a quick note on sustainability

“Sustainability” is not a utopian end-state. It is a process. Over the past, say, 500 years, human beings have accellerated, through population numbers and thus influence, the time-scale of the world. The planet no longer operates on a geologic, or ecological timescale, but an economic one. Certain species have shown rapid adaptation (and genetic evolution? how long is a generation?) in response to industrial affects, but man especially has disconnected evolution from biology. We’re in the culture game now, and our adaptation on rapidly shifting sands will and must operate in the world of culture, politics, education, rather than at the level of the genome (can science eventually reconnect high theory with low-level biological functions, thus making the entire spectrum of reality circuitous?).

In order for any argument for sustainability to be truly feasible, it must be born of the extant cultural, social, political milieu, it can’t be imposed on an unwilling populus. Thus, the end game for resilience must be fought on the markets, not in the streets, and in building code reviews, not in speculative architecture. Unfortunately.

One possibile argument for a speculative architecture that may “work” with a proposal for resilience? De-programming. The most versatile spaces from the past have been those which deny specificity of program, or at least allow for multiple configurations. The industrial loft, for example, acting as factory, studio, and apartment. Or the Church, accommodating worship, and social activities, before being renovated as apartments, art galleries, or bars. There is something stifling to hopes of sustainability about architecture that is so overly detailed and specific that it demands a single use, and I think if ambitious architecture is to survive the sustainability crisis, it must make itself programatically more versatile.

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