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Architects have been aware of the issues for some time, of course, but the proportion

of those committed to sustainable and ecological practices has remained small. And
until recently, much of the work produced as sustainable architecture has been of poor
quality. Early examples were focused mainly around the capacities of simple
technologies to produce energy and recycle waste.
Mohsen Mostafavi, Gareth Doherty; Ecological Urbanism
Separation of City and Nature
During modern era of human development, growth of towns and cities displayed a
separation between nature and human activities. This was not the case in premodern
times, when human settlements either integrated or co-existed peacefully with the
nature. There are many examples of this citynature relationship in Old Iranian cities
like Isfahan, Shiraz and even Tehran; The Garden Cities of Sir Ebenezer Howard in
England, Kilwa coastal towns in what is now present day Tanzania, Teotenango,
Mexico, as other few examples.
After the arrival of modernism and the growth urbanism, modern homes and high rise
habitats replaced gardens. Fast growing populations and changes in lifestyle
contributed to the destruction of garden cities (Samiei, 2012).
The modern city is a recent phenomenon. The growth of modern industry from the late
18th century onward led to massive urbanization and the rise of new great cities, first in
Europe and then in other regions, as new opportunities brought huge numbers of
migrants from rural communities into urban areas. In the United States from 1860 to
1910, the invention of railroads reduced transportation costs, and large manufacturing
centers began to emerge, thus allowing migration from rural to city areas.
Before the rapid expansion in human population that began after the Industrial
Revolution, cities were relatively small, few in number and their impact on the natural
world was limited. There had been human-induced extinctions of wildlife caused by
hunter-gatherers, the deforestation caused by the introduction to fire as a means of
cooking and heating, but for the most part, the ecological footprint of human settlements
was light because they were embedded bio regionally and their size permitted
provisioning by the immediate surrounding natural environment.
These developments were made possible by the large-scale exploitation of fossil
fuel resources (especially petroleum), which offered large amounts of energy in an
easily portable form, but also caused widespread concerns about pollution and longterm impact on the environment. In the USA, cheap gas and anti-urban policies led to
sprawl which destroyed rural areas and replaced many farms and open space with low
rise housing developments, landfills and shopping malls.
Urban dwellers became increasingly disconnected from nature, so that nowadays many
of us no longer understand the connection of a healthy ecosystem and healthy cities.
Landscapes on and around our buildings and infrastructure can be more than an

optional ornamental extra but a multi-functional layer of soil and vegetation that controls
surface water, provides food and wildlife habitat and keeps us cool, fit and sane. To
make this transformation from grey to green will require panoramic, trans-disciplinary
thinking and coordinated action (Grant, 2012).
Architecture and buildings are inseparable parts of a city; can you assume a city without
architecture, buildings and their features? The biggest portion of built environment is
building blocks and their attachments; how can imagine a sustainable and ecological
city without the effects of architectural design and building constructions? Particularly in
modern and semi modern cities today, the dominance of buildings against natural
environment is undeniable. During last century our reaction about environmental crisis
in construction industry was nearly nothing!
Architecture is the profession of designing the built environment. But we architects
should include the contributions experts in related fields like landscape architects, urban
design and planning, permaculturalist, and policy makers.
Each has a significant role in restoring balance between buildings, cities and our
biological / ecological inventory. Surely ecological urbanism without ecological
architecture is impossible. How can architects utilize ecological science to design cities
and buildings which are in harmony with ecosystems?

Artists Rendition of Safavid-era Isfahan, which is typically described as the pinnacle of garden
cities interspersed with harmoniously-designed pavilions and spacious thoroughfares.

