SPEAKER: It's my great pleasure to introduce Birger Sevaldson. Birger is a professor at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design and chairman of OCEAN Design Research Association. His research and publications focus on systems orientated design, creativity, and research by design. He is trained as an interior architect and furniture designer and has practiced in architecture and interior design, furniture, and industrial design as well as art.
He is a member of the Council of the Design Research Society and has developed research that focuses on advancing systems orientated design thinking and practice in order to meet the increased challenges of globalization and the need for sustainability. He has a PhD in creative design computing and has been researching systems thinking and design for the last 10 years. Please join me in welcoming Birger Sevaldson.
BIRGER SEVALDSON: Thank you very much for being invited to this great event. We heard some very interesting and inspiring lectures already, so I hope you won't be disappointed about the fact that I'm not really an expert in sustainability, nor am I a biologist. I am a designer and interested in how we can work with this immense complexity that unfolds before us when we talk about these things.
We have talked in detail about birds. And it is clear that when we design for environments that sort of should hold up on each other the environment for the birds and environments for humans, it is very clear that the task is immensely complex, and there's a lot of knowledge needed. And the way we design has to be rethought. And then there's the other eight million species. How do we design for that complexity?
My talk will be to address this problem, to address possible practices for such non-anthropometric design approach and to suggest some kind of concepts or ways or methods to do that. And I think that maybe it will be interesting for some of the students here also, thinking that way. I will suggest what we call systems oriented design as one way to do it. I think there are other concepts and ways of thinking also.
This lecture has four parts. First I will talk a little bit about the systemic design thinking and how we have been thinking about that and show you three cases. Then I will suggest to you a concept that came out in the preparation to this event, the idea of the thick boundary, as a way of framing how to design into this field we are talking about. And then I couldn't help trying to collect some samples to indicate what is the current state of designing for other species, just as an inspiration to think about what else be could it be how to design that field. And then a final case that indicates a process.
Now I realize that I don't really have the ideal cases to show you. So you have to imagine a little bit in between what I'm showing you and layer it on top of each other. And then maybe there's some contours of what we want to do next year.
Let's start with the first section, talking a little bit systems thinking. At least in my country, sustainability is discussed largely in industrial design, as an issue of selecting the right materials and that's it. Just challenging that has seemed to be really a problem or very difficult.
And in architecture, it's mainly-- or very often-- reduced to a question of energy, by calculating the energy amount of the house. And so a more holistic approach is needed. And that's what we're going to talk about.
So what is system thinking? What this a systems approach? This should actually run and move and be very interesting. Just imagine it's running and doing things.
On one side, we have very quantitative approaches, resulting in simulations and in modeling. You would have to quantify everything to put it into such a kind of simulation like you see here. And then try to reach and simulate the possible future.
On the other end of systems thinking, as an example, you have a lot of things. You have soft systems methodology and so on. But you have-- I'll just pick one of those elements you have there, the concept of wicked problems, which many of you know.
Fewer people know that this actually grows out of a systems thinking environment. Some people might know that it's actually a designer who coined that term, Horst Rittel. He came from the Ulm School and went to Berkeley and became part of what was by Harold Nelson called the Berkeley bubble in systems thinking, which included great people like C. west Churchman and Russell Ackoff.
And so this term is actually embedded in a systems perspective. Many people know the term, but not everybody knows actually what are the 10 criteria. So it's worth repeating maybe some of them.
Number one, there is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem. Defining wicked problems is itself a wicked problem. Wicked problems have no stopping rule. Solutions to wicked problems-- it has no stopping rule, this means you don't know when you are finalized with solving the problem. Maybe it's not even the problem you're talking of. The problem will go on and develop after you've finished with your intervention.
Solutions to wicked problems are not true or false but better or worse. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution of a wicked problem. Every solution to a wicked problem is a one-shot operation, because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error.
So by doing an intervention in a system, you change the system. And if you want to do it again, the system is changed. So what you want to achieve from what you learned is maybe not relevant. So you have these two very diametrical views or this large stretch in systems thinking.
The question now is how do we use that for designing. Let's come back to that. First a little bit, very basic, of how we think about systems thinking at all.
And the ultimate example of systems thinking is ecology. Ecology is interdisciplinary. It is about interrelation between species and between hydroscopic systems and so on. So it's something new you can't put into the lab as such.
We can maybe simulate parts of it. But it's something that is very hard to fraction up. You have to look at it in a holistic way.
And man is as mentioned before also considered more and more as part of the ecology. At least the relation between nature and man is really debated at the moment and how we act from within that ecological system, rather than looking at them from the outside. So this has led to repositioning some of that thinking from the economical and social dimensions of human activities being embedded inside the ecological dimension.
So this model of thinking of man as embedded and as part of a bigger system that is ultimately our globe or even including our solar system has been very useful for changing the mind. So this holistic approach also leads to the realization that [INAUDIBLE] was mentioned yesterday. And she said that everything is connected to everything.
Ultimately the Gaia theory, like looking at the whole globe as one living organism. But the question then is how do we design for that model or with that image in our head, with that conception of the world, that everything is connected with everything? It's a good perspective, but it's not a operational starting point.
So at the moment, we have been thinking a little bit back and forth. And I think a lot of this is very premature. So I hope there will be a dialogue in the succession of this event here.
But so far we have been choosing to look at the interface between nature and human, to maintain a type of boundary between what is called nature and human. And it's already been discussed a little, with different standing points, interesting. And look at this boundary between what is nature and what is human as a useful focus. So we are looking especially at this boundary. And I will come back to this and this concept of this boundary that we suggest is central in our thinking right now.
So what is systems oriented design? Systems oriented design is design. It's not systems thinking, it's design. But it's oriented towards systems.
Systems oriented design is systems thinking and systems practice totally glued together and combined with design thinking and design practice. So we think of it more as a skills than of theorizing. So that maybe it becomes operational and you can maybe use it.
