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  • 1. Marta Karpińska w autoportrecie: autoportret. pismo o dobrej przestrzeni issn 1730-3613, kwartalnik, nakład: 1000 egz. muzea 1 (2002) ‘To talk to me about sustainability is like talking to me about giving birth. Am I against giving birth? No. But would I like to spend my time doing it? Not really. I‘d rather go to a baseball game’. These words by Peter Eisenman quoted by Dalibor Hlaváček in this issue of ‘Autoportret’ are to illustrate how architects typically approach ecology. Many representatives of the world of architecture will no doubt be welcomed in hell but this is no consolation. Cynical carelessness is not only a problem of the architects’ community but also a characteristic feature of the present-day model of culture. In their book The End of the World as we once Knew it: The Climate, the Future, and the Prospects for Democracy, Claus Leggewie and Harald Welzer analyse this psychosocial attitude. The global village can no longer use the natural resources of the external world to supply fuel to our economic system. The only thing left to us is the future of the next generations, of which we are currently robbing them. ‘In this way,’ the authors write, ‘one of the myths of western culture is being undermined: a hybrid image that in a world of virtually uninterrupted growth we have overcome the inconvenient dimension of finiteness. The dramatically propagating crisis of the global system shows that our luxury existence is still related to this dimension. And because this conclusion is equally alien and fear-inspiring to our system as the realisation of one’s own mortality is to an individual, it evokes a strong motivation to ignore crises or postpone dealing with them till indefinite «later»’1. biblioteki 2 (1/2003) Ruthlessly exploited, the concept of ‘sustainable development’ is an empty platitude in view of growing global instability. It is manifested not only in unfair distribution of goods and resources or the fact that the developing South is bearing the cost of the functioning of the developed North but also in our dependence on (technological or market) systems whose mechanisms we do not fully comprehend. Will the recession, lasting from 2008, being the most vivid symptom of the multi-dimensional global crisis, cause reevaluation of attitudes? Can all pro-ecological ideas and attempts to implement them, which we present in this issue of ‘Autoportret’ focused on sustainability, be significantly effective against rigid dogmas of the model of development based on the calls for progress and growth? Leggewie and Welzer compare it interestingly to replacing a faulty tap in a first-class cabin aboard the Titanic after its encounter with an iceberg. ‘There is this one inviolable principle on board: we are unsinkable’. przestrzenie kolonialne 29 (4/2009) wydawca: dworce 3 (2/2003) rewitalizacja 4 (3/2003) przestrzenie dźwięku 5 (4/2003) ulice i place 6 (1/2004) ogrody 7 (2/2004) społeczności lokalne 8 (3/2004) przestrzenie dziecięce 9 (4/2004) przestrzenie komunikatu 10 (1/2005) wokół funkcjonalizmu 11 (2/2005) przestrzenie sakralne 12 (3/2005) blokowiska 13 (4/2005) przestrzenie starości 14 (1/2006) przestrzenie handlu 15 (2/2006) architektura organiczna 16 (3/2006) przestrzenie książki 17 (4/2006) przestrzenie pustki 18 (1/2007) przestrzenie sceny 19 (2/2007) przestrzenie zdrowia 20 (3/2007) przestrzenie prywatne 21 (4/2007) przestrzenie władzy 22 (1/2008) przestrzenie niczyje 23 (2/2008) śmierć w Europie Środkowej 24 (3/2008) przestrzenie światła – światło w przestrzeni 25–26 (4/2008–1/2009) przestrzenie wirtualne 27 (2/2009) bezkres 28 (3/2009) nowoczesności 30 (1/2010) dom w Polsce 31 (2/2010) wyobrażanie narodów 32 (3/2010) język i przestrzeń 33 (1/2011) utopie 34 (2/2011) zmysły/percepcja 35 (3/2011) tożsamość po '89 36 (1/2012) partycypacja i partycypacja 37 (2/2012) postciało 38 (3/2012) rada programowa: Adam Budak, Andrzej Bulanda, Wojciech Burszta, David Crowley, Ewa Kuryłowicz, Maciej Miłobędzki, Agostino de Rosa, Ewa Rewers, Tadeusz Sławek, Łukasz Stanek, Magdalena Staniszkis, Dariusz Śmiechowski, Štefan Šlachta redaktorka naczelna: Dorota Leśniak-Rychlak projekt: Anna Zabdyrska zastępca redaktorki naczelnej: Emiliano Ranocchi sekretarz redakcji: Marta Karpińska redakcja: Magdalena Petryna, Aleksandra Wojda korekta: Ewa Ślusarczyk, Agnieszka Stęplewska prenumerata: Kamila Kosmalska stale współpracują: Michał Choptiany, Paweł Jaworski, Dorota Jędruch, Piotr Winskowski, Michał Wiśniewski OKŁADKA: s. 1: proj. Anna Zabdyrska s. 88: Josif Brodski, Mowa na stadionie, [w:] Pochwała nudy, przeł. A. Kołyszko, M. Kłobukowski, Kraków: Znak, 1996, s. 123–124 przygotowanie do druku: Andrzej Karlik druk: Drukarnia Pasaż Redakcja zastrzega sobie prawo do nadawania tytułów i redagowania nadesłanych tekstów. Kwartalnik dostępny w sprzedaży internetowej (www.mik.krakow.pl), salonach empiku oraz w prenumeracie. Najprościej zamówić prenumeratę w e-sklepie Małopolskiego Instytutu Kultury: http://e-sklep.mik.krakow.pl/autoportret-prenumerata/ Cena prenumeraty czterech kolejnych numerów „Autoportretu” wynosi 50 zł (koszty wysyłki pokrywa wydawca). Wpłaty prosimy kierować na konto Małopolskiego Instytutu Kultury: Bank BPH 31 1060 0076 0000 3310 0016 4770. W tytule wpłaty prosimy wpisać „Autoportret – prenumerata” oraz podać adres do wysyłki i dane kontaktowe (telefon lub e-mail). Dofinansowano ze środków Ministra Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego wieś 39 (4/2012) przemysłowe poprzemysłowe 40 (1/2013) przestrzeń jako taka 41 (2/2013) zrównoważony rozwój? 42 (3/2013) ograniczenie 43 (4/2013) przestrzenie wiedzy 44 (1/2014) ... Wsparcie finansowe numeru „Zrównoważony rozwój?”: International Visegrad Fund www.visegradfund.org Translated by Anna Mirosławska-Olszewska Całość numeru zostanie przetłumaczona na język angielski i od października 2013 roku będzie dostępna na www.autoportret.pl. C. Leggewie, H. Welzer, Koniec świata, jaki znaliśmy. Klimat, przyszłość i szanse demokracji, przeł. P. Buras, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej, 2012, p.20 (back translation into English by Anna Mirosławska-Olszewska). 1 www.autoportret.pl