City Integration and Nature

Historically, the concept of the built environment both embraced and rejected the idea of
a balance with our natural environment. Home was a safe place against wild and cruel
nature of outside. We feared natural disasters, wild uncontrollable animals and untamed
growth of forest and woodland areas. And even now, we destroy or neglect our natural
infrastructure due to our focus on making life more convenient, with drive through
services and large shopping malls.
The realization that nature embraces the city has powerful implications for how cities
are built and maintained and for the health, safety, and welfare of each resident.
Disregard of natural processes in the city is and always has been costly and dangerous.
Many cities have suffered from failure to take account of natural processes. The cost of
disregarding nature extends also to quality of life. We witness this fact with
unprecedented urban growth in cities across the globe. And if we look at urban history,
we realize that the problems of contemporary urbanization are still persistent, just as
plagued ancient cities.
Nature has been seen as a superficial embellishment, as a luxury encountered only in
parks and gardens, rather and meaningful urban form is than as an essential force that
permeates the city.
Civilizations and governments rise and fall, traditions, values, and policies change, but
the natural environment of each city remains an enduring framework within which the
human community builds. A citys natural environment and its urban form, taken
together, are a record of the interaction between natural processes and human purpose
over time. Together they contribute to each citys unique identity (Whiston Spirn, 2002).
Ecosystems provide our basic human and social needs. The biosphere nurtures our
mind and soul, as well as our stomachs and lungs. The modern city is organic process,
but one with an unhealthy bio system. The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans
have an innate tendency to affiliate with other living organisms and living processes.
Humans require contact with a biodiverse world to stimulate the development of their
emotional, cognitive, and social potential. As the living community of other organisms is
reduced and human interaction with that community is lost, there is an extinction of
experience that results in a loss of real ecological knowledge and emotional attachment
to nature.
It is our relationships with our environment and other species that make us part of an
ecosystem. The healthy functioning of a natural system, including their life-sustaining
processes, depends on all species participating in a coordinative way. If we built our
cities in such a way that children could play in creeks, we could watch the sunset and
the night sky, and sometimes there was quiet, we would begin to know nature again. If
wildlife could navigate the landscape, and the raindrops path from roof to river was
manifest, then most of us would care about natures health.

If our parks could showcase our rich and native plant life and we could lessen our
dependence on oil and breathe clean air by making our cities walkable, and compost
and recycle our waste, our built environment could contribute to creating a collective
ecological consciousness (Dekay and Obrien, 2001).
Thus cities should be an extension of our natural environment. Our decision to form a
balanced relationship between nature and city is determinant; nature has complicated
internal rules that define biodiversity as a collective life support system. There is a need
for the city to connect to organic structures systematically. We as citizens must organize
political, social and technological resources in an effort to create a dialogue and
implementable action plan to redesign unhealthy urban habitats in balance with nature.

Sostenibili distopie, Stefano Boeri. The Boeris sustainable city; a Nature-city.

The Urban Ecosystems: Introduction to Urban Ecology
Urban ecosystems are the cities, towns, and settlements constructed by humans. We all
influence our urban ecosystem and at the same time, we are influenced by ecological
The health of biodiversity affects you. And what you do affects biodiversity. Everything
we do either uses natural resources or returns them as waste. The amount of land and
resources that a population or a person uses is called an ecological footprint. We all can
do things to make our personal footprints smaller.
An urban ecosystem includes people among the living things, and the structures they
build among the non living things. In an urban ecosystem, humans influence ecological

factors (plants, air, soil, animals), and human decisions (where and how to build houses,
parks, highways, schools) are influenced by ecological factors.
Social factors are a key component of a viable and healthy eco system. Respect for
cultural and ethnic diversity and the recognition of multi cultural leadership are important
inputs to a healthy city. Urban Ecology is the study of ecosystems that include humans
living in cities and urbanizing landscapes, the application of the principles of ecology to
a study of urban environments.
The term urban ecology has been used variously to describe the study of humans in
cities, of nature in cities, and of the coupled relationships between humans and nature.
Urban ecology is the study of the co-evolution of human-ecological systems.
It is an emerging, interdisciplinary field that aims to understand how human and
ecological processes can coexist in human-dominated systems and help societies with
their efforts to become more sustainable.

Urban ecologist Zipperer and Carreiro have identified four interrelated factors of
an urban ecosystem:
1) The prevailing climate,

