Minimum impact maximum effect: teaching the fundamentals of sustainable design

  • YEAR
    Hurst, Rachel
    Lawrence, Jane
    2004 Conference Papers
    Architectural education


ABSTRACT: This paper describes a series of studio projects that address issues of sustainability
through the idea of ‘context’. While the term originates in notions of urban or historical continuity in the
1960s, it is increasingly used to denote an environmental context, which takes into account
responsiveness to location, both physically and culturally. Pertinent to the themes of this conference is
the use coined by Christopher Alexander who used ‘context’ as a synonym for ‘environment’ stating
‘The form is the solution to the problem; the context defines the problem.’ (Alexander 1964:15)
In the contemporary practice of architecture, global context defines problems arising from limited
resources and the continuing use of fossil fuels. Coupled with conventional expectations that architects
‘duly skilled and sensitized should be able to intervene anywhere’ (Forty, 2000:135), ‘context’ can be an
overwhelming concept for novice architectural students to grasp. This paper will discuss a teaching
methodology which instils contextual sensibilities at the foundational level of architectural education. It
will outline a sequence of projects that address environmental parameters of materials and their use,
providing an essential link between the design studio and core subjects in construction, structures and
environmental science.


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