  • 2. Table of Contents Centre, Decentralisation, Recentralisation  Marc Augé 4 nature and sustainability in the ecological utopian tradition3  Marius de Geus 8 Towards Thermodynamic Urban Planning  Philippe Rahm 16 Democracy, Nature, and Utopia  Lucy Sargisson 24 SOCRATES AND ENTHUSIASM FOR STRAW  Marcin Mateusz Kołakowski 27 Neutralne węglowo miasta?  Ida Kiss 33 ˇ NATURAL MATERIALS: HISTORY OR HOPE?  Dalibor Hlavácek 36 Right-about Modernism?  Dawid Krysiński 44 The Recycled City  Levente Polyák 50 Green Architecture  Jana Tichá 56 House under the Apple Tree in Marianka  Ivan Jarina 62 Unsustainable Undevelopment   Damas Gruska 64 Agricultural Methods and Farmers’ Little Manias  Devis Bonanni 70 The Future of the Message  Mateusz Curyło 76 End.less  Rossano Baronciani 83 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 3 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 3 13-10-30 14:38
  • 3. DYN LON RK O J PE 21 . 00 KI IO 6.00 K TO 0 22.0 LOS A NG ELE S 9. 00 NO Y 16.0 0 N W 14.00 HELS INK I autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 4 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 4 13-10-30 14:38
  • 4. Marc Augé Illustrations: Anna Zabdyrska Centre, Decentralisation, Recentralisation W e are currently going through a transformation whose consequences we have not yet learnt to control. Space is increasingly becoming a sensual expression of our contradictions and paradoxes. Everyday language keeps on surprising us. We often use the prefix ‘without’ (sans). We speak of those ‘without homes’, of people sans papier1, and since we know for certain that their situation is problematic, we are led on to believe, as if it were obvious, that having a permanent place of residence and valid documents is a sufficient condition for happiness. Other examples might easily prove the opposite. The richest people in the world acquire more and more residences. They own temporary homes on different continents, they sail their own yachts and enjoy themLiterally, ‘without papers’; in French, a popular way to refer to people of non-French origin who reside in France without the necessary legal documents to validate their stay (footnote by A.W.). 1 selves in luxury hotels all over the world. They have documents, to be sure, and yet they are so self-confident and so confident in their identity that they hardly realise they are actually showing those documents when a need arises. They might be said to accumulate benefits: places of permanent residence, identity cards and credit cards. Having said that, I would claim that the fact that the most affluent collect residences and exude self-confidence proves that the ideal of individual life is not necessarily that of getting stuck in one place like a mollusc to a rock, or having the means to prove your identity when asked to show your papers; quite the opposite: it is a genuine freedom of movement while remaining relatively anonymous. The magnetic force of the 19th century cities on runaway villagers, and of great cities in the North on migrants from the South, was born out of the very same need. Undoubtedly, it is essentially illusory, and yet it must be considered by all who ask themselves the question about the ideal city life of our time. The city is expanding ceaselessly. The majority of the world’s population lives in the city and the trend is irreversible. Global urban drift is transforming the city. What kind of city do migrants flock to these days? The phenomenon of global urban drift corresponds more or less to what we call globalisation, to denote free market, economic and financial interrelations, development of means of transport and advances in e-communication. From this point of view, the world may be called one giant city. The ‘world-city’, as I proposed to refer to it2, is characterised by mobility and uniformity. On the other hand, big metropolises are sprawling and abound in all types of diversity (ethnic, religious, social or economic), including divisions inherently present in them. We can therefore contrast the ‘city-world’, with its divisions, nodes and disparities with the ‘world-city’, which provides the former with a global context and places its aesthetic and functional identification marks emphatically in several key points in the urban landscape, such as towers, airports, shopping centres or amusement parks. The more a big city sprawls, the more ‘decentralised’ it becomes. Visited by tourists coming from other places, historical centres become museums and areas of all kinds of consumption. Prices are high here, and city centres are inhabited, more often than not, by the wealthy, who frequently happen to be foreigners. Production and sometimes also cultural activities move extra muros. Means of transport are the focal problem of an urban agglomeration. Distances between places of residence and places of work are often considerable. Urban tissue stretches along roads, Cf. the book Pour une anthropologie de la mobilité, Paris: Payot & Rivages, 2009, p. 34 (footnote by A.W.). 2 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 5 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 5 13-10-30 14:38
