Design Studio (Two) Four



Tutors: Eric Guibert and Anthony Powis

Eric Guibert is an architect and gardener of landscapes. He investigates how design can nurture and express dynamic ecological relations between humans and their ecosystems. His research has been developed through the design and realisation of buildings and landscapes over the last 10 years (www.ericguibert. com). Eric recently summarised the findings in his PhD through Reflective Practice (The Gardener Architect: designing with the emergent natures of places).

Anthony Powis is an architect and researcher, working with themes of urban nature, more-than-human vitality, and creativity. Between 2012 and 2016, he led public space and other projects at muf architecture/art, and has been part of the Monsoon Assemblages project at Westminster since 2017. He has tutored, led invited workshops, and been a visiting critic at The Bartlett, UCL, University of Sheffield School of Architecture, and Central St Martins.

Envisioning Architectural Ecologies

Ecological Architecture

The studio focuses on designing ecological architectures. The students will be designing visions for possible ecological futures. Such holistic approach combines buildings and landscapes. The fields are not seen as separate, but as a continuum of degrees of shelter. The clients will be the entire local ecosystem, the human and non-human inhabitants. The students will investigate how the life of humans and those of plants and other animals can relate ecologically, how architecture can nurture and express ecological processes. This is an aesthetic as well as an ethical question. Our students will be developing proposals that are both powerfully poetic and resilient.

Suburban permaculture visions

Suburbia is generally seen as an unsustainable mode of urbanism, highly reliant on car travel, with low levels of biodiversity. Yet the abundance of land is also an opportunity for food production, re-wilding and renewable energy production. This year, we will look at how low density urbanism can become ecological.

We will be working from Retrosuburbia, a recently published book written by David Holmgren, one of the fathers of permaculture, which summarises his research on applying ecological principles to existing suburban development.
We challenge you to imagine what forms could suburbia take if it was based on permaculture principles. How could people live in a symbiotic relation with the ecosystem they are part of? What are the other possible architectural languages to that of the Do It Yourself (bricolage) quality shown in Holmgren’s book? The projects will be “the proving grounds for remaking sustainable relations between humans and nature.” (Tsing 2015)

Design methods

There will be four primary design method strands weaving through the year. The students start the year by reflecting through hand drawings on the Permaculture concepts described in the book Retrosuburbia. This is followed by small group research on historical and contemporary ecological ways of seeing the world, the architectures they design and their food growing approaches. These results will be collated in an ecological design handbook.

The students will apply this knowledge to define the brief they will be designing for and represent the interactions within as well as with the surrounding ecosystem in a beautiful sectional diagram. This will later be developed into environmental building sections.

In parallel, the students will map the local and site ecology and how the briefs can connect to its flows. This will gradually grow into massing studies leading to plans. The students will also be making physical models and hand drawn sketches. Each semester will conclude by producing a book that will convey the students’ vision.

The studio uses a mix of pedagogies: group and personal tutorials, visits to inspiring examples, seminars, short lectures on methods and concepts, and structured workshops to help the students develop their ecological design skills. We will be using equally handmade approaches to support the students’ intuitive creativity and digital techniques for rigour and efficiency. In the first semester, most weeks will have a specific method for the students to try; in the second semester, the students themselves will be choosing which methods they would like to use each week.