From Hard to Soft: How A New Approach On Regional And Local Levels Leads To Rethink Architectural Practice

How to address urgent issues such as linked environmental and economic crises, population pressure, global warming, sea-level rise, behavior of sea ice, food security, water stress, natural resource scarcity, temperature rising, global migration — due to these global issues —, etc.? does a global approach help solve these issues? Is there any method or tool we can implement to address these issues? Should we problem-solve or problem-address? These questions are arising as we don't find accurate measures to attempt to mitigate these issues.
Originally appeared on Get Resilience, 2012.
> "Remapping is to reconsider our relationship to the place we live." Jens Ambsdorf

I could not but agree with Jens Ambsdorf, CEO of The Lighthouse Foundation which promotes science and research, teaching, culture and the principle of environmentalism and international development in relation to the world's seas and oceans, who poses the question of the capacities of an international approach of global warming.
Arctic Climate Tour 2011 © ScanLAB Project

The UN Conference on sustainable development, that will take place this June in Rio, will discuss these crises by reshaping the institutions that govern international development. But according to Jens Ambsdorf:
Agence France-Presse - Getty Images
Originally appeared on The New York Times.
> "Family members checked out their ruined dwelling in Hajaribag,
outside the Bangladeshi capital. Such flooding is expected
to worsen significantly as a result of climate change in coming years."
Joanna M. Foster

Instead of trying to fix a system that itself is the cause of the dilemma we are in, we have to step out of the box and rethink that system entirely.
Rethinking the system, a system — our society — degraded by human activities — supposes the implementation of tools and methods that neither international conference nor a global approach can. On contrast, these can only be addressed through local measures, hence cannot be accommodated only in conventional international governance, Jens Ambsdorf says.

Photo: Abid Katib/Getty Images.
Originally appeared on Subtopia.

Regional and local levels are more appropriate as response to problem-address environmental crises (and we can also add economic crises), Jens Ambsdorf says.
Originally appeared on Domus.
> "In the village of Wlaxlw, near the Iraq-Iran border, remnants of the
conflict between the two countries were recycled in the postwar
reconstruction." Francesca Recchia

The challenges we face are global, but the solutions can only be found on an appropriate scale: the regional scale.
Provided that region and local are viewed as thematic tools. Ambsdorf is not the only one to call for a local and regional approach to tackle these issues, specific demands and resources. An article entitled Q. and A.: How to Save Bangladesh? posted on May 17th on the blog of New York Times, a blog that deals with Energy and the Environment, illustrates the importance of a regional and local approach to pressing issues as each region having its spatial complexity.

Urban Scale Fog Harvesting, © Maurits Ruis

Bangladesh sits at the end of the cone of the Bay of Bengal. The country is infamous for natural disasters. Every year the coastal zones routinely get washed away, and the farmland is destroyed: people lose animals, crops, everything they have. They are very exposed: most of the land is flat and just above sea level, every storm sweeps across the country without any obstacles, and tidal surges pound the coast. If you go further north, there is an area in the Northeast that is essentially a large depression in a large depression in the land. When the monsoon season, starts the water comes down from the mountains and floods the whole area. It fills up with water and takes months to drain. Vast areas are underwater half the time, so farmers can't go into their fields or grow anything then; they have to rely on something else for most of the year. These things have always happened in bangladesh, but with climate change it is expected that these flash floods will occur more frequently, and rainfall will be more intense and erratic. Farmers are already trying to adapt to these changes by sowing their rice earlier and using varieties that mature more quickly so they can get the harvest in before the rains come and they are left with nothing to eat or sell. In the coastal areas, storms are expected to come earlier and be more frequent and severe. In the last two decades, 500,000 people have been killed in storms, and we should expect that this will increase. And then of course, the sea level will rise, and the ocean will come in over what dikes have been built. It is very likely that about 30 percent of land in Bangladesh will frequently be underwater and the soil will be saturated with salt and useless. Many, many people will lose their farmland, crops and livestock and homes and become climate change refugees. Where do these people go then, when there is already not enough land in the country?

Suggested article: Joanna M. Foster | Q. and A.: How to Save Bangladesh? | The New York Times, May 17, 2012.

