has the ability to assist and even solve, most of the mainstream and architectural press celebrates the aesthetics of huge iconic projects, marvelling at insanely complicated ways to fold giant sheets of metal.”
“As we face issues from floods and natural disasters to an explosion of urban populations, soaring inequality and displacement through conflict, architecture seems wholly absent. So we wanted to look beyond the discussion of the aesthetics of Star-chitecture and see what architects outside the mainstream are doing.”
The six-part series, which starts on 18 August, begins with a film documenting the work of Spanish architect Santiago Cirugeda, who uses his knowledge of planning law to occupy abandoned properties and to build structures on unused land.
It also features Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari, who designs disaster relief shelters and Eyal Weizman, professor of spatial and visual cultures at Goldsmiths University, who explores the way the built environment is used as an instrument of occupation.
In Vietnam, the series follows Vo Trong Nghia, whose projects focus on open spaces and sustainable design, while in Nigeria, Kunlé Adeyemi has designed floating buildings to solve issues of flooding and overcrowding.
The final episode explores Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil, with builder Ricardo de Oliveira, and master planner Luis Toledo.
“The rebel architects have to push boundaries, but they must also look beyond their own buildings,” said Davies. “They start by looking at the wider context in which they live – be it Spain hit by the financial crisis, or Pakistan ravaged by floods – and work out how they can change the status quo with architecture.”
I SAY …
Shouldn’t every Architect be concerned about the issues raised in Nick’s article ? And if not … why not ??
Architecture is a wide and complex field of human creative, artistic and scientific endeavour. Yet in the international and national media, both mainstream and architectural … it does appear, as presented, to be narrowly confined to the “aesthetics of huge iconic projects”, and “insanely complicated ways to fold giant sheets of metal”. And the various media continue to focus on and enthusiastically applaud the current, outrageous phallic skyscraper contest in, for example, the Arab Gulf Region, China and South-East Asia … a contest which is actively promoted by such international organizations as the US-based Council on Tall Buildings & Urban Habitat. [ I might add … with entirely insufficient attention being paid to fire safety, resilience and sustainability in those Super-Tall Buildings !! ]
If Santiago Cirugeda, Yasmeen Lari, Eyal Weizman, Vo Trong Nghia, Kunlé Adeyemi, Ricardo de Oliveira, and Luis Toledo are indeed Rebels … [ I would argue that they most definitely are not ] … and each one is working in isolation … then we must urgently instigate a Revolution …
Creative Architecture In Context !!
PRINCIPAL BARRIER …
The Institutional Framework of Today’s Conventional Architecture … typically developed to promote and protect a 19th Century Model of Architectural Practice … exerts a powerful stranglehold over the architectural profession and the schools of architecture in many countries. It is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in the 21st Century !
Here in Ireland … a few days before reading the Nick Ames article … I attended a long Extraordinary General Meeting of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) … called by 10 Institute Members to demand urgent, concerted action from the Institute’s Council in response to the new and very flawed Building Control Amendment Regulations (Statutory Instruments Nos.9 & 105 of 2014), which came into effect from 1 March 2014.
Far from being an enlightening and pleasurable occasion … for many small reasons, it was annoying and frustrating. The biggest reason of all, however, was that I saw no evidence whatever that either Council or the Membership understands the simple, fundamental truth that … self-regulation/self-certification does NOT work !
Refer back to my previous post.
The General Public in Ireland … also known as ‘The Long-Suffering Consumer’ … does not trust the Medical and Legal Professions to self-regulate, despite the vociferous protestations from both that their internal regulatory systems are packed-packed-packed with civilians. Yes … ‘selected’ civilians !
That particular evening in the Davenport Hotel, Dublin … the RIAI’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) went nowhere … aided and abetted by Council Members at the head table. It was interesting to note that none of the 10 Institute Members who had called the meeting had a seat at that same table.
As we exit the Profound Economic Crisis following the Extravagant Celtic Tiger Years … and coldly look around us … we witness an architectural profession lost in a contextual wilderness – urban, environmental and social – while fumbling around in a legal and political maze. And, every day, we experience a sprawling, ugly, depressing and unsustainable built environment which is engaged in a sad and brutal conflict with nature.
It has taken at least a generation … but the RIAI has directly overseen the slow and progressive dilution of what it means to be an Architect in Ireland.
2014-04-13:Further to the Post, dated 2013-01-13 …
There are many essential qualities and features belonging to and representative of a Sustainable Human Environment (including the Social, Built, Virtual and Economic Environments).As discussed here many times before … Accessibility-for-All is one fundamental attribute, under Social and Legal Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.
Another fundamental attribute … Urban Resilience … is now moving centre stage in the world of International Construction Research & Practice.WHEN, not if … this concept is fully elaborated and understood, it will have a profound impact on All Tasks, Activities and Types of Performance in the Human Environment … under All Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.
After working for many years on Climate Change, particularly Adaptation … it was quite natural for me to encounter the concept of Resilience.But the aim of a newly established Core Task Group within CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is to widen out this concept to also include Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis), ComplexHumanitarian Emergencies, (e.g. regional famines, mass human migrations), Extreme Man-Made Events (e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks), and Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident) … to set down Resilience Benchmarks … and to produce Resilience Performance Indicators. An imposing challenge !
AND … as Urbanization is proceeding at such a rapid pace in the BRICS Countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) and throughout the rest of the Southern Hemisphere … ‘practical’ and ‘easily assimilated’ trans-disciplinary output from this CIB Task Group is urgently required.In other words, the work of the Task Group must not be permitted to become an exercise in long drawn out pure academic research … the clear focus must be on ‘real’ implementation … As Soon As Is Practicable !!
A New and Updated Groundwork …
The ethical design response, in resilient built and/or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.
SUSTAINABLE HUMAN & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the human and social rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from the next seven future generations.
*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and augmented by UN OHCHR Letter, dated 6 June 2013, on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The CITY (as Region)
A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:
(b)A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;
(c)A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;
together functioning as …
(i)a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;and
(ii)a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare, and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.
A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.
A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.
A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.[World Health Organization]
The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.
The social environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of the built and virtual environments.
Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc … including the virtual environment.
A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.
The virtual and built environments continue to merge into a new augmented reality.
The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the social environment.