2) The substrate,
3) The resident organisms and their residual effects,
4) Relief, from soil erosion
5) The time over which the first four factors have been acting, which can be summarized
as the history of the system. (Zipperer et al., 1997; Carreiro et al., 2009)
Urban ecosystems are diverse, and include human activities that sustain human life
forms, (infrastructure; roads, dams and buildings) and biological inventory (plants,
wildlife, water systems, food systems and microbes).
The condition of urban ecological systems can be useful indicators for comparing the
effects of climate change, land use patterns, organismal components, and substrates on
human and biological health. (Zipperer et al., 1997; Carreiro et al., 2009)
The Cityscape and Urban Ecology
Now what are the boundaries, nature or human made, of urban ecosystems? Wittig
explains that an urban ecosystems boundaries are not restricted to human or natural
areas. The ecosystem does not occur alone. They are always in contact with the
adjacent ecosystems. Their boundaries are not well defined and they may overlap.
There are certain areas where their boundaries are well defined it includes the pond and
land ecosystems. They have some common organisms which includes the birds. There
is an exchange of inorganic nutrients between them.
In the broadest sense, urban ecosystems comprise not only city cores, but suburban
areas, sparsely settled villages connected by commuting or utilities to more densely
settled and thoroughly built up areas. Strictly speaking, urban ecological systems do
not necessarily encompass the hinterlands or remote villages in sparsely populated
areas. Affected by energy and material transformations generated in urban core and
suburban lands (Wittig, 2009)
Urban ecologists like Pickett have sought to define urban ecological system boundaries
as a fusion of human and natural constraints:
The boundaries of urban ecosystems are often set by watersheds, airsheds, commuting
radii, or by administrative units. In other words, boundaries of urban ecosystems are set
in the same ways and for the same reasons as are the boundaries of any other
ecosystem. In the case of urban ecosystems, it is clear that many fluxes and
interactions extend well beyond their boundaries defined for political, research, or
biophysical reasons. Urban ecology, as an integrative science with roots in ecology,
focuses on urban ecosystems as broadly conceived.
Pickett et al, 1997

Simple diagram of key factors in the relationship between urban ecology and human health and
well-being. Credit:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343512000966
Integrated Ecological Design
Ecological design is defined by Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan as any form of
design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living
processes (Van der Ryn, Cowan S, 1996).
Ecological design is an integrative ecologically responsible design discipline. It helps
connect scattered efforts in green architecture, sustainable agriculture, ecological
engineering, ecological restoration and other fields.
This design approach must be organized around what can be called the ecological
design arts, around developing the analytic abilities, ecological wisdom, and practical
wherewithal essential to making things fit in a world of humans, microbes, plants,
animals, and entropy (Orr, 1992).
Ecological problems are often the result of urban design, planning and human
consumption problems: our land uses, transportation systems, buildings, and
technologies often do not fit comfortably in the human or natural biosphere. Ecological
design requires the ability to comprehend patterns that connect to
nature, which requires working outside mainstream disciplines to see things in their
larger context. Ecological design is the careful meshing of human purposes with the

larger patterns and flows of the natural world; it is the careful study of those patterns
and flows to inform human purposes (Orr, 1992).
How can architects foster integration between architecture and urban ecosystems? I
think we have no other choice except to choose ecological design and planning as
the best option to save our scarce resources for generation to come.
Architects encourage and forge mutual relationships with the diverse stakeholders and
professionals who deal with planning and design of the built and natural environment.
We must work as a team and in the spirit of cooperation with urban agriculturist,
landscape designers, biologist, environmental justice advocates, urban conservation
officials, green economy / jobs advocates, wildlife managers, clean water and wetland
activist, public health activist, artist and musicians, air quality experts, policy makers,
sanitation and waste management officials, community organizers, builders,
environmental educators and many more who have a vested interest in visioning a
healthy urban environment.
We seek to embrace a critical analysis of environmental issues and problems as a way
to foster a systems approach to caring for our fragile environment. Introduces a systems
design model that cuts across academic and professional boundaries and the divide
between social and physical sciences to move towards a transdisciplinary approach to
environmental and social problem-solving. This approach will also result in high quality
building design, integrating greenery, natural building materials, natural light and water
in a harmonious balance. There are many conceptual and built examples of creative
cutting edge ecological buildings.
I will develop a portfolio of successful and creative ecological buildings as part of a
public outreach and in class educational tool.

