ECA asked James Taylor-Foster, curator at ArkDes, Swedens national centre for architecture and design and ECA lecturer, to reflect upon 5 topics that we need to be discussing now but don't.

Why Sustainability Matters

Building is an extremely costly process – economically, as well as for the natural balance of the Earth. Even as construction balloons around the world, it's now generally accepted that the industry must become far more practically sustainable. Many are making small yet sturdy efforts in this direction, but a less common question at the heart of these efforts is to askwhysustainability in architecture matters. The short answer, while multifaceted, is relatively simple: if we can work, live and play in a built environment that has responded—and continues to respond over future centuries—to the demands of the planet, it will be less challenging for us each to strive for sustainable consumption in our own lives.

Studying architecture - whether in a formal environment, by way of exhibitions and books, or by wandering the streets of cities - does not only unlock social histories, and, and offer insight into cultures.


Materials Are Not Fixed

Building materials have remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years. Stone, brick and mortar, wood and glass can and have been worked into astonishing built edifices the world over – but times are now changing. Recent decades have seen a sharp rise in material innovation, from fibre composites to mycelium structures. For the first time in a long time, the material possibilities of the buildings we inhabit—coupled with methods of construction—are undergoing a sea change.La Biennale di Veneziarepresents one of the most important events to see material innovation in practice around the globe.

Everything in 'Nothing' is Designed

As we speed through the countryside on a train and look over what we perceive as empty vistas, it's easy to assume that we're witnessing unspoilt landscape. More often than not, however, we are looking something that has been designed. Even protecting a 'natural' landscape is a form of concerted design. The 'countryside' is a less obvious companion to the city, and for some represents a great, largely overlooked, territory for architectural focus. As these 'empty' spaces are set to be occupied by new industries in the decades to come, architects and clients are reconsidering the benefits and responsibilities of building outside of the fabric of cities.

What an Architectural Education Actually Offers

Studying architecture—whether in a formal environment, by way of exhibitions and books, or by wandering the streets of cities—does not only unlock social histories, and, and offer insight into cultures. When we look closely at buildings and the broader patchwork of their context we uncover a different way of viewing the world around us. Studying architecture is less learning how to draw or to design, and more akin to understanding the framework of society from a new position.

Architects are Storytellers

Architects do not build: they communicate. The tried-and-tested tools of the trade— drawing, modelling, and photography—represent ways of communicating to scale the idea or vision of a building to those who might pay for it, who might build it, and who might eventually occupy it. Central to this is the notion of the narrative. Each and every intelligently designed building begins and ends with a story; in the process in-between, architecture exhibits, writes, records, and imagines.


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