Starting on August 25, the Amazon rainforest will once again play host to a unique Floating Architecture workshop led by biomimicry specialist and WDCD alumnus, Marko Brajovic, and AA School professor Nacho Marti. This time, the course has also set itself a new and exciting goal: generating ideas for the WDCD Climate Action Challenge.
In fact, we’re thrilled to announce that the Climate Action Challenge will serve as the driving force and central theme to the 2017 edition of this workshop by the Architectural Association (AA). For eight days, students from all over the world will be modelling, prototyping and working on proposals for architectural solutions that can adapt to tidal variations and extreme water level rises.
The lush banks of the Mamori Lake, and the floating species that call it home, will provide the crucial inspiration. The entire creative process will be documented, and the final result submitted as an entry to the Challenge.
With just a few weeks to go until kick-off, we talked to the workshop’s programme directors –a team consisting of Brajovic, Marti and biomimicry expert Alessandra Araujo – about their expectations for the course, and the role of architecture in climate action. Read our interview below; or visit www.aaschool.ac.uk to learn more. Applications are open til August 18!
Q: You’re about to head off into the Amazonian rainforest for the 3rd edition of your Floating Architecture workshop. What inspired you to create this programme?
Nacho Marti: We have been doing workshops in the Brazilian Amazon for more than ten years and we believe that there are important lessons to be learnt from the way nature resolves problems. We use the incredible richness of the Amazon rainforest as a creative laboratory to connect participants with nature and challenge their creativity with limited access to technology.
Also, many of the issues that affect the Mamori Lake area are global issues. Over the years, we have been amazed by the radical changes in Mamori Lake water levels due to the variation of rainfall in the dry and wet seasons. This changing boundary creates a beautiful relationship between locals and the environment. However, when the water levels rise too much, it has devastating consequences. This is a global problem and we must learn from nature how to create more adaptive and resilient built environments.
Q: This year the theme of the workshop is focussed on the WDCD Climate Action Challenge. Why is it so important that architects engage with climate change issues?
NM: The construction industry has a massive impact on the environment, and according to Brown and Bardi’s Handbook for energy evaluation, 50% of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to buildings. So it is imperative that architects learn to develop design strategies that are sympathetic with the environment, while creating buildings that are beautiful and comfortable. There is plenty of research that associates the beauty of the built environment with human mental wellbeing; but we also want these built environments to promote the wellbeing of the planet.
Q: This workshop takes place in the depths of the Amazon. But sea level rise and extreme weather are both global, and increasingly urban problems. What are some lessons the city could learn from the forest?
Alessandra Araujo: The tropical rainforest is the most developed ecosystem on earth and is measured by several parameters like energy cycles, material flows, pattern diversity, niche specializations and system stability. It’s very complex, and actually these ecological parameters are totally suitable as urban indicators.
Cities and forests also have similar architecture. Both have layers of occupancy within its own individuals, needs and connections. Forest individuals only survive because they belong to a rich interdependent and collaborative system. On the other hand, most urban planning lacks a sensitivity to networks and collaboration. Instead we see a lot of segregation and clusters of isolated people and systems. Most cities also waste a lot of energy: consuming more than they put back into the system. As a biologist, I see a huge opportunity in learning from the forest. There’s a lot it can teach us about the integration of life in its many forms, and nutrient conservation through closed-loop cycling of materials and energy.
NM: We reckon that there is a lot of potential in the exploration of “glocal” architectural strategies, that is to say, designs that employ local methods, materials and cultures but that are relevant globally, both environmentally and aesthetically.
Q: What worries you most about the way we’re dealing with climate change; and what gives you the most optimism?
AA: I worry about education. There are still a lot of people who do not understand what is happening, why we are facing challenges and how to improve the situation. But I believe that crises represent opportunities and that maybe, we have to go through this in order to review our lifestyles and adapt. Nature deals with crises all the time, but after the chaos, it always finds its equilibrium. I believe we too can find –as part of nature– our own equilibrium.
Q: Any advice for other architects who may be thinking of submitting a design to the Climate Action Challenge?
Marko Brajovic: Architecture plays a huge role as transforming force, not only at the infrastructure level, but also as a state of mind and materialization of social and political forces. That manifestation reflects our present and proposes our future. In this way architecture is not only a profession, it is mainly an attitude that should express deep and genuine humanistic visions. Also remember that architecture is an organic integration of ourselves as humans with the planet – including all its natural forces.
Interested? The Architectural Association Visiting School Amazon Workshop will run from August 25 to September 2, 2017. Applications can be made through http://www.aaschool.ac.uk/STUDY/VISITING/amazon.
Can’t make it to Brazil? Learn more about designing with nature through Brajovic’s 2016 book, In Nature We Trust, which bundles his experiences as an architect and includes many of the ground-breaking projects completed at his multidisciplinary Atelier Marko Brajovic in São Paulo.
Want to submit your own proposals to the WDCD Climate Action Challenge? Visit our platform to sign up, or learn more about why water is one of the 5 key topics when it comes to climate change impacts. Deadline for submissions: 24 September 2017.
Images courtesy Architectural Association Visiting School Amazon.
From top: Visiting School Amazon students on the Mamori Lake, student Andre Pinto recording the jungle textures, Visiting School Amazon students working on their timber structure models.