So what is the thinking, design thinking or systems thinking? A slogan, look beyond the object, think of everything as being super complex. So the object to this object is obviously more complex than this one, for one reason that this object is inside that object, probably somewhere.
This is like a floating society. It is enormously complex when it comes to technology. But it also has a political and a social dimension.
So what is the political dimension of that object? Looking behind the object, this little silly object is an intersection point between at least two super complex systems, one of them starting with maybe a woman in Colombia picking one coffee bean. And from that moment, there is this immense process going on-- involving transportation, involving refinery, transportation involving crude oil and going through trade systems and refinery systems. And in the end, this bean ends up in that coffee.
The other obvious system here maybe starts with a tree in the forest in Norway. And you have the same situation. There's a chainsaw, which is filled with crude oil.
You cut it down, you have the process of transportation. You have the process of bringing it to the paper mill. You have all the huge research field of paper processing.
You have additional chemicals. You have waxing. You have green technologies and so on.
We haven't talked about what was before the tree was cut down or before the bean was picked. We haven't talked about what came after the recycling element. And we haven't talked about the cultural dimension, coffee being a socializing element, in our culture at least. But the political dimension of this object grows out of it and becomes clear.
It's about differences in the world. It's about globalization. It's about justness or right trade, just trade or what you call it. So this object then becomes a symptom of something much more complex.
Why would we bother doing this? For me, it's about rethinking, opening up, and fetishism for the object and creating-- I mean one thing, it becomes much more interesting. Of course, it's a fascinating little thing. But it also opens up for creativity. It opens up the box so we can act in many different ways.
So this is basically how we are thinking about this. So in systems oriented design, we look at businesses, organizations as ecologies. Sustainability is not only a matter of being green, but also a matter of technology, economy, management, culture, politics, and markets.
So this is what we have to take on a responsibility for as designers. When we suggest something, we also have to have a caring intention for the economy of our clients. Of course it doesn't exclude it.
What is our object at the moment, which we want to look behind? It's-- in our case today-- a non-anthropocentric approach to design. So let's look a little bit behind that.
How can we understand and design for a non-anthropocentric approach by looking at the processes behind it? And what processes in human society need to be triggered to make it happen? Coping with that kind of super complexity in the design process, we need to get an holistic overview. We need to see the landscape we are operating in.
And this landscape is already partly unfolded for us this morning. And it is obviously immensely complex. We need to build the necessary knowledge.
We don't need to become biologists. Or we cannot become biologists. We need to build exactly the amount of knowledge we need for each case. And we need to network and co-create with experts.
And then in our case, user-centered design, which is very popular with industrial designers where I'm coming from and co-creation and so on, we have to remember that the central stakeholders won't be able to voice their opinion. Though there was one [CHUCKLING] example that they might just do that.
I will present to you-- I cannot go through a lot of this, but just very shortly cut through it. One technique that we have been tested in many cases-- a lot with students, master students, but also with companies and partners-- trying to draw that holistic overview, to draw that landscape we want to design within.
And this is what's called GIGA-mapping. It's very much inspired by what in soft distance methodology is called the rich picture. The GIGA-map is an artifact where it goes beyond being descriptive. It's also generative. We design it as an artifact. And we find this landscape as much as we describe it.
Maybe the easiest way to understand what this might be, this kind of free styling mapping, is to look at three projects. And these products are chosen because they show maybe some useful combinations of layers of things that you can translate into working with the relations between human constructs and nature.
The first project, it's an EV-charging solution, quick charging for electrical vehicles. And the interesting thing about this is how this cuts across scales. So the urban fabric-- social conditions, economic issues, lifestyle, and culture-- all needs to be addressed in that project.
So this is the GIGA-map of Wei Zhang, who did this project. She tries to grasp the whole. This is her landscape of what needs to be addressed in this project.
I won't go into this, because we don't have the time. But I will show a little bit of an extract as an example. She made this for a special part of Oslo, a higher mid-income area, for that community, especially. And the special thing there is that there is no private parking.
So how do you provide a system for charging your electric vehicle in that community? The urban make-up and the fact that there is the pattern of the parking has to be addressed in different ways, what she did was to-- this doesn't work anymore. There. I'm just too quick.
So she had to do several things on several levels, like arrange ways of organizing the waiting time-- if one station is occupied, to know how it is occupied, and to arrange the queue-- to network, to make a social interaction, network around this waiting time. So this has to be an information exchange.
And also we have been mentioning this cultural dimension and the importance of how information and knowledge and the intentions of people-- how important they are to reach a change. So this is addressed here. But also she implements and an added value, an added functionality that helps saving money in the household in general.
And in addition, she addresses the emotional part of it, leisure curiosity, natural [INAUDIBLE]. You can discuss this project of course, and you can think it's kind of far out with this thing you sit inside. But I think the interesting thing is how it cuts across from the urban scale right down to the personal individual emotion.
And I think this can be translated and used in what we are talking of when we design for a non-anthropocentric approach with the crows and the other 8 million species.
Adrian Paulsen, cleaning up our act, it's an example of a project where the combination of social awareness, networking, and technology are coupled. So this is the vessel Full City that went aground in the Oslo Fjord. And we want to design for those situations. As industrial designers, we think it's interesting to work in that area. But the typical thing would be to work with this, to make better things, to clean up the mess.
Adrian started from that starting point but ended up with looking at the whole system. This is sort of his GIGA-map, and it's sequential. It starts here, and it takes you through a whole scenario of an oil spill. And it has the bifurcations some places like here, where you would prevent this from happening. So it's looking at a much earlier stage in that chain of events and felt that that's where I can do the design intervention that is maybe more useful.
So what he did, he combined stakeholders in a social network and combined that with a risk analyzing algorithm, which he verified from a university mathematician at the University of Oslo, so just to know that was possible to do it. And he created this system of-- where is this red dot here-- this gadget, which is online, which is fed by risk analysis, just like a weather report. Well, if there's bad weather and there's a highly risky Russian ship going past our coast, the risk would go up. Because you would know the positions of all the ships.