  • 5. rivers and coasts. In Europe suburbs are getting closer, are merging and mixing; it may seem that with the spread of ‘urbanity’ we are losing the ‘city’ itself. Decentralisation of cities whose elan vitale is moving beyond administrative borders; habitats whose private interiors are linked with the outside world through television and the internet; finally, individuals themselves who are constantly teleported outside themselves by electronics - all these factors favour conquest of space, which, paradoxically, is often related to dispossession. How to recover the lost city? In the global world an answer may be expressed in spatial terms: we must re-think localness. Contrary to illusions disseminated via communications technologies, from television to the internet, we live where we live. Ubiquity and immediacy still remain metaphors. It is important to perceive means of communication as they really are: means to facilitate life, not to substitute for it. From this perspective, the task we should accomplish is enormous. It is to avoid situations when information and image overload will cause new forms of isolation. Solutions to halt this trend, which is already perceivable, will have to be spatial, local and, openly speaking, political, in the broad sense of the word. How to reconcile the sense of place and the freedom of non-place in urban space? Is it possible to rethink the concept of the city in its entirety, and of housing in particular? The city is not an archipelago. Le Corbusier’s illusion of the city, whose centre was supposed to be a habitat and a unit of cohabitation, brought in the barriers of new suburbs from which trade and services, originally intended to turn them into ideal spaces for living, soon emigrated. What was neglected was the need for social relations and contact with the outside world; this is what ‘young suburbans’ express in their own way, for example in Paris where they move regularly from their bleak housing estates towards the districts of Champs Elysées or Châtelet-Les Halles, which lie in the heart of the historic city and are also symbols of consumer society. Perhaps one day our planet will look like one complete urban complex. We are starting to look at it that way, since we celebrate works by several eminent architects, whic are wellknown all over the world, or follow advances in e-communication technologies of Paul Virilio’s ‘virtual meta-city’. It is to be hoped that by that time we will have found a way to supply this giant world-city with energy that is necessary for it to function harmoniously. It should also be said that the measure of the success or failure of the project, whether it be a utopia realised or a programmed end of the world, will be human relations management; in other words, our ability to reverse the current process of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, between the educated and the uneducated. The energy necessary to carry out this major project – the only true effort worth making if each individual is necessarily assigned the idea of cognition characteristic of the human species – is essentially mental energy and refers to the human being’s fundamental qualities: intelligence, will and imagination. cultural’ world whose emergence they are witnessing daily. The hypothesis we would like to propose here is that an anthropologist can usefully contribute to the reflection on the necessity to recentre human activity – not in order to negate new opportunities ahead of the humanity but so as to confront them without nostalgy, since they have always been among questions raised more or less directly by various cultures and by several philosophical precursors. It is high time to embrace what is happening on ‘our’ planet and to refocus on what is vital – on cognition – when faced with hitherto unknown threats of the present time. Current efforts to protect the world by designating ‘human heritage’ sites and establishing ‘natural parks’ are, in a sense, all aimed at that. However, if they are not accompanied by a major educational effort, they may be lost in our world of images, as one out of many existing forms of consumption. Hence, the change of scale, which is reflected in newly emerging landscapes (including the landscape of the planet as such) – landscapes that in a sense recapitulate the history of humanity – may be perceived as a source of mixed up questions, anxieties and dreams. Polish translation by Aleksandra Wojda English translation by Anna Mirosławska-Olszewska To many people, culture remains a close, intimate bond which has been in existence and is still perceivable in microscale in a given community, its works and its landscape. The existence of such communities is becoming increasingly difficult and they can hardly envisage their place in that planetary ‘post- autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 6 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 6 13-10-30 14:38
  • 6. DYN LON 2 NO 8. 0 KI K TO IO 19.0 0 00 1. PE 9.00 LOS A NG ELE S RK O J 0 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 7 Y 3.00 N W 1.00 HELS INK I 13-10-30 14:38
  • 7. Marius de geus illustrations: anna zabdyrska natURe and sUstainability in tHe eCoLoGiCaL UtoPian tRadition ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 8 13-10-30 14:38
  • 8. I n our era of large scale environmental degradation and increasing climate problems, there is a need for counter images of an alternative ecologically sustainable society, one that protects and respects nature. Often it is forgotten that in the ecological utopian tradition one may find instructive visions, as well as highly evocative images of a sustainable society. It appears that society is letting an opportunity pass by, by not fully recognizing the true value that lies in the ‘ecotopian’ tradition. I shall investigate whether ecological utopias are capable of providing a meaningful contribution to the quest for an environmentally sustainable society. More particularly: what is the significance of various ‘ecological utopias’ for interpretations of mankind’s attitudes towards nature, and the modern social debate about the meaning of ecological sustainability? huMans as partiCipants in nature In the work of American political philosopher Murray Bookchin (1921-2006) one can observe the view of humans as ‘participants’ in their relation towards the natural environment. In The Ecology of Freedom (1991) Bookchin argues that the fundamental roots of the present ecological crisis must be found ‘in the underlying institutional, moral and spiritual changes in human society that produced hierarchy and domination – not only in bourgeois, feudal and ancient society, but at the very dawn of civilization’1. His central thesis is that the idea that humanity must dominate and explore nature, historically stems from the domination and exploitation of humans by humans. M. Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom. The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, Montreal: Black rose Books, 1991, p. 44 Historically, this conception can be traced back to a period when men began to dominate women: ‘From that point onward, human beings were regarded as mere resources, as objects instead of subjects. The hierarchies, classes, propertied forms, and statist institutions that emerged with social domination were carried over conceptually into humanity’s relationship with nature. Nature too became increasingly regarded as a mere resource, an object, a raw material to be exploited as a mere resource as slaves on a latifundium.’2 In reaction to this development, Bookchin argues for a more ‘holistic’ analysis of relationships in nature and society. In his view, natural evolution does not develop in the direction of a simplification of forms of life, but in the direction of growing complexity and variety. Hence, respect for nature is paramount: ecosystems are much too variegated to be left to humans and their claim to sovereignty and complete domination over nature. In essence, natural ecosystems resemble food webs rather than stratified pyramids. Ecosystems are organized non-hierarchically and rely heavily on forms of participation. What makes Bookchin’s ‘social ecology’of the utmost importance is ‘that it offers no case whatsoever for hierarchy in nature and society; it decisively challenges the function of hierarchy as a stabilizing or ordering principle in both realms. The association of order as such with hierarchy is ruptured’3 Bookchin argues in favor of making these principles the basic premises of a new bal- 1 ance between humanity and nature: mankind must strive for the maintenance of ecological spontaneity and non-hierarchical organization of the political, social and ecological systems. It also means that in the future agricultural and industrial practices, urbanization and the use of technology will have to be carefully tailored to the natural requirements of local and regional ecosystems.4 In his analysis, up to now human kind as well as nature have been the victims of a hierarchically structured society. The individuals are unfree because of the institutions and values of hierarchical society: citizens lack both power and opportunity to control their destinies and lives. These hierarchical social relations have a direct impact on humanity’s attitudes and behavior towards nature. An ecologically responsible society can only be accomplished when all the spheres of life that are contaminated by domination are ‘decontaminated’, for instance the relations between men and women, politicians and citizens, as well as the relationship between humanity and nature itself. In Bookchin’s view the introduction of an ‘anarchist society’ is vital in ending the dominant attitude of humans towards nature and in realizing an equilibrium between humanity and its environment.5 huMans as partners with nature English designer, writer, architect and craftsman William Morris (1834-1896) was one of the first utopians who gave an aesthetic portrayal of an ecologically balanced society. Ibidem, s.41 M. Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism, Montreal: Black rose Books, 1990, p.19-32 4 2 3 Ibidem Ibidem, p.37 5 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 9 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 9 13-10-30 14:38
  • 9. In his News from Nowhere (1891) Morris first provides a critical analysis of 19th century English capitalist society and the natural environment in his days which, as he put it, have grown ‘ugly’. He then sketches an extremely detailed alternative, where society and the natural environment are relieved of their ugliness and the world is once again ‘beautiful and harmonious’. In his work, Morris provides an even more nature friendly and far going view on the relationships between human kind and nature than Bookchin. William Morris had an extremely sharp eye for ‘modern’ problems such as large scale industrialization, environmental degradation, waste of natural resources, ongoing urbanization, and the destruction of valuable, traditional landscapes. According to him, the capitalist industrial system had deeply affected people’s attitudes towards nature. He describes how in general people led lives in which humans and nature were separated from each other, and nature was even treated as a slave: ‘…a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate – “nature”, as people used to call it – as one thing, and mankind as another. It was natural to people thinking this way, that they should try to make “nature” their slave, since they thought “nature” was something outside them.’6 In his interpretation, the industrialized 19th century society lacked a sense of nature and the Earth as a comprehensive whole. The natural surroundings were viewed by the inhabitants ‘ as an ugly characterless waste, 6 W. Morris, News from Nowhere, London: Kegan Paul, 1983, p. 154 with no delicate beauty to be guarded’. 7In reaction to this, Morris describes the need for a social, political and ecological revolution. The country would be divided in small scale decentralized unit (a commune, a ward, a parish), which would be self-governing. Private property of the means of production would no longer exist: large-scale factories, heavily polluting the natural surroundings and wasting energy and materials, would be replaced by environmentally friendly cottage industries and small scale workshops where products are made under safe working conditions.8 Morris accentuates that parallel to these drastic political and economic changes, an ecological revolution has to take place to ensure the people’s complete happiness. The perfect starting point of this ecological revolution was a completely different attitude of humans towards nature. Morris indicates in News from Nowhere that the inhabitants of this new society felt a deep ‘affection’ for their natural surroundings, for the landscape where they lived, and for everything that grows and blooms. In his utopian society many people would move from the cities to the countryside. There would be a dispersion of people and gradually city and country would flow seamlessly into one another. The result would be an exemplary and crucial ‘partnership’ between human kind and nature. In this ecotopian society people lived in a carefully managed garden landscape, where nothing was neglected or wasted, as the following passage indicates: and wastes, with a few towns interspersed, which were fortresses for the feudal army, markets for the folk, gathering places for craftsmen. It then became a country of huge and foul workshops and fouler gambling dens, surrounded by an ill kept, poverty stricken farm, pillaged by the masters of the workshops. It is now a garden, where nothing is wasted and nothing is spoilt, with the necessary dwellings, sheds and workshops scattered up and down the country, all trim and neat and pretty.’ For indeed, we should be too much ashamed of ourselves if we allowed the making of goods, even on a large scale, to carry with it the appearance, even, of desolation and misery’. 9 Morris most vividly describes how the people would live in simple yet solid homes with well-kept gardens and allotments, in harmony with their natural surroundings. Moreover, there would be abundant space for untouched landscapes and exist large pieces of wild nature. In his vision, when people assume an attitude of ‘partnership’, friendship and closeness with regard to nature, they consider humans and nature as ‘partners’ in the sense that the needs, interests and preferences of both sides must be taken into account and be weighed harmoniously.10 In this vision nature is observed as an alliance of different life forms, in which human and other life forms are not adversaries but are working together in order to achieve common purposes.11This requires a respectful Ibidem, p. 61 Ibidem, p.63 11 See also: P. Kockelkoren, Ethical Aspects of Plant Biotechnology In Plants – Report to the Dutch Government Commission on Ethical Aspects Biotechnology in Plants, Appendix I, [in:] Agriculture and Spirituality – Essays from the Crossroads Conference at Wageningen Agricultural University, Utrecht: International Books, 1995, part.5 9 10 ‘This is how we stand. England was once a country of clearings amongst the forests 7 8 Ibidem, p.162 Ibidem, p. 83 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 10 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 10 13-10-30 14:38
  • 10. relationship with nature and an emphasis on various forms of cooperation and balanced relations between life forms on earth. Overall, humankind is allowed to make use of natural resources, but without having the right to dominate or exploit nature. 12 As ‘partners’ humans will tend to draw more radical consequences than as participants. Being a partner implies an increased consciousness of being a part of nature and of feeling closely associated with the natural surroundings. In general, an intimate, close and friendly partner will set more stringent restrictions on man’s interventions in nature than a participant. Moreover, partners will systematically act in ways which stimulate nature to develop and realize itself, as in a flourishing and healthy human partnership. huMans eXperienCing a fundaMental ‘union’ with nature The most radical interpretation of the relationship between human kind and nature can be found in the ideas of American political philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Thoreau has become well-known as author of Walden, or a Life in the Woods (1854). In this most wonderful and still widely read book he meticulously recounts the greatest experiment of his life. As a matter of fact, he lived alone in the woods from July 1845 until September 1847, in a self- constructed cabin on the shore of Walden Pond, near Concord Massachusetts, his birthplace. In his writings Thoreau presents his general view of a radical simplification of life and develops an alternative vision on the relationship between human kind and nature. 12 Ibidem Strikingly, in Walden Thoreau continuously writes ‘Nature’ with a capital letter. He also consistently describes nature as a female figure, as can be seen, for example, in the following: ‘But there was dawning Nature, in whom all creatures live, looking in at my broad windows with serene and satisfied face, and no question on her lips’. 13 In his view, nature is the mother of humanity, a creator of life and beauty. Like the native Indians, who in his time had already largely been driven onto reservations, he saw the Earth as ‘a living being’, and approached nature as a ‘living entity’, of which humans only make up a small part.14 To a larger extent than Bookchin and also Morris, Thoreau emphasizes the greatness, grandeur and benevolence of nature. He consistently writes with deeply felt reference and great awe about the ‘dignity’ of nature and the vital importance of preserving nature’s equilibrium. In his view nature was not created to be a possession of man, but has ‘ intrinsic value’: it exists in and of itself, and deserves to be treated with love and affection. Actually, he considers it his moral responsibility to protect the wild and preserve the forests.15 Thoreau shows how profoundly he enjoys the landscape, and talks with the deepest affection about pine, birch and oak trees, with which he appears to carry on entire conversations. His Walden is like a hymn to the nature around his simple forest hut. When Thoreau meditates he repeatedly experiences himself as being part of nature, and H.D. Thoreau, Walden, czyli życie w lesie, przeł. H. Cieplińska, Poznań, Rebis, 1999, s. 293 14 Idem, The Annotated Walden, edition by P. van Doren Stern, New York: Bramhall House 1970, p. 186-207 15 Idem, Walden… 13 perceives the essential connection between it and humans. He experiences a salutary sense of ‘union’ and ‘kinship’ with nature, and is surprised that he never really feels alone in the vast forests where he roams.16 He expresses total admiration for nature’s sublime beauty, which he treats with utmost care and deep respect, rejecting each human encroachment on nature. Accordingly, his priority is not to bring land under cultivation in order to make it productive, but rather to ‘maintain’ the wilderness and to live as the original Indian tribes: in an unspoiled land, in complete harmony with nature, without significantly changing the earth.17 iMpliCations for theory and praCtiCe This short survey of three different views on the relationship between human kind and nature found in ecological utopianism, leads to a number of relevant insights and noteworthy consequences for both theory and practice. In the analysis of Bookchin, Morris and Thoreau, an ecologically sustainable society assumes a set of completely different attitudes towards nature. A shared insight of these ecological utopians is that until now humans have shown an excessive tendency wanting to rule over nature. For many centuries humans have attempted to dominate nature and approach it as a means, an instrument completely at their service. However, this authoritarian and hierarchical way of thinking is absent from the principles of the three ecological utopians which were explored. As they note, in an ecologically sound society nature will need to occupy a key position, 16 17 Idem, The Annotated…, p. 88-93 Ibidem, p. 209-210 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 11 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 11 13-10-30 14:38
  • 11. and people will need to treat the natural environment with dignity and respect. Despite the specific differences between the views of ‘humans as participants in nature’, ‘humans as partners with nature’, and ‘humans experiencing a fundamental union with nature’, their arguments are pointing in the same direction. These ecotopian thinkers accentuate that, until humans have developed an attitude of respect, equality and deep concern for nature, an ecologically sustainable society will remain a very distant prospect. Admittedly, there are some quite serious problems with their visions. For instance, despite my ongoing sympathy for Thoreau’s reflections, his approach of achieving a union, unity and identification with nature is highly individualistic and remains too subjective. On the whole, it does not seem a ‘necessary condition’ that every individual citizen must be able to identify with for example trees, bushes, landscapes and so on, in the way Thoreau is proposing to effectively protect and maintain mother Earth. It seems not everyone will be capable of (or interested in) experiencing this highly personal and subjective kind of ‘spiritual and sublime’ unity with the natural elements. Additionally, such a revolutionary sociocultural change cannot be expected in the foreseeable future and in fact does not seem feasible. In my view, it is more important that citizens gain sufficient understanding of existing ecological relationships. For instance, people should become fully aware of the high complexity of our climatic and atmospheric systems, and understand the risks of possibly irreversible forms of damage to nature, as in the modern case of global warming and climate change. Besides, there is the logical problem which is inherent to the approaches of participation and partnership. In a literal way it is impossible to be a participant in relation to nature or a partner with nature, since nature is not able to speak or communicate in any reasonable and sensible way with us, nor can it act as a rationally thinking ‘moral agent’. Only figuratively speaking, humans may possibly attain to a role of being a participant, or for example a partner in relation towards nature. The critical remarks made above lead to the question how to choose for one of the three approaches mentioned. Why would one prefer either the attitude of participation in nature, opt for a partnership relation with regards to nature, or favor the idea of experiencing a fundamental union or unity with nature? Obviously, this is not the main theme of this paper, but let me provide a short commentary here. What could be the main criteria for making this kind of decision? For instance, one could look at the degree of realism and the level of practical feasibility. In that context, it seems the attitude of participation comes first, followed by the one of partnership, and lastly the attitude of realizing union or unity with nature. However, it can be defended that it is more rational and appropriate to evaluate the three ecotopian attitudes towards nature on basis of a different criterion: the degree to which they can inspire people to environmentally responsible behavior, individually and collectively, or to policies that effectively contribute to solving the current ecological crisis, global warming and climate change included. 18 W. Achterberg, Samenleving, natur en duurzaamheid, Assen: Van Gorcum, 1994, p. 161-164 18 Another controversial issue is whether a change of human attitudes towards nature will in any way be sufficient to achieve an ecologically responsible society. The obvious answer is negative. A change in attitudes and dispositions among citizens will not directly and automatically translate in different environmental government policies. Nor will changes in attitudes of citizens mean that they will actually change their daily environmental behavior in terms of transportation choices, food habits, housing habits and all other acquired pattern of behavior. As a matter of fact, these are exactly the deeply engrained routines and actions that tend to produce a larger individual Ecological Footprint. In earlier work, I have noted that changes in political, economic, financial and cultural institutions will be needed in order to achieve an ecologically sustainable society. 19 Changing human attitudes versus nature will indeed have to be constitutive element of a new green society, but will most definitely not be a sufficient condition. The role played by our contemporary attitudes towards nature is no doubt detrimental to our planet, but so are for example continuous economic growth, ongoing population increase, reliance on centralized and large scale energy production primarily based on fossil fuels, general food habits and consumption pattern in the rich countries, and so on. Another decisive issue concerns the ways people think about the broad and often elusive concept of ecological sustainability, to which I shall now turn. 19 M de Geus, The End of Over-consumption, Utrecht: International Books, 2003; M. de Geus, Utopian Sustainability: Ecological Utopianism, [w:] The Transition to Sustainable Living and Practice, ed. L. Leonard, J. Barry, Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing, 2009, p. 77-101 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 12 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 12 13-10-30 14:38
