Elisabeth von Samsonow (29/01/2015)

Design Sustainability and Green Communities
Elisabeth von Samsonow 
Artist, professor for philosophical and historical anthropology, fine arts Vienna 

Sustainability in architecture today not only relates to qualities like durable material, well designed structures that would work also in the future, either in individual buildings or in large areas of urbanist importance. Sustainability in the proper sense touches upon ecological insights and demands and therefore on a totally revised concept of the urban. Until now urban structures were set against „nature“, consuming air, water and energy, polluting by individual and public traffic as well as industrial production, producing unmanageable amounts of waste. Sustainability in architecture means that the city, megacity or any other form of agglomeration must form part of natural circuits and metabolic systems. At first hand, it will be important to design individual compounds in the city to start sustainable housing and working complexes, but what will count in the near future is to have a bigger picture of an organic city that produces its own energy, transforms its waste and grows at least partly its own food in horizontal and vertical gardening units that are spread allover. It is not only the implosion of the culture-nature binome that is at stake here and challenges new strategies in architecture, but a deep insight in molar and molecular processes that occur in all forms of the geo-material – refined or not - architecture is working with. Sustainability in architecture would mean that all environmental features – climate, ground, type of soil, water veins and others, impact of sun and seasonal factors - must be explored in detail before setting up planning. This looks as if I would claim a falling back to primitive forms of construction – and in a way, this is the fact. Considering all parameters of the place had been one of the prominent tasks of ancient and primitive architecture that had understood itself as a sort of cosmologico-medical operation. 

To dissolve the strict juxtaposition of the urban and the natural and to mediate and slowly fuse them it is important to understand the geological conditions of architecture transforming architecture into para-geology. There has to be a project of geological and geosophical, i.e. philosophically grounded ecological research done on the Earth and all its features helping to project the perfect balance of cybernetic fluxes in future architecture. The layers defining the Earth and its biospherical agents are thoroughly transvading the urban, there is no such thing as a city isolated from the rest. The future city will be planned within the Earth, not just be erected on a ground that is nothing else than desirable object of capitalist speculation in square meters. Given that the future project of sustainable architecture is set up in terms of para-geological operations highly cooperative with natural processes, the architectural structures will not only represent high rise compounds and thus densified urban spaces, but also „low rise“ underground use of geological layers providing tempered climatisation, low energy consumation, comfortable atmosphere and multiplication of surface in a troglodytic style.  Sustainable housing in the future will comprise all modes of former rural and urban dimensions combining high tec solutions with high tec ecology (which is, in my mind, in deed the archetype of all high tec endeavours, as I would say, because nature is the mother of technology). High tec solutions are to be applied in all resorts relating to shelter, energy supply, transport  and the use of high biotechnologies like recycling of waste, green housing, water circuits, employing micro and macro bionts, interplanetary energy supply and distribution like use of photo collectors and photo fibers. This combination will avoid further destruction of agricultural areas effecutated by urban and industrial extension ending up with the formation of slums at the outskirts of cities. The body of para-geological sites, the living body of the Earth and the living bodies of its multispecies population must be synchronized and managed by future architecture. Building should be understood as a diplomatic activity interpreting the co-habitat of Earth and people, providing new geo-topic functions in a non-dualistic way. I would call this a planetary project of ecologico-technico-social solidarity. Architecture in this sense turns out to be one of the most demanding professions ever.  

© Interviewed by 2A Magazine, Summer 2015