But there's also an input. You can put in a local observation. And the stakeholders include both Coast Guard professionals and towboats, so you could move a towboat and be prepared, to a certain point. That was the problem with Full City. The towboats were not there, but even they knew that this was a very, very high risk.
It includes also leisure boats or fishermen and non-official stakeholders. And it's this kind of addressing the emotions, this driftwood gadget. Again, cutting across scales and looking differently at time. You have to translate it to be adequate for our situation.
The last of those three examples is Francesco Zorzi, which made this kind of really interesting suggestion for how to look at super-distributed energy harvesting. His speculation was what would it be if all our objects were energy plus objects, like all of them would create more energy that they spend. And they would put it into a piggy bank, like select small amounts of energy, fueling everything what you do.
If it's feasible, this is like a discursive project. But I think you have also to think at that level this is connected to bigger structures, of course, in how it's situated. But in designing for a non non-anthropocentric approach, I think you also need to look at these very, very little things and details.
So if you put this on top of each other and then turn around maybe and shake it, maybe you can get an idea of how we can design for our-- yeah, 10 minutes, thank you. So I have to speed up.
We have been talking about cultural tolerance. This is a problem. Looking back at this kind of micro process and that the cultural dimension is quite important, the cultural tolerance for other species has been shrinking. And while it seems to be getting to a level where it's harmful for us for ourselves, being too clean generates reactions for the body. So we need to involve a process across scales and layers.
So the boundary problem, so how do we draw this boundary? We need to construct a boundary that is useful for our design process. Boundary problem is a very known problem in systems thinking. And we are looking-- we claim to look at the boundary as an artifact, which we can construct for our purposes. And this is such an artificial boundary. This is from industrial ecology.
And the boundary here is this dashed line. This is the municipality boundary-- border of the municipality of Warburg. And this is the nitrogen in and out-- combos analysis, they call it-- for the Institute of Warburg.
So this system boundary is of course artificial. It's an artifact. It's made by the institution. But it's operational, because the entity of the municipality or Warburg can actually act upon that model and they can change things. So while the boundary is just an artifact, it's very useful.
In systems theory, the environment is defined as the entities that influence the systems but that the system can't influence. So everything that you can't influence directly is regardless the environment of the system. So the system's boundary then is regarded as to be clear and a thin boundary. It's like a very clearly defined boundary.
But is it that easy? It's not so easy to really think in that way. If you think of animals feeding on their environment, they also change the environment. And do we then have to include the environment in the animal system? Or do we have to maintain a different and more nuanced concept of environment and a tighter relation or a more interrelated way?
This is the salamander food web. Somewhere there are the parasites. And what is the food web of the parasites, so we would have unfolding, and then you would have more unfolding. What is actually the [INAUDIBLE] boundary of that food web?
There's a known set of theories involved in systems thinking that is called boundary critique that actually addresses this problem. But I will jump this, because I'm running a bit short. And so what we are suggesting is to look at the boundary again. And we suggest this idea of the fake boundary.
When you look at the complexity in which nature and the artificial is interrelated or should be interrelated, it seems that ever more stuff takes place within this boundary condition. The boundary appears to be more an infiltrated wheel or gradient than a membrane. This is our first-- the sketches we did on the blackboard with the chalk. It's really nice.
And this of course has stopped. And we need to have a biologist and other people to join. But basically it's a gradient from nature to the artificial here. But there's much more inside that.
So the thick boundary is a multi-layered fabric of interwoven relations. And that's our design space. That's what I'm suggesting is our design space.
So that was kind of the thoughts and ideas we had. So now I want just to see, quickly flip through a few examples of what is done in that design space today and then flip through a project that is incomplete. Yeah, five minutes, that should be quite OK.
I had the great joy in Google and finding these things. And I sort of did sort of from-- along two axes that are paralleled, one going from domesticated animals but free living to wilderness wild animal. And the other one goes a bit across and being very small scale to large scale interventions from, let's say, architectures to landscape interventions.
And I'm just flipping through. This is that common Eider house, which is quite normal in Norway. They are free living. But people harvest there doves from the nest, and they provide the shelter from them.
We will have more dovecotes. That's from El Palomar de la Brena in South Spain, a very big one. And these feeding racks are, of course, also-- you could say wildlife and sometimes also semi-domesticated. This one we know.
And we have a good colleague who we were discussing. He was laughing about us, because we were concerned about these little, silly things like bat houses. And he said-- well, he's a very good architect, and he's a good guy-- but he said, well, I can make a bat house before lunch if you want.
So I was looking into bat houses. And I found them to be not that simple. They have these kind of things, and there's some kind of really nice constructions here. And some of them are not integrated in these examples but attached to houses.
I like this one. This is the rocket box type of bat house. So go home and build them. And this magnificent, very characteristic bat house from Florida and from Iraq. And then we go towards infrastructures, like the frog tunnels and the wildlife bridges and in the end, the big planning things like maintaining corridors for wildlife to maintain their minimum space for survival, for living.
Now at the end, the last two or three minutes, a case that indicates a process ad how we actually can design for that. This is an incomplete case, but it shows an intensity and an accuracy. It's from Michael's studio. I was joining that and helping and in both investigating the environment and the material assistance for something very little and humble like a little house for ducks.
So I will just flip through part of their 65 slides, which was their analysis and their research document for building this little house for ducks. This is the site, there, in a little pond in a very urban area. It's the same area actually as where this EV-charging project was. Coincidentally the same area.
And this is their GIGA-map. Understanding the whole landscape of problems forces stakeholders things that would influence the project. So we see little duck houses are not exploded into something very, very complex.
There were site analyses, like what kind of species of trees were growing there. There were what kind of patterns of movements and lighting. And there's site line analysis, this one, and anthropocentric. There's an analysis of people by activity. And they're a small analysis of the ducks.