  • 12. pragMatiC versus utopian ConCepts of eCologiCal sustainability In the decades following the publication of the UN report Our Common Future (Brundtland report 1987), the great majority of governments in the world have (at least in words and statements) accepted the concept of ‘sustainability’ as a general guideline for economic and environmental policy. In practice, however, the specific meaning given to the concept by the countries involved, varies considerably according to the importance which is attached to facts, uncertainties and risks in relation to environment and society. At least three interpretations of ecological sustainability have come to the forefront in western politics, which differ with regard to the robustness of the definition of sustainability (‘strong versus weak’), the general perception of existing and future environmental risks (high versus low), the expectations regarding the development of technological solutions for environmental problems (highly probable, versus not probable at all), and the answer to the question whether a ‘general consumer austerity’ is inevitable or preferable in order to achieve an ecologically healthy and responsible society. In the first line of thought, ecological sustainability is equated with the Brundtland approach of ‘sustainable development’ and ‘ecological modernization’. The general starting point of this essentially ‘liberal’ concept is that ecological sustainability can actually be ‘combined’ with economic growth, a strengthening of economic competitiveness, better management of urban planning, nature and biodiversity, and a decrease in absolute terms of environmentally hazardous emissions. In this line of reasoning again and again a general argument is made for so-called ‘creative and intelligent growth’ of the economy, provided that the overall pressure on the environment diminishes. Environmental policy is basically seen as a necessary, welcome impulse for change, for technical, economic or cultural renewal. The challenge of sustainable development and ecological modernization’ is considered as a decisive cause of innovation and improvement of the economic structure. 20 In this pragmatic ‘liberal’ political vision the environmental risks of continuous economic development are estimated to be relatively low. It is assumed that a prolonged exploitation of the earth will reveal new stocks of natural resources and that, if needed, the exploitation of alternative raw natural resources is possible. In addition, the expectations with regard to the contribution of new technologies to the improvement of energy efficiency and realization of environmental goals are very high. In this pragmatic view it is expected that the ‘integration’ of environment and economy will be accomplished by future technological revolutions and innovations. In line with this, an overall decrease of the level of production and consumption is not considered necessary. The main goal is to induce citizens to develop inherently friendly environmental behavior, without the need for austerity or of radical changes in lifestyles. Hence, the general aim is ‘greener’ or ‘sustainable’ consumption, not ‘reducing’ consumption. In the second view – which is often (but not always) associated with Christian religious ideas – ecological sustainability is looked at from the general perspective of ‘stewardship’. Here the basic point of departure is that human kind 20 A. Giddens, The Politics of Climate Change, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009, p. 70 is morally obliged to cultivate and conserve the natural environment as a responsible and effective steward of the natural environment. Accepting responsibility in order to maintain the natural environment for future generations is a characteristic idea: humanity is held accountable for its share in the conservation of the ‘wholeness of the Creation’.21 In western democracies this Christiandemocratic idea of stewardship has remained influential in politics. Most Western-European Christian-democratic parties who are defending this position, do not perceive the environmental risks of economic growth as insurmountable and show an overall optimism about the future availability of natural resources. Their presumption is that, in the end, technological solutions for most current environmental problems will be found. In general, in this vision a need for more austere consumption patterns or lifestyles is rarely expressed. The emphasis is not on a radicalization of environmental goals and objectives, but on achieving the goals of already existing environmental policies. A third interpretation of ecological sustainability can be linked to radically green political parties in Western liberal democracies. The foundation of this idea can be traced back to utopian ecological thinkers such as William Morris, Bernard Skinner, Aldous Huxley, and Ernest Callenbach. In this ‘green-tainted’ interpretation, ecological sustainability is considered to be closely related to the idea of a ‘steady state economy’.22 P. Kockelkoren, op.cit, part 5 See, H.E.Daly, The Steady State Economy: toward a Political Economy of Biophysical Equilibrium and Moral Growth, [w:] Toward a Steady State Economy, San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1973; T. Jackson, Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, London: Earthscan, 2009 21 22 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 13 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 13 13-10-30 14:38