As seen, these issues cannot be measured by an international conference. Only local measures with great knowledge of the zone, its spatial and organizational complexity, can generate soft tools and methods to problem-address affected and/or weakened regions.

Suggested article: Jeremy Bugler | Population Pressure (and Beware the 'Lovelocks') | Get Resilience, May 13, 2012.

This call for a regional and local approach seems to be already integrated in the field of architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning as seen in a growing number of projects, case studies and workshops. Practitioners intervene at the scale of the city, the rural area, the zone by adding in localized systems. The case of the Arctic region is an interesting example with this just uploaded project of Pamela Ritchot one of the participants of the third issue titled [at Extreme] of the editorial project Bracket* edited by InfraNet Lab and Archinect. Her proposal attempts to create design and process tools to respond to issues that this region is facing.
Whole Arctic Catalog: Access to Tools
for Survival at the Edge of the Earth
© Pamela Ritchot
Originally seen on Bracket
> "The Arctic is emerging as a critical frontier of
global concern and a territory of immediate
action. The Whole Arctic Catalog repositions
Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalog to suggest
that we are Upon a timely moment in which we must
strategize the tools and technologies necessary
to secure the future of this fragile frontier. As our
contemporary concern for the rapidly changing
Arctic context alarms a new climate of crisis, this
collection of tools highlights our contemporary
condition as one of opportunity — to inspire a future
of innovation and growth in one of our most
extreme territories." Pamela Ritchot

Other forms of interventions and practices help address critical problems. When used to document landscape, urban exploration as a process tool addresses patterns and shift such as degraded landscape, scars and other traumas to expose the consequences of the relationship between pre-industrial landscape conditions and modern industrial systems. As a large number of observers pointed out, current landscape, infrastructure are the products of the past century; namely not only fordist forms of civil engineering and Euclidian planning policies as well as wars are leaving marks. As a consequence, today's environment is marked with activities and traces of humans. Current infrastructures are now becoming obsolete, in a decay, hence a call for a new approach of planning but based on local and regional data. An approach that no longer deteriorates the bio-physical landscape. An approach viewed as responsive, scalable, adaptive. Recently, a new approach has emerged as 'soft' tools and methods that problem-address degradation of the environment. These tools are localized systems in accordance with local and regional conditions.
It is difficult to affirm whether or not we enter a new way of practising, designing. However given the attempt of acting with the environment, of being softly integrated to the environment, these practitioners are in rupture with the architectural practice of the past century; their projects attempt to function as interfaces with the environment. In a way, these practitioners draw a lineage of tactics and strategies associated with the environment. Be that as it may, these projects raise an array of questions inviting us to rethink preoccupation of architecture and planning now forced to do with nature.
The Fog, The Fish, and the Wave © Marianna de Cola
Originally appeared on Bracket.
> "This is an investigation into the nature of mutable
landscapes — shifting settlements, resources and infrastructures. It
uncovers themes of mutability, shifting, movement, and transience.
As well as recognizing that the needs of a community are diverse.
The theoretical design project exhibits the constant themes of shifting
within a mobile wave power and monitoring system. The versatility
of the speculative infrastructure is intended to allow a response to the
constant shifting needs of the population as well as the aquatic ecology."
Marianna de Cola

Sacred Anomalies: Infiltrating Landscape Surveys ©
Liam Young and Kate Davies.
Originally appeared on Bracket.
> "The vast territories of the Australian outback are
highly contested landscapes. The technologies with which
this ground is surveyed and recorded also become the political
means through which groups claim ownership over it.
In the skies above, mining survey planes track
and forth laser scanning the earth searching for the
topographic anomalies that indicate pockets of undiscovered
minerals and on the ground, the ochre stokes of aboriginal
landscape painters map the songlines of their sacred
dreamtime stories. My proposal explores the space of the
mining survey as a parallel site for intervention,
where I have engineered a seasonal network
of mysterious dreamtime anomalies." Liam Young and Kate Davies.

* The selections for the third issue are just announced and are available here. The second issue [goes soft] will be released in the forthcoming weeks. Like the first issue, both second and third issues will be published by Actar Editorial. Bracket is an editorial project edited by InfraNet Lab and Archinect.

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