Now what is lacking here would be a really deep analysis of the ducks. Ironically, this is missing. We can be open about criticizing this.
So imagine to put on these layers. Maybe some of the layers here should be dampened down and made smaller but others should be developed much further. But it shows sort of a level of engagement and level of willingness to take on information. These are weather analyses-- wind measurements. And some of that is taken from the net, some of it is from documents or from measurements on the site.
And then going to the material system. And they choose to use willow as a material, which of course is very gentle and makes sense. And they investigated the whole systems how-to and the material properties-- the strength and so on-- and started to do environmental tests. You can easily criticize it. But they did this-- I especially like this snow test-- and reached this kind of final design suggestion.
Again, now add to this the layers of things you would do, if you would do this again and from what we have been talking about, and from the theme of the day. How would you do it? Obviously, you would maybe look at it in a bigger context. You would look how the mallards migrate between ponds and such things and what they feed from and so on. This was fitting very well with the birds.
So this is it, thank you. You can visit our website to get more information.
SPEAKER: I think we have time for one question.
AUDIENCE: I guess this is sort of a [INAUDIBLE] question. Do you think there are other kinds of information architectures that make more sense when you're GIGA-mapping them? It's very complex within the flow diagrams. Have you looked at other digital modes of representing and navigating those kinds of maps?
BIRGER SEVALDSON: Yeah, first we have-- it's sort of a free styling dogma. It's like we do all kinds of stuff. So there are many different types of maps, which I haven't shown.
But we ended up with doing it very hands-on, using paper and markers and then Illustrator. We are frequently-- well, some people use mapping software. We want to go there, but for now I didn't really find mapping software that wouldn't kind of mold the process, where the frame of the software would take over and kind of shape the whole process. But for parts of it, I would like to do that and investigate that.
So it's on our, again, to try to go back and recycle. Let's see how we can use simulations. I know you are very much into that. That would be a really cool thing, to go there.
But we don't want to lose the layering of the different information. In some of the simulation things, you would say don't mix apples and oranges. But that's exactly what we have to do and need to do. Was that--
AUDIENCE: Yeah, and also I was thinking about just the structure of the birds that you're having and also imagining that that stuff would happen. Imagine a mechanic map--
BIRGER SEVALDSON: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: So it has [INAUDIBLE]
BIRGER SEVALDSON: Yeah, we worked a lot with that. And we are, so far, we think out of the computer. We don't think a computer screen is sufficient. It doesn't have the resolution we need.
So we use big plots, and we was huge formats. And we basically fill the whole space. And we create more space even, to have really a lot of information with something that you could do here, the students. If you have very complex problems, you should actually-- like in a [INAUDIBLE] style or like in a crime series, put everything up on the wall.
Because if you have it in your computer only, you will forget about it. It's somewhere down there, and you won't be able to see the whole of it. And the interesting and the potential thing in it is to relate these different things.
So create your visual space or design. If you want to design for super complexity, that's very important.
OK, thank you very much, Birger Sevaldson.
SPEAKER: So I'd like to welcome back Michael Hensel to the stage. And I'll spend just a couple of minutes introducing him again. Michael Hensel is currently a professor of Architecture at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, where he directs the Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics. He is a founding member of OCEAN and founding chairman and board member of OCEAN Design Research Association, as well as SEA, the Sustainable Environment Association. He is currently a board member of the Biomimetic Network for Industrial Sustainability, since 2007, and editorial board member of AD Wiley.
Previously, he has taught at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, where he co-directed the Emergent Technologies and Design Program, known as EmTech. Forthcoming publications include, Iran-- Past, Present and Futures, Design Innovation for the Built Environment, Research By Design and the Renovation of Practice, and an AD primer, Performance Orientated Design. Please join me in welcoming Michael.
MICHAEL HENSEL: Thank you very much for the introduction. Does the mic work? Please bear with me. I need to just make-- recall a few aspects from last night in order to contextualize what I will be doing now, which will be a little bit more foreign to me. Because this is going to be about birds, but it's also going to be about architecture.
I would like to start, once again, with this quote by Frijof Capra. But I would like to point out somewhere here, the second sentence, that shallow ecology is anthropocentric. And then it continues, "It views humans as above or outside of nature, as the source of all value and ascribes only instrumental or use value to nature."
There was a question earlier on about utility. And the tendency will be to try and sort the things that we're looking at in terms of arguing for them by commodity or utility, pleasure or nuisance. And when we do that, we just have to remember that we are trying to tackle the difficulty that we're in some sort of paradoxical situation, in which we cannot but apply our value system but at the same time try to pursue something that would best be done by somebody else. Maybe not by Homo sapiens. So we have this problem to pursue.
But we are not without help. If I may say that again, we can know when we foreground an ecologic model, refer to a whole series of publications that do not only explain what biodiversity is but put this into relation to a whole series of human activities to do with the environment.
And if you recall, what big shots this line on the blackboard, from the so-called natural environments to the total control environment of humans. You can actually see that these different publications touch upon different areas that could be placed on that line from something that is perhaps more directly still in touch with what a lot of people would consider the natural environment. Agro-ecosystems, that is agriculture that is approaching its own industry from an ecological point of view to forestry-- which is somewhere on that same level of the line-- to the kind of policies that need to be put into place and to the conditions in urban environments that we have heard in the fantastic speech by John, earlier on.
But also ultimately, what I quickly referred to yesterday, we need to find some sort of suitable conceptual approach for that. Do we think about conservation-- or if I have learned my lesson correctly earlier on, I should say preservation-- from the point of view of maintaining a mapped status quo, i.e. These are the species in an area, these are the quantities we must maintain them at all costs?
Or do we take into consideration how do we do that that actually those conditions fluctuate? And they might fluctuate to the point where critical thresholds are crossed and a totally different situation is faced. Design, architecture, urban design, and so on has a certain degree of problem with his open endedness because that's not typically how we tend to think.
