About the design of an alternative power

About the design of an alternative power

October 2012

Environmental sustainability calls architecture to give its answer in terms of design. The bold possibilities of the technique nowadays affect the new projects in the achievement of unusual and exciting  spaces, whilst the safeguard of the environment needs some research which conciliates the protection of the natural resources and the satisfaction of the complex modern mentality.

Looking at the civilizations of the past, it is remarkable how the typesetting did not exclude the natural habitat. In fact buildings and areas followed a specific arrangement in order to use the benefits of the nature and at the same time will remain into the balance of the ecosystem. For instance several settlements from the Middle Ages on the hills or on the mountains look explicitly at the course of the sun. Similarly, ancient cities, such as those of the Greek and Roman period, orientate themselves according to the geometry of the sky and the topography of the land.

By contrast, the contemporary age does not show a complementary integration between human work and nature at the expense of the reduced natural resources. Unfortunately, only the mechanical engineer provided to realize some modern constructions which take into account the renewable energy. This is the case of the hydropower, solar power, the wind firms and other sophisticated central energy production. However those realizations remain separate from human activities and represent uncommon elements of the landscape.

In front of this situation, architecture has been divided into two branches. Some designers have cared about artistic and spatial research while others have begun scientific studies within the alternative technologies applied in single sustainable building. In this frame, both the integral vision of a project and the ecosystem balance are missed because of the fragmentation of the construction in the environment.

I would prefer to image a different context where building transformation of the human activity receives the natural rules in the space occupied. This does not mean sporadic examples of human work in the panorama in order to restore a previous state within the environment, but kicking off a new planning where the mankind grows on the native possibilities of the place. A building may be born because it is developed on the resources that surround it and people live and work inside this microcosm. I would be able to find an example of this representation in the synthetic drawings and designs of the architect Paolo Soleri during his futuristic research of the 70s, until his concrete realization of Arcosanti.

Francesco Ciccarelli