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Is environmental design just a technical only?

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I have followed with interest the discussions between Peter Smith, Helene Guldberg, Kate Macintosh and Austin Williams in recent issues of the AJ .

Although the sense of 'urgency' in adopting 'sustainable' or more environmental strategies in architecture is reflected through many points of view such as 'save the planet', 'reduce dependency on oil suppliers', 'achieve cheaper running bills' etc, the materialistic approach in justifying the need of environmental design is naturally counteracted by evidence on the reduced human participation on CO 2emissions (4 per cent only) as well as on data supporting the idea that climate change is a natural and nonthreatening process that may even be proven to be beneficial overall.

Thus, the whole environmental design subject may be translated as an attempt towards target-specific political rhetoric or a way for certain interests to enter a current market.

However, I have not yet seen a philosophical and/or ideological engagement of the concept of environmental design to architecture through architectural thought and discussion.

Amos Rapoport in House Form and Culture (PrendiceHall, 1969), describes three ways humans can be related to natural world, therefore three ways built environment determines this relationship:

the 'religious and cosmological approach', which regards nature as greater than man;

the 'symbiotic approach', where man and nature exist in a unified state of balance; and the 'exploitative approach', which considers man as modifier and creator using hiss power to defend from and dominate nature which is perceived as 'the other'.

The question would be: 'In what way do we (the economically dominant) relate to nature in the year 2001; how is this manifested through architecture; and what is the result of this for a desirable sustainable world, society and way of life?

Constantine S Grapsas The University of Cambridge

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