I will try at the end of this brief talk to point out one way of potentially going about it. This was one image I showed yesterday, in which I tried to make a point that this red line here, if it is an architectural threshold, if it indicates somehow the material boundaries generated by architectural design, tends to separate an interior, which is entirely geared to satisfying our needs from an outside world that is also very much influenced by us. But it provides a quasi hermetic border between these two.
And so the question is, we can operate on that border, of course. We can look at green facades or living walls, the difference being that green facades have plants growing that have their roots in the soil versus living walls that half the plants rooted right here in the substrate, placed on the facade.
So we could begin to operate on the threshold, and we do that. But quite typically, the difficulties involved the technicality of the question, or even somehow the nostalgic notion of what it might mean to do such things leads us to produce an image of something that is green, a thickened growing wallpaper that quite often does not sufficiently engage in the processes which were so eloquently alluded to this morning.
As is for instance the soil regime, with it's very important functions in terms of ecosystems and in terms of the hydrospheric regime and in terms of biodiversity and so on and ecosystems. So that actually would show us that the very thinness of a living world or the very thinness of a green roof, in terms of actual material layer, can not possibly sufficiently address all the below ground, above ground linkages, which are so important, which underlie these kinds of processes.
So maybe we need to take a step back. We must proceed, of course. We have no option.
But we must proceed with caution and always looking back. If we actually need to do something with real ecological consequences, then we need to refer to these kinds of processes and work with them. But I was going to put a little bit more focus not on the very small things that we don't see. I think it is clear that there are certain things we need to do better. I will also not focus so much on stationary species, like vegetation and so on.
What I wanted to do is to see when we think about architecture as a thickened boundary-- literally of envelopes upon envelopes that create spaces for cohabitation between different species-- what it might mean. And if you recall, these two different historical kiosks I showed yesterday, one from Turkey and one from Iran, you will see that the relationship of interior and exterior space that comprised everything under one roof is different from what we expect to see today.
You see that this kiosk is surrounded by a very large amount of arcaded exterior space. This one here is traversed by two axes of exterior space. And that's something we wouldn't do today.
Because if we do 100 square meters, or if we have a footprint of 100 square meters, our expectation today is that all of that minus the thickness of the exterior wall is fully climatised interior space. That's our expectation. That's what we like to spend our money for.
So what would happen-- surely we will not being given a larger footprint-- what would happen then is that this layering of envelopes would require maybe a reduction of interiorizing the full space, maybe only 70% of what is necessary and 30% as an intermediary space. It will take a whole lot of arguing to convince people to do such a thing. It would probably even be very difficult to just simply put legislation into space and to try and push that through.
In my view, that might not be good enough. Somehow we need to develop ways and arguments to convince people that this is a valid way of going forward. And exactly where this argument is placed presents the real difficulty. This cannot just simply be argued through utility.
Although, mind you, there is something to be said if we really want to continue with questions about energy conservation, if the total interior space is 70% of what we would do, well, this would be a fairly substantial reduction in energy use. And if there would be another, more perforated envelope around that, the real impact of the environment on the climate envelope would also be heavily reduced. In fact, we might look at something of 50% energy saving. That's huge. It would be one way of beginning to argue from within the kind of argumentation that already exists.
But we want to talk about these guys. So he wants to move in with you. The typical reaction is you call wildlife preservation, and he's shown the door. Stay there, away.
Or those guys, trying to move in. You call the wildlife guy again. And they're shown the door.
Now, when we go a little bit smaller-- some tiny rodents or even insects-- it's not the wildlife control you call, you call the pest control. And more likely, this will be the result. Not even shown the door, exterminate.
So this is somehow a situation that we are confronting, to be real about this. Nobody here in this room would really like to share their interior environment with any of those animals that we have talked about. And how close do we accept them to be? What kind of tolerance do we have?
Is this a nuisance? Or is it a commodity? Views have changed over historical time quite dramatically.
Our view today is expressed in this object. We do not only wish the pigeons not to be somewhere so close. We also make every conceivable effort for them not to sit on any of the surfaces. Because today pigeon dropping and even the presence of a pigeon is seen as a kind of health risk.
In historical time, this has not always been so. This is an image from these wonderful carved architectures in Cappadocia. This is more a kind of larger unit, but they had carved cities with 11 stories underground, found ways of ventilating them and so on and so on, maintaining a fairly livable environment for up to 30,000 people self-sufficient for periods up to three, even six months, when once again there would be a siege somewhere from the steppes.
But pay attention to these tiny little openings here, and how close they actually are to the living quarters of humans. They are obviously for birds, most likely for some kind of wild or semi-domesticated form of pigeon. It is really hard to say because as you know, a lot of animals have adapted over time due to human presence, due to the advantages that were to be gained. And here, perhaps, food and safety is one decisive factor. So actually humans went through quite a conceivable effort to carve out these niches, even if this tough rock is relatively soft, still the labor needs to be done.
Later then, occurred these pigeon towers in Iran that I showed to you early on. The assumption is that this building typology originated perhaps somewhere in Azerbaijan. Btu what I will do in the next few minutes is show you with the great variety of human structures built for pigeons, which is really quite staggering and which makes you think, how on earth did they ever begin to make a client profile-- expectations of their clients-- and begin to satisfy their functional criteria?
What you see here is in the plane around the city of Isfahan. These towers at quite a density. It is assumed that around the city of Isfahan, there were about 3,000 or so of these structures, the larger ones housing up to 10,000 pigeons. And typically they were multi-layered.
This is the interior. This is where the singer pigeons would nest. And the pigeons would enter through the turrets at the top of these towers. And once in a while, where the facade is still decently preserved, you see these kinds of bands in the facade of the tower.
Here is little bit of a better image. This band here consists of a more slippery material, so that reptiles cannot enter the building. If ever that would happen, somehow in the collective memory as we learned early on through the bad guy mask, the pigeons would never use the structure again, at least not for many generations.