Primary School & Sport Hall by Chartier-Dalix architects;

covered with a living shell. Credit: http://www.archdaily.com/141503/primary-school-sporthall-chartier-dalix-architects/

Primary School & Sport Hall by Chartier-Dalix architects;

Hosting a wide range of local fauna and flora, from bugs to owls
through different species of trees and plants. The matter being to
simulate a self-contained ecosystem, a landscape and a view for the
surrounding buildings, a rich field of explorations and discoveries
for children. Credit:
The purpose of ecological design is to create a vision of how the natural world and the
human world can be rejoined by taking ecology as the basis for design. Ecological
design intelligenceeffective adaptation to and integration with natures processes can
be applied at all levels of scale, creating revolutionary forms of buildings, landscapes,
cities, and technologies.
Ken Yeang, famous Malaysian architect and one of the pioneers in ecological
architecture, has offered a set of principles / guidelines for designing with nature:

The ecological approach to design is about environmental bio-integration.


Our built forms and systems need to imitate natures processes, structure, and
functions, as in its ecosystems.


The process of designing to imitate ecosystems is Ecomimesis. This is the

fundamental premise for eco design.


There is much misperception about what is ecological design. We must not be

misled and seduced by technology.


The other common misperception is that if our building gets a high notch in a greenrating system, then all is well.


Ecosystems in the biosphere are definable units containing both biotic and abiotic
constituents acting together as a whole. (Yeang, 2008)

Ecological design principles create a sustainable world with increased energy efficiency,
fewer toxics, less pollution (both indoor and outdoor pollution) greener and healthy
buildings, accessible green open spaces, reduce noise pollution, healthy social
relationships, reduced waste and a happy well adjusted citizenry.

Ken Yeang; Eco Bay Complex: Abu Dhabi; Vernacular urbanism in the middle. (Yeang, 2008)
Ecological Continuity and Building Design
Ecological continuity describes the process of uninterrupted succession, or union with a
natural inventory, i.e., plant life, waterways, and open space, in an effort to maintain the
natural and healthy integrity of a biosphere.
Ecological linkage describes the process of utilizing ecological design principles as as
a key factor for designing and restoring damaged natural and human habitats.
As it applies to building design, the concept of continuity begins with knowing the
ecology of site and the limits of construction activity. The process of constructing a
building can adversely affect the natural environment. Every site possesses
an ecological limiting capacity; to which if overburdened, the site suffers irrevocably
ecological damage, such as soil erosion and destruction of local biodiversity.
Achieving these linkages ensures a wider level of species diversity, human and wildlife
interaction and social and physical mobility and sharing of resources across municipal
boundaries. Such real improvements in connectivity enhance biodiversity and further
increase habitat resilience and species survival. Providing ecological corridors and
linkages in regional planning is crucial in making urban patterns more biologically viable.

The footprint print we leave after construction process is complete will have a minimal
impact on the sites ecology, and if the site remains vegetated (and not entirely paved) it
provides greater land area for surface water percolation back into the earth. We must
ascertain the ecosystems structure and energy flow, its species diversity and other
ecological properties.
The secret of designing successful ecological architecture is to embrace the notion that
the site is a wholistic living natural element, similar to a tree; and functions as a part of
an organic living environmental inventory.
This linkage of these organic elements must be extended vertically and horizontally,
with vegetative connectivity stretching upwards within the built form to its roofscape, and
horizontally in conjunction with the ground floor contours of the structure. More than
enhancing ecological linkages, we must biologically integrate the inorganic aspects and
processes of our built environment with the landscape so that they mutually become
eco-systemic. This is the creation of human-made ecosystems compatible with the
ecosystems in nature (Yeang, 2007).

ArchiNature: Architecture as living element in urban ecosystem; The centre for Ecological
learnings (proposal); Tehran, Iran. Architect: Kaveh Samiei (AAG.)

ArchiNature: Architecture as part of nature, home of animals and plants too or eco-systemic
integration with nature. The centre for Ecological learnings (proposal); Tehran, Iran. Architect:
Kaveh Samiei (AAG)

Ecological residential complex; Semnan, Iran. Architects: Kaveh Samiei and Hamidreza

Multifunctional ecological space in a residential complex; Semnan, Iran. Architects: Kaveh

Samiei and Hamidreza Golzardi.
Eco-Systematic Integration
Architects and environmental planners should consider buildings and other landscape
structures as organic elements of a larger ecosystem. Ecologically built structures will
create small and less stressful environmental footprints, which in turn will promote
ecological connectivity with rehabilitated vegetative networks, which in
turn will enhance the quality of life of human and wildlife occupants.
One strategy assigns the built and natural to distinct realms, where wildlife habitat cores
are pushed to the perimeter of the site, providing a clearing for housing, commerce,
parking, and recreation. Other efforts to achieve significant interdigitation between built
and natural realms include adding green roofs to structures. Green roofs
serve as stepping-stone corridors for various avian species as well as a decreas the
use of heating, ventilation, and HVAC systems.

