Thursday, 22 July 2010

A Reverential Ecology

At a recent RIBA lecture Satish Kumar, a prominent Indian philosopher and ecological theorist argues the importance of coupling a genuine and sincere philosophical approach with our technological advancements when asking how to live sustainably. He argues that climate change is a consequence of our actions and that it is imperative that we deeply examine the root causes - our attitudes and the way in which we relate to the natural world. The current paradigm that exists is leading to climate change, the exhaustion of fossil fuels and depletion biodiversity and we appear solely dependant on technology progression as the solution. In making the required paradigm shift Kumar encourages us to take responsibility and ask ourselves if we are living in fair, sustainable and joyful way in relating to the natural world.

He calls the required relationship with the natural world a ‘Reverential Ecology’: ‘Everything we receive from nature is a gift; whether it is food, water, sunshine or anything else; everything is a gift. This is the symbiotic relationship which equips us with, humility, wonder and reverence. Nature is not there to be plundered or exploited rather it is there to be cherished and celebrated.’ It is through this ‘friendship of mutual understanding and respect’ with the living environment that a sustainable way of living will naturally emerge.

Many architects are beginning to question the existing conceptual framework for the production of the built environment and are finding answers inspired from the natural world. Here I show two buildings that to me represent a ‘Reverential Ecology.’ I find them both beautifully sustainable, and I doubt neither architect was ever guided by BREEAM assessment or Sustainable code of practice to produce them.

They are both chapels set in idyllic locations, one is by the Hungarian ‘Organic’ Architect, Imre Macovecz and the other is a creation of Peter Zumthor. Both capture the imagination, and pay homage to their surroundings, without the use of grandiose views and marvellous vistas but instead they do it in an intimate and private way, which encourages the energy of the landscape to assist with the quiet contemplation of the chapel’s users.

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