So these towers were actually built to collect the pigeon droppings, to fertilize the fields, and to start a local economy of growing melons that made Isfahan really famous at that time, and to be used in the tanneries in the city. And these buildings were entered only once a year to collect the droppings.
Just another view of one of the few rare examples in which a pigeon tower was restored. It's no longer really in use, not in the same way as it was. The few that are now still in a fairly decent state of repair are tourist attractions, so they're not used in this manner anymore. And in fact, with the invention of chemical ways of fertilizing fields, they became in a way redundant. Nobody wanted to undertake the effort of this maintenance of these buildings and so on.
This is just to show you a little bit the great variety of different expressions that these towers had, just in the proximity of Isfahan itself. And this is an anthropometric section through one of these buildings. I showed this image yesterday, just to show you over a quite steep temperature gradient how the interior ambient temperature is kept relatively stable.
And these CFD analysis images show you something about the airflow around these and through these towers, which indicate that these towers operate fairly similar to the famous wind catchers used to ventilate structures for human inhabitation. So on the leeward side, the air is sucked out. And the intake is on the windward side. And it ventilates the entire building in a very efficient manner.
What is not clear yet, as I mentioned yesterday, we have to look more closely at these little turrets. Because the turbulent flow that occurs around there seems to be quite dramatic. So it's a bit interesting to see how pigeons were actually able to fly in and out without being sort of laundered.
Here you have not too far away, in the eastern area of Anatolia, a similar building. But here, the tower is lowered halfway into the ground, with the chamber for the pigeons being entirely buried. This is mainly due to the severe climate in the winter, where temperatures up to minus 20, minus 25 degrees centigrade are reached.
And really, the principal is very much the same. The pigeons fly in from the top, through these chimneys. And the droppings are collected here, through this door, which is dug sideways through the slope into this chamber, so that even while pigeons are up here, the disturbance when collecting the manure is fairly minimal.
These are pigeon towers in Egypt. Their purpose is different. The pigeons approach their spaces from the outside. They don't fly into the tower, they nest from the outside.
On the inside of the tower, there's a ladder reaching to all these different pockets. And here is where the eggs and the dung of the pigeons were collected, oftentimes even the young pigeons as a kind of food supply for humans. So similar building typology, but different purpose. This time the animal does not enter, it inhabits the thickness of the wall.
And dovecotes started really off in the European context, in the Roman Empire. And it is assumed that maybe dovecotes arrived through aristocratic Romans that spent some time in Britain that they arrived in this kind of way. And you'll find a great abundance of those in England, as I'm sure Richard might be able to confirm.
And oftentimes, these are standalone structures, just like the pigeon towers we saw in Iran and so on. But where it begins to be more interesting is when these are interested in the gable walls and so on of buildings that have different purposes-- either barns or, as you can see here, in the actual building inhabited by people.
And look at this. This is right above the entrance. So if those people considered pigeon droppings a nuisance, this would not be the thing to do. Not with your new jacket.
So this is actually really quite interesting. Because this shows very clearly that there are different degrees of providing for and integrating different building activities. So if we say that consideration of material expenditure and so on-- the CO2 footprint, the energy invested into that-- matters, then these integrated solutions seem to be really an interesting way forward. This is what I tried to allude to when I showed this image of the multiple envelopes, where there are interstitial spaces inhabited perhaps in the future by a variety of species.
This is from Transylvania. As everything from Transylvania, it's a bit odder than other examples. Here you have the pigeons integrated in this top structure of the roof over a gate. This is a fairly common thing.
I don't know whether this is to keep guests away. Because when you get your dropping here on your nice new jacket while you knock on the gate, maybe you will not knock again. Transylvanian hospitality.
And at the same time, you may ask yourself, how on earth did all those guys know how to design for pigeons. I mean, how do they-- of course, there may have been vernacular traditions that gradually proceeded from little structures to larger ones. But at some point, all of a sudden, these very large structures pop up, like in Iran. And an economy of significant size is associated with that, something that I tried to term auxiliary relation yesterday.
But for us, that we have a kind of disrupted relation with the vernacular for a whole variety of reasons-- technical developments, world wars and so on, apologies for my side-- we can of course look at the existing or still preserved human structures for animals. But we can also look at how animals provide for themselves and perhaps draw certain conclusions from this.
This is the study of a magpie nest that we did in the Emerging Technologies and Design Program. A student came from Sweden with a magpie nest. And we tried to figure out how do we actually analyze that. It was very much about the amount of twigs, the type of twigs, the intersection point of friction between the twigs and so on.
So you cannot really take a bird's nest apart. Because once you have taken it apart, there is very little left to study by way of a bird's nest, that is. So we approached Guy's hospital in London and asked whether it might be possible to put the bird nest through one of their computer tomography devices.
And they said yes, with pleasure. But this test is too dry. It doesn't have enough moisture content. Can you provide us with a fairly fresh nest.
So off the student went again to Sweden. I don't really want to know how the magpies were convinced to abandon that nest. But back came a fresh nest from Sweden, and it was put through this device.
And these are the images produced by the technology. Fairly detailed images of the distribution of moisture content in the wood. And this image here is an image created by the medical software or the volume of twigs. And you can see it is very detailed. It has a lot of information in terms of the ruggedness and the bits and pieces.
This is the same information that needed to be reduced to run it through an architectural software off the shelf. And you can see all the information is gone, and it looks a bit like smooth piping. So that didn't really help.
We couldn't proceed with our own tools, so we needed to ask the people at Guy's Hospital to help us a little bit further with their technology. And this is one image of the analysis that shows you where you have connection points between the different twigs. It's a way of utilizing contemporary technology to understand a little bit more about those animal made structures and perhaps to learn a little bit more about the kind of provisions one would need to make today.
