What I got out of the 2 segments of this series that we watched is mainly this: good design arises from, strengthens, and nurtures the culture of the people for which it is built. The structure is built so that it seems to grow up from the landscape itself. It is also organized in a way that it suits perfectly the needs of the persons inhabiting it. We see this especially in the Druke White Lotus School. Arising from both the Buddhist culture of the people and the isolated geographic location, the building is completely self-sustaining and makes only a minimal impact on the environment. Because the building is completely “off the grid,” the self-sustaining qualities of the building require the active participation of the inhabitants to keep the systems working (reinforcing their culture of reciprocity with the environment- through the relationship of reciprocity your environment becomes an extension of yourself). The Ladakh School provides for the culture by functioning in a way that preserves ancient tradition and culture in a modern world. The architecture of Jonathan Rose provides for people in that it is helping to reestablish the culture of the place as Harlem continues to rebuild itself. Because this place is undergoing a major social transformation it only makes sense to design for the potential of the place, to provide hope, assurance, and security in the belief in a better tomorrow. Providing them with the tools to create themselves, the architecture says to the residents “I believe in you.” It takes them seriously so they will reach for higher aspirations.
In the two movies that we watched from e2-Design series, the emphasis is on the social aspect of sustainability and we see two examples of this approach: a school and a residential complex. The main point is about creating a design, which creates opportunity, in another word, design potentials. In this case users will interact with the building and therefore will feel connection to the buildings as it was expressed in the movie: buildings will become the extended part of users body and so they are live. But the main question is how, one of the responses is design based on the needs and of course needs are not the physical ones, it can be social, psychological, health and welfare. As an example, for the residential complex in NY users asked about buildings that improve their health.One of the challenges that I have to design based on needs is for my studio project. It is about designing a restaurant prototype for a restaurant chain. I tried to know about the demographic and patrons of that specific chain but as we know for a socially sustainable design we have to look at the needs and needs are changing from one place to another.
The parallels between the two films intrigued me. The settings could not have been more different, but the philosophies and goals were the same. There were many things I got from the films (a sense of place, local materials, sustainability...), but the part that affected me most was that scale matters and it is possible to create interiors that are scaled to the users without the space “matching” the size of the users. The children in the school were so tiny compared to the high-ceiling spaces, but it was obvious that the children owned the space, felt comfortable in in, and it fit them. I want to revisit the film and try to get a better understanding of how they did it. It had to be so much more than amenities being the right size; the emotional reaction to watching the children interact with their space insisted that the answer is more complicated.Even though the New York setting is in my country, it seemed more foreign to me than the school. I have never lived in a city larger than Greensboro and have no desire to live in a space any more densely populated than where I currently live. Creating a space that is emotionally comfortable while housing many people close together is a challenge that I commend the designers of the project for doing. I was particularly inspired by the way everyone could see the sun. The attention to the relationship between the structure and its specific placement of the earth was thoughtful and successful. The terraced green roof made me think that it might be possible for me to feel at home very close to many people after all.
I think both films had great comments, when it said that “nothing is bad if you know the foundation” made me think that the approach to things is the difference when we design something. If we know the fundamental concepts, and the causes and effects one product, material or technique in a design as well as the impact we would generate in people and environment we would create a balance that can be evident not only to designers but to general public. Taking information from the nature is one good way to approach design. In the case of the school in Tibet, they were talking about mandalas as Buddhism symbols inspiration for all the shapes of the school. The use of local materials generates a physical connection with the place creating appropriate environments, supporting the economy, meeting the community needs and expectations because the end product will be for them. Design creates a connection with sustainable practices, social values and the way of using space, resources and technology.
When I look at the images of the Druk White Locus School in Shey, Ladakh I am reminded of Civility and Grace in architecture. You just know it when you see it. The school belongs to the landscape, embodies the users, and engages a community. Architect Jonathan Rose described the passive solar design features that worked in tune with nature, grew out of the indigenous materials, and resulted in ownership by the children who took responsibility for maintaining the building. The abundance of natural light connects the users to the natural world and their culture in the snow-covered mountainous region. In recognizing their resources and limitations they worked with nature for water conservation, improved air quality and an energy efficient design for a modern era that is rooted in past technologies. In viewing the film, I wondered why we couldn’t build our schools with this same purposeful design in America. Well maybe in small pockets we can. The Via Verde project in New York is one where architecture responds to the needs of the community by applying ingenuity that enhances a community. For years the Bronx has been a burned down, neglected borough of New York, limited in open space. Only the very poor of New Yorkers live there. Providing affordable housing that champions the needs for open space, improves air quality, and security were challenging. In answering these fundamental questions architect Jonathan Rose choose a Biophilic Design that carpets the rooftops with a diversity of green vegetation, terraces the structure to allow natural light in at all angles, enabling cross ventilation, then joins the housing project to a medical facility that anchors the buildings to the needs of the community. The resultant design brings with it pride and ownership of the space, whereby adding to its security.In viewing both these films I see technologies borrowed from successful urban planning of ancient civilizations, like the Pueblo Indians and the Classical periods of the Greek and Romans. A democratic design feature of the classical period was to design their communities whereby an equal amount of sun was cast into their porticos to warm their homes and provide natural light. Terracing their structures and orienting them south achieved this result. In modern architecture we can borrow successful energy efficient designs and revitalized them to suit today’s lifestyles.