Urban Ecologies Conference in Toronto

Urban Ecologies 2013
June has totally snuck up on me, so sincere apologies for not sharing this sooner, but there is an excellent Urban Ecologies conference in Toronto this summer at OCAD University from June 20 – 21st.

In the topic of Regenerating Cities, I will be doing a presentation with Bruce Hinds and Ian Clarke, and running a workshop with Bruce Hinds and Jamie Miller. Key topics being explored are homeostasis and resilience as goals for the built environment, with the workshop focusing on the skin of the city. I’ve included the proposals below, and while there may be some changes, especially considering the presentation and workshops are far to brief to cover everything we hoped, I think it gives you a heads up into the research we have been doing.

All research was supported by Autodesk who supported Bruce and I and our students to really experiment with ideas around the built environment. I’ll be sharing more in the future, so stay tuned.

Let me know if you have any questions – hope to see some of you in Toronto – or maybe there are opportunities to play with some of these ideas elsewhere in the world? Let me know!

Workshop Proposal (Accepted):

Skin Deep – Adaptive Capacity, Surfaces and the City

Carl Hastrich, Bruce Hinds, Jamie Miller

We use biomimicry to disrupt mental models and foster highly creative thinking. In this workshop we will use provocative concepts from biology and evolutionary theory within an experimental space for participants to engage.

What would happen if the skin of the city was as deep in function and change as in nature?

One of the clear differences between the built and grown environment is the ability to change rapidly and dynamically. The built environment changes infrequently at a large and disruptive scale. Buildings are torn down, roads shredded, only to replaced by buildings and roads. Layers of complexity rarely emerge. In nature, every surface is teeming with life that creates microclimates to foster and sustain future generations of life. Think of the humble lichen that lays down the first layer of biomass on a barren volcanic island. This thin layer establishes the first nutrient cycles that could transform the landscape into a future thriving tropical forest. It may take time, but it has to start somewhere.

For the built environment to become regenerative, we must invite change, give up control and allow innovations to emerge.

Presentation Proposal (Accepted):

Biomimicry Thinking – Homeostasis and Resilience for Urban Ecology

Carl Hastrich, Bruce Hinds, Ian Clarke, Jonathan Veale, Julie Forand

We have begun an ongoing biomimicry investigation to understand how a biological and ecological perspective can influence current research and practice within building science. By reviewing concepts of information flow in nature – through gene expression, ecosystem engineering as co-evolution and contextual sensory input – we believe there are deep principles that can inform shifts in thinking for humans to learn how to design, construct and maintain a built environment that fits better into the grown environment.

As sensory technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, there is an emerging trend for software to play a more active role in measuring and assessing the success of a building’s performance. It is imperative that we understand how information collected in the environment, such as an office floor as investigated by Autodesk (Attar 2010), may inform overall building performance, occupant satisfaction and other factors yet to be identified as research in this area develops. We argue that the majority of buildings operate relatively indifferent from their occupants within the interior environment due to predetermined standards. We also recognize that buildings are disconnected from the external environment thanks to the technological ability to construct homogenous environments sealed from external conditions.

The ability of buildings to be “more aware” or responsive to their occupants and the external environment is a relatively new idea. The future criteria of buildings to be “responsible citizens” will put new demands on architects, engineers, developers and operators to design buildings that better fit into the environment and are more responsive to the dynamic needs of users.

From our research into natural systems, we recognize the need for a design engagement that extends beyond the construction of a building and into the ongoing relationship between building, occupant and environment. We see value in embedding the capacity for buildings to become aware, in order to teach future designers and operators dynamic patterns of best practice that contradict the current landscape of static and limited standards. This information can dramatically inform future Building Information Modeling (BIM) software in both design and ongoing commission of the site.

Our research covers broad concepts of biology and ecology in order to encourage a systemic discussion about the future of the built environment.


One Comment on “Urban Ecologies Conference in Toronto”

  1. Hi Carl, as always your blog is brilliantly inspirational and whenever I get the chance to read it there are numerous links and thoughts that help me do what I do. I am a design educator working with colleagues at my university (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) to develop responsive curricula in our design programmes. Cape Town has been designated a World Design Capital for 2014 and this is why I am writing – we are planning a programme that runs for the entire year that showcases how design can catalyse changes in thinking and doing. The urban framework is very much a focus for our efforts as it is here that we find many of the apartheid legacies lurking – have a look at these two links so that you get an idea of what our bid for 2014 is about http://www.capetown2014.co.za/ and http://www.wdccapetown2014.com/home/
    What I am thinking is, would there be any opportunity to bring any biomimicry workshops, seminars, conferences to this neck of the woods during 2014? We have a dynamic network of people BimimicrySA http://biomimicrysa.co.za/ led by our local natural wonder Claire Janisch.
    Please drop me a line if you are keen to explore further – cheers, Bruce

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