This is nothing new for biologists. But it was an interesting experiment in the context of Architecture. My wife and I run a little workshop at the University of Technology in Sydney, where we went to the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park nearby Sydney, which is really quite interesting, and asked students in small teams to look at 5 by 5 square meter areas to map biodiversity. Not a scale where we tend to look, because that's the scale where we see grass growing between two tiles, which is considered more a nuisance rather than a commodity.
But for those students, it was a surprising effort for a variety of reasons. First of all, to learn something about diversity but also to learn something about survival strategies of stationary species, that is, plants, in relation to bushfire. That was very educational. But I think this would be subject for another talk.
Even to visualize relations across scales for students of architecture in this kind of manner challenged them to take the entire [INAUDIBLE] of visualization techniques they have in order to come at least a little bit to terms with the complexity perceived. So in a way, you see that Big and I were struggling a lot with finding not just the right area of study or defining interesting questions that would lead us forward, but were really struggling with how to deal with the complex information involved and how to retain the complexity, so that in the design process stuff is not being dumbed down to solutions which could have been done without this kind of level and depth of study.
So just to wrap this up, I want to draw your attention to very interesting ways in which agro-ecosystem management responds to questions of biodiversity. And this is a diagram that I have slightly modified. It comes from the source here, a very interesting source in relation to our ecosystem management.
And when the mayor and perfecter introduced a model in which they related a plant biodiversity of crop and crop cycles in agriculture with an associated biodiversity of microbes and things that take place in the ground because you plant a certain species of rye or whatever. So whatever you do in terms of an intervention of introducing a multitude of species with that have an associated biodiversity. And if there are untouched bits of forest around-- like for instance in the way that John showed earlier on-- you have these two interacting with an evolving biodiversity of the surrounding environment.
The question was earlier on, where do you have to argue through utility or commodity or what are the ways of arguing for doing the things that we wish to do? I would think that this provides an interesting element of grading. Because you could say maybe in this area, you need to argue for much more for questions of utility, whereas this is a consequence of that interacting with this.
And to argue here for commodity is also in a way possible. But maybe there we need to place another kind of effort. So where commodity, utility, and so on begins to act is very much a question of taxonomizing degrees of human control over biodiversity itself.
And then I think what this diagram doesn't talk so much about is the complexity of this interaction between these three domains. But again, I think this would be maybe a subject for a talk in about the year's time, when we have done our homework. Thank you very much.
SPEAKER: So we do have time to take a couple o f questions. Are there questions from the audience?
AUDIENCE: Hi. So I'm actually a biologist over in the ecology and evolution department. And one of the main things that I've been thinking about throughout these talks is really about structural complexity. So we've been trying to look at species diversity and biodiversity and then also how that response variable is impacted by design or is a built environment.
And so with the layering of the ecological environment, the quantity seems to be species and the number of species. But really, I am just seeing that potentially animals and other organisms are responding to structures and not so much the species diversity or the resources that they're using-- so you know, with predator prey or, you know, insect plant interactions, that sort of thing. There are some fundamental properties that I think that designers might be able to really exploit to increase diversity. So I'm just wondering if you've talked about or if that's explicitly incorporated in design and just how structural complexity literally can play a role in increasing ecological diversity? So I don't know if that makes sense.
MICHAEL HENSEL: May I just ask by structure, you mean structure in an architectural sense or?
AUDIENCE: Exactly. Because with a lot of the examples you've shown, it really is the designs of these houses that the pigeons are using and not the vegetation. So that's sort of what I'm getting at. And I think that that could be a potential answer or a link between the built environment and the natural communities, in some way of sustaining that or providing some sort of feedback. Because the natural communities of animals and plants, they often are responding to the structures, the structural complexity.
MICHAEL HENSEL: I'm not sure whether I can address this question in a straightforward manner. But I think as architects, we have to start somewhere with something at the lower level of complexity and then work our way forward. It could of course be investigated here and further argued that for instance a living wall, like these green facades that I showed earlier on, and other species co-habitating the structure will enter into this kind of relation. And I think that a lot of experimental studios in the world are already beginning to look into that. And presumably we'll see some of that this afternoon.
But there's also a lot of conceptual work that needs to be done. And I think there-- when I say proceed with caution, I think this is where I mean it the most. Because we need to really check the concepts and preconceptions that we're working with on the side of the architects. And we need to coordinate our concepts with those of the biologists in a very careful manner, in order to prevent here and there local catastrophic results of our interventions.
So I have drawn a degree of comfort when listening to John that a way, even though a lot of suburban sprawl really sucks, from the point of view of what we're discussing today, actually it might not in every instance be so bad. So there we have a little bit of leeway there.
But I think taken together, what I was trying to say yesterday and today, when approaching it from the side of a singular building, the repercussions of getting it wrong might just initially not be so large. So we have also a degree of leeway there. But still it very much depends on what our point of departure is. And I want to be very careful about the conceptual development that lies behind this kind of work. So if at times this will mean that we're looking at apparently more singular relations, then this is the price to pay.
AUDIENCE: I have a relatively straightforward question. Are the pigeon towers still inhabited by pigeons? And the reason I ask it is that it seems like you could think of a city as a much more elaborate, evolved form of a pigeon tower. And pigeons as a species are actually doing much better right now than they probably were when those pigeon towers were built.
MICHAEL HENSEL: Maybe. All I can say is there were a lot of pigeons in Trafalgar Square until the London government decided to prohibit the feeding of the pigeons. The few that were stubborn enough to turn up again and got sort of a little bit under the bench food by tourists were, I think, forcefully removed.
So how well the pigeons are doing is not only a question of whether or not something physical is provided for them, but it also has to do very much with legislation. In my view, the way in which pigeons are not doing so well today and are probably doing less well than ever before is in the public view of them. So I think this will be one of the immense obstacles or stepping stones that we have to address in this process. That's why I try to say something about the question of commodity, utility, and so on and what kind of value will we initially use to work away from pre-configured expectations as to why we should have something or not.
