We are architecture. We are entwined with each other, our designed environments, other species, infrastructures, technology, systems and buildings. We mutually affect one another. We are mutually dependent. Our emotions, our memory, our health, our functioning, our interactions are all informed, shaped and reshaped by the designed environments and architecture that surround us; and we create and re-create those spaces on a daily basis through our inhabitation, our perceptions and our action or inaction.
Climate crisis, resource depletion, social segregation and other societal and environmental challenges - are increasingly threatening conditions of this entwined existence. The necessity for new forms of transformation appears to be obvious, but how to enact this radical transformation is still unclear. Within the last three decades, discussions, acts, policies and practices concerning ‘sustainability’ in its broadest scope have in architectural debates become embedded in ways that cause confusion and haziness, in which easy rhetorical use masks lack of real change, commitment and responsibility.
The premise of Radical Architecture Practice for Sustainability (RAPS) emerged in 2018/19 through a desire to enable a wider discourse and debate on how sustainability is practiced and researched in the context of designed and built environments drawing on multiple perspectives, experimentation and diverse disciplinary views and forms of knowledge – shifting the dominant paradigm in policy, practice and increasingly research that has tended to focus on the instrumental and technical overlooking other possibilities and perspectives. To practice architecture towards sustainability is to practice sustaining ourselves.
RAPS is characterised by a departure from narrowly instrumental debates and instead geared towards re-thinking architectural design and research practice for sustainability with the aim to advocate innovative approaches and transformational change. This initiative seeks to explore the role of architecture and architects in practicing design for and through sustainability. We argue that architecture / architects have an important and proactive role in this transformation.RAPS aims to assemble, collate and propel a collective and necessarily broad, experimental and provocative understanding of sustainable architecture that includes diverse perspectives, tools and knowledge domains: technology, materiality, responsibility, ethics, knowledge production, philosophy, social sciences, aesthetics, politics, agency and more. A broader understanding of sustainability in architecture, that includes questions how knowledge is generated, problems are framed, design targets defined, concepts created, choices made and how these shape design development, building materialization and operation will enable key dimensions of this radical transformation to start to materialise.
Thus, RAPS welcomes and encompasses the idea of heterogeneous characters and relational associations co-shaping each other. We embrace radicality as an approach that has the potential of producing new ways of seeing, new ways of making, new ways of acting, new ways of dreaming. These are needed to make a step change and in order that architecture and architects, artists and other cultural thinkers and practitioners lead in establishing more symbiotic relations with that greater assemblage of which we are a part.
In solidarity let us begin.
Dr Sonja Dragojlovic-Oliveira is an architect and sustainable design innovation strategist. She is also an Associate Professor of Design Innovation and Sustainability at UWE, an honorary lecturer at UCL and a visiting lecturer at a number of architecture schools across Europe. She is internationally recognized for her work on socio spatial energy behaviour and smart housing and design innovation, where her recent contributions include identification of socio-spatial impacts on energy behaviour in domestic environments, need for multi-layered design and social innovation in housing and energy modelling integration in architecture.
Associate Prof. Oliveira has over 20 years innovation experience in the sustainability and design sector as a senior manager and principal consultant having led delivery of complex multidisciplinary projects ranging in value from £200k-£29mil in the UK and internationally. She also recently edited the Energy Modelling in Architecture, A practice Guide (RIBA, 2020), initiated the Radical Architecture Practice for Sustainability working group via ARENA (http://www.arena-architecture.eu) and developed research challenge response for SHAPE Energy (https://shapeenergy.eu).
She is a board member of the World Green Building Council (Serbia), a scientific and industry advisory member of numerous scientific committees and is currently researching a new residential energy code for India [EPSRC RESIDE] and lead investigator on the smart energy evaluation work on the REPLICATE project (https://replicate-project.eu). Her research and innovation practice focuses primarily on experimenting and exploring the socio-spatial effects on peoples’ use of energy through buildings and technologies using visual methods. She is a firm believer in an action led knowledge exchange approach to accelerating sustainable outcomes in the design environment.
Jonathan Moseley is an architect and Associate Professor of Architecture and Experimental Practice at Bristol UWE leading Design Research. In collaboration with artist Sophie Warren he pursues a research-based practice that experiments with radical occupations and interventions within found or newly designed space, towards enhancing our collective and affective relationship with architecture. The work is playful, discursive, frequently participatory and rogue. Projects have been commissioned by organisations internationally including Tate, Modena Museet, ResArc, Casco, Eastside Projects, Institut Français, The Showroom, Spike Island, Arnolfini, SantralIstanbul and received awards from Arts and Humanities Research Council, Arts Council, British Council and Rootstein Hopkins Foundation. http://warrenandmosley.com
Dr Torsten Schröder is an architect, researcher and design strategist. Currently he is Assistant Professor of Sustainability in Architectural Design at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). His key research interests are sustainability and circular economy within architecture and cities. Drawing on Science and Technology Studies (STS) he focuses on how the concepts of sustainability and circularity can be translated into building design practices in more innovative, meaningful, and effective ways. Torsten co-founded and co-directs the ArchiLab a university based architectural and urban think tank dedicated to exploring, creating and developing concepts and scenarios for sustainable futures. He obtained his PhD in the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science, winning the prestigious RIBA PhD research award in 2015. Torsten has participated in and led diverse research projects on national and European scale. He offers a unique blend of practical and research expertise. He has more than 10 years of experience in designing and realizing a wide range of outstanding architectural projects for leading design practices, amongst others for Rem Koolhaas / Office for Metropolitan Architecture as architect and project leader on projects in the USA, Germany, South Korea and China.