The world is fundamentally different today than it was yesterday. Our global paradigm is characterized by crumbling energy regimes, dwindling raw materials, fading geopolitical boundaries, global warming, and the radical transformation of our physical environment.
For the first time in human history, more than half the population of the Earth now lives in cities. At the same time, cities are being transformed, often in dysfunctional ways, especially due to endless sprawl. The explosion of urban populations worldwide is now a common topic of concern. Cities are reevaluating smart growth strategies while seeking sophisticated transportation solutions to unprecedented levels of congestion. Meanwhile, energy and material resources continue to be depleted at an accelerated rate, inspiring a host of conservation programs and environmental reforms initiated by both the public and private sectors.
Architecture is currently undergoing one of the most fundamental and unprecedented shifts in its history, both in the eyes of its makers and its users. Given the newfound awareness of humanity’s undeniable impact on the health of our planet, coupled with the fact that buildings use roughly half of all resources, a new challenge has arisen that architecture must address.
Excerpted from “Material Ecologies in Architecture” in Design Ecologies: Essays on the Nature of Design. Lisa Tilder, Beth Blostein, eds. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009.