So I'm not sure where the pigeons are doing per se better in the urban environment or not. The pigeon towers around Isfahan, they're largely out of use. But in Anatolia, they're still very much used, both in combinations with dovecotes above ground and this kind of semi below ground pigeon towers.
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much for your talk. You alluded a little bit in your answer to the last question about the utility of this co-habitation. Could you go a little bit more in-depth? Because I'm interested in kind of how we can use co-habitation to bring humans back into contact with nature in a way, this educational piece, or in so much as a biodiversity factor. So could you please expand on that?
MICHAEL HENSEL: I think we're a little bit too stuck with this notion of commodity and utility. Again, I think something that John said early on gave me a degree of optimism. And that is namely the fact that in the areas where people find an unexpected bird species and so on, increasingly the tendency is to help the situation and to perceive that as something positive. And I don't think that this evaluation or this emotional response is easily explained within the constraints of commodity or utility as we understand it today.
And it's also drawing the entire model entirely back to having to justify in an anthropocentric manner. I know that Kevin expressed a little bit of doubt earlier on about how we can work ourself away from that. That's why I share this doubt. But I share this doubt in such a manner that it will only make me proceed with caution.
So I would say there is a perception of quality there that can be nourished and that can be developed. I actually got personally very sad when a bunch of woodpeckers and jays around our house didn't turn up this winter for their food. Because in my mind, I think they are not they are because of the vast increase of house cats.
So in a way, there is cohabitation between species that is detrimental to the diversity that you might see around yourself in our village. Squirrels have entirely disappeared over 10 years, not one. Within the last three years, badgers have almost entirely disappeared. We saw very few deer. And we really live very much out in the sticks.
This is worrisome. So this is the opposite of the appreciation of when you see something. All of a sudden, you see something not anymore. And I think it should get us intensely worried.
But that's a different way of arguing about things. It's a different emotion and value response to these kinds of conditions. You see, in the example of the pigeon towers, that's why they're a little bit problematic. We're talking about something that once fueled a local economy. And it would be very difficult to talk people in Isfahan into using the pigeon towers again instead of using chemical fertilizers.
So if we stay within that domain, there's very little room for maneuvering and to develop concepts that eventually will grip somewhere. So I really can't answer your question. We have to do a lot of work on that.
SPEAKER: I think we'll take one last question.
AUDIENCE: I was just interested in your whole concept of returning to the vernacular. And I'm suspicious of using even the word, "return." But it seems that the canon of architecture has objectified architecture. And it's turned it into objects instead of being attentive to processes and those interactions between people and place-- both humans and non-humans and places. I mean that's been going on for centuries.
So it's interesting to see you returning to the vernacular as the place of study. And that in itself is revolutionary, because it suggests that we have to dispel where we've been looking-- dispel all of our assumptions about where we've been looking for knowledge. So you're breaking again that sort of boundary in terms of where we think about where knowledge occurs.
So it needs to be found in the interstitial spaces. That's where the knowledge is going to be found, too. It's going to be occurring in those five meter patches. It's going to be occurring in those vernacular sites and landscapes. It's going to be occurring in the space we share between ecology and architecture, landscape between systems.
And thinking more in terms of these dialectics and these both ands and these. We don't-- how space and place occurs. It doesn't occur in these realms. So it dispels all of our assumptions. It's fascinating to me, and I just wonder what you might say in terms of how we need to be teaching or reshaping the canon of architecture.
MICHAEL HENSEL: This is-- I have some thoughts on that. But they require a degree of elaboration. I tried to make it really short.
And I would say two things-- seeing possibilities in architectures that are not exploited or in potential designs that are not exploited and on the other hand, treating the entire built environment as a vast repository of embedded knowledge. So this is what I'm saying had yesterday and today a little bit of a leaning towards the vernacular. But the vernacular is only one of those domains.
An equally interesting question is when you look at the bridge in Isfahan that I showed yesterday, which doesn't really have a very clear precedent. It has precedents in terms of bridging two sides. It has precedents in terms of weirs built. But the weir bridge, which at the same time becomes a social hot spot because it generates a really nice comfortable climate has not existed before this. Or if there were precedents, they have been destroyed.
My assumption is different. When Shah Abbas the First declared Isfahan as the new capital of Persia, he pulled people from all parts of the empire together-- Armenians, Georgians, and so on-- mainly to remove them from the influence sphere of the Ottomans and other people. So all of a sudden, before prejudice could be generated, and this new societal mosaic could become prejudiced and segregated, people were interacting. And they were interleaving types of skills and knowledge that were not brought into contact like this.
And that, I think, facilitated them with a variety of projects, may they be civic, representational, may they be special purpose projects like the pigeon towers or vernacular. For all of that to move all of a sudden a step forward, and then it goes back to a slower pace of development until the next moment that facilitates the leapfrogging.
So I was ultimately very sad to hear a politician like David Cameron-- I think it was at the beginning of 2010-- declared the multicultural project dead. First of all, he's not in a position to declare something like this. And second of all, I think the multicultural project is something that is just simply very inherent to human society that has exchanges.
So these moments of confluence of knowledge, when they intersect with other ways of knowledge production like the vernacular and so on, that's where things are beginning to be really interesting. So to complete my comment, I think there are different modes of knowledge production. And there are different modes of looking at the natural environment, which is very-- for biologists, it's much less an issue to look at the natural environment as a repository for insight and concert-building. But as architects, we like to turn our back on the so-called old stuff and just try to reinvent the wheel. And that's not very helpful in a way. Because it disconnects us from numerous modes and numerous repositories of knowledge.
SPEAKER: OK, please join me in thanking Michael Hensel.
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Michael Hensel, professor of architecture at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, gives a presentation at the 2012 Hans and Roger Strauch Symposium on Sustainable Design, "Sustaining Sustainability: Alternative Approaches in Urban Ecology and Architecture," February 4, 2012.
The symposium was organized jointly by the Cornell University Department of Architecture and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics.