Systems, Sites and Building

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The interplay of scientific knowledge, technological innovation, social organization and cultural expression give rise to emergent modes of thought that are deeply woven into the design of our buildings and communities. Over the past several decades, a distinct way of understanding, describing and designing the interaction of human constructs and existing ecosystems has been growing with the advance of the science of complex systems, computational technology and formal invention. It is not a story of technological determinism, however, as the science itself has revealed the essential role of our visceral humanity in the conception of human habitation. Between large-scale dynamic environmental forces and our physical responses at the cellular level, we inhabit a world of radical intersubjectivity. As we intervene in the complex dynamics of these multi-scalar interactions, it is critical that we do so in ways that increase the vitality of the whole ecosystem as a healthy, resilient and diverse habitat.

At the heart of the many flows on which our life and civilization depend is the flow of energy, in the form of heat, nutrients, mechanical and electrical power. How we organize the translation, storage, displacement, concentration and cycling of energy from its solar origin is perhaps the defining characteristic of the design of buildings, cities and landscapes. With the development of an extraordinary infrastructural apparatus based on a linear path of energy consumption from extraction to exhaust, we have constructed a degraded, fragile and increasingly stratified system that requires fundamental reconsideration as a matter of survival. In this course, we will reconsider basic assumptions that underlie the design of human habitation, exploring both the intelligence of ideas evolved over long time frames and the possibilities emerging from the rapid advance of analytic capacities and material innovation. Following an introduction to the behavior of systems and ecosystems, we will study the interaction between human experience, spatial construction and the inherited dynamics of energy, heat, air, light and water.

The course itself is conceived to be open-ended; it is about entering a world of inadequately framed questions rather than the transmission of a set of inadequately questioned assertions. It will be the task of each student to construct his or her own narrative in a dynamic, interactive process that questions conventional forms of education. The goal of the course is to model habits of mind and open lines of research that may disrupt the current patterns of dwelling and consumption that not only threaten our future but also inhibit our own experience of the world.

Link to Systems, Sites and Building 2013 Website>

Link to Systems, Sites and Building 2012 Website>

Link to Systems, Sites and Building 2011 Website>

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