Landscape-like eco building; Monterey Bay Shores Ecoresort.

Designed by Thomas Rettenwender and Brent Bucknum for Rana Creek Habitat Restoration and
BSA Architects.
Rainscreen facades provide habitat for cavity dwellers such as kestrels and birds. For
many sensitive species, life in close proximity to development would be intolerable, yet
numerous species would flourish under these conditions, and humans would have dayto-day contact with the wild. Assuming a thoughtful position between extreme
segregation and integration, how consistent should the relationship between built and
natural orders be (or between sub-orders within these)? Should we promote flowing,
landscape-like building forms which closely synchronized with their surroundings, an
approach that holds great currency in contemporary architectural circles (Muller, 2007)?
A growing body of literature under the rubric of landscape urbanism has stressed the
closing of boundaries between architecture and landscape, between the ecological and
cultural. Recent discourses and architectural models offer advances in theoretical
thinking and design expressions. However, actual outcomes in terms of improved
ecological functions in the urban environment remain to be seen (Hou, 2012).

Vertically, eco-skyscrapers can protect valuable open space by building up, rather than
out. And the outer skin of the building could produce substantial amounts of energy for
heating and cooling the entire structure as well as provide energy to adjacent structures.
Kaveh Samiei
Tehran, Iran
Arthur James
St. Louis, Missouri USA
The Nature of Cities

Mostafavi, Mohsen with Doherty Gareth. (2010): Ecological Urbanism, Harvard
University, Graduate School of Design, Lars Mller Publishers.
Samiei, Kaveh. (2012): Vertical Greenery in Iran; Attitudes and Prospects.
Case Study: City of Tehran. Biotope city journal, winter 2012:
Grant,Gary. (2012): Ecosystem Services Come to Town, Greening Cities by Working
with Nature, John Wiley and Sons Ltd, London.
DEKAY, MARK. AND OBRIEN, MICHEAL. (2001): Gray City, Green City. New thinking
and new settlement patterns can bring about urban sustainability. FORUM for Applied
Research and Public Policy.
Zipperer, W.C., Foresman, T.W., Sisinni, S.M., Pouyat, R.V.( 1997): Urban tree cover: an
ecological perspective. Urban Ecosyst. 1, 229e247.
Carreiro, M.M., Pouyat, R.V., Tripler, C.E., Zhu,W. (2009): Carbon and nitrogen cycling
in soils of remnant forests along urbanerural gradients: case studies in New York City
and Louisville, Kentucky. In: McDonnell, M.J., Hahs, A., Breuste, J. (Eds.), Comparative
Ecology of Cities and Towns. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 308e328.
Wittig, R. (2009): What is the main object of urban ecology? Determining demarcation
using the example of research into urban flora. In: McDonnell, M.J., Hahs, A., Breuste,
J. (Eds.), Eclogy of Cities and Towns: a Comparative Approach. Cambridge University
Press, New York, pp. 523e529.

Pickett, S.T.A., Burch Jr., W.R., Dalton, S.D., Foresman, T.W.( 1997): Integrated urban
ecosystem research. Urban Ecosyst. 1, 183-184.
Van der Ryn S. Cowan, S. (1996): Ecological Design. Island Press, p. 18.
Orr, David. (1992): October. Environmental Literacy: Education as If the Earth
Mattered. E. F. Schumacher Lectures.
Yeang, Ken. (2008): Ecoskyscrapers and Ecomimesis: New tall building typologies,
CTBUH 8th World Congress 2008.
TR Hamzah Yeang Sdn Bhd, London, UK.
Hou, Jeffrey. (2012): Hybrid Landscapes: Toward an Inclusive Ecological Urbanism on
Seattles Central Waterfront. HYBRID LANDSCAPES, University of Washington.
Muller, Brook. (2007): Continuity of Singularities: Urban Architectures, Ecology and the
Aesthetics of Restorative Orders, Department of Architecture, University of Oregon,
Eugene, OR, 97403.

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