  • 13. Their ‘ideal utopian society’ incorporates both an economic and an ecological state of equilibrium. The just mentioned utopians do not think in terms of growth, increase, and expansion, but in terms of equilibrium, stability, and balance. They argue that a large share of environmental pollution and damage to nature is caused by society’s unlimited tendencies towards growth in production and consumption. They emphasize that society should break away from these growth tendencies, and advocate a society that is not based on the ideal of continuous economic development. Their focus on a so-called ‘steady state’ reflects itself in their principles, in particular the proposition of a so-called ‘stationary state’, as well as in their views on policy, where the ‘stable state concept’ is the decisive criterion upon which social decision-making needs to be systematically based. It is fair to say that up to now in western liberal democracies this specific ecological vision of green political parties has not gained much attention and support. Only the green political parties in for example Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have (at least to some extent) indeed been inspired by these radical utopian ideas. As a matter of fact, their preference for (some version of) a ‘steady state economy’ is demonstrative of the fact that they estimate the risks of ongoing economic development as very high. In the same vein, they tend to be pessimistic about the future availability of natural resources. Generally, the green parties are opting for risk evasive strategies and are reticent about the possibilities of the so-called ‘technological fix’: technological strategies to solve large scale environmental problems. In their perspective today’s high material standard of living will have to be replaced by a ‘high quality of life’, involving a decrease of general production and consumption levels. ConseQuenCes of the struCtural rejeCtion of the steady state notion In this final section the following question will be raised: What are the main consequences of the fact that in modern western liberal democracies governments are still relying on two - above mentioned - basically pragmatic interpretations of ecological sustainability, and are systematically rejecting the third and principled ‘steady state’ notion? By primarily relying on and referring to the two pragmatic visions of ecological sustainability, the key concept has been deprived of its foundational character. Ecological utopian thinkers as William Morris, Bernard Skinner, Aldous Huxley and Ernest Callenbach have underlined that ecological sustainability is intended as a foundational notion that aims at both an economically and ecologically stable situation. From their point of view, it is a ‘principled and normative’ concept in the sense that in this line of reasoning the aim of nature conservation, the preservation of scarce natural resources and intra- and intergenerational justice are quintessential, and must systematically be given priority over growth of production and consumption. In line with the arguments given above, the rejection of the value and relevance of the third perspective on ecological sustainability has led to a de facto acceptance and legitimization of the assumption that humans have the right to rule over nature. Ultimately, both within mainstream political liberalism with its preference for sustainable development and ecological modernization, and Christian religious political visions which are building on the idea of stewardship, human kind is still having the right to dominate over nature and approach it as a means. This is not surprising, as John Locke, the religiously inspired founding father of political liberalism, wrote the following words in his Second Treatise: ‘God, when he gave the World in common to all mankind, commanded Man also to labor, and the penury of his Condition required it of him. God and his Reason commanded him to subdue the earth, i.e. improve it for the benefit of Life, and therein lay out something upon it was his own, his labor. He that in Obedience to this Command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his Property, which another had no Title by, nor could without injury take from him.’23 Arguably, the right to property is a pivotal element in Locke’s theory, and nature is explicitly to be ‘subdued’’ and made productive. 24 This creates a clear contrast to utopian ecological thinkers as William Morris, Bernard Skinner, Aldous Huxley and Ernest Callenbach, who argue that in an environmentally sustainable society, nature will occupy a central position, and people will need to treat their natural surroundings respectfully and responsibly. A last consequence of the fact that modern western liberal democracies are primarily J. Locke, Two Treatises of Government, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1965, p. 24 R. Eckersley, Environmentalism and Political Theory: Toward an Ecocentric Approach, New York: State University of New York Press, 1992, s.23 23 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 14 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 14 13-10-30 14:38
  • 14. relying on the first and second interpretation of ecological sustainability, is that still no empirical, physical side-constraints or limits to the carrying capacity of the earth are accepted. Both from the perspective of liberal political and Christian political considerations, it is predominantly assumed that nature can be compared to a ‘spring’ that flows abundantly. Both in the Bible and in the work of John Locke it is noted that the Earth provides the rich material humankind may make use of. In his Two Treatises of Government Locke speaks of ‘the Plenty God had given to him’. 25 In his theory nature is a perpetually productive generator of foods, natural resources and so on. Locke views the commons as an unlimited and incessant source of riches, goods and services. The underlying assumption is that the earth will present us with new harvests and catches, new trees and plants in endless variations. There will always be enough food and natural resources to fulfill the incessantly growing human needs. This optimistic idea is systematically reflected in the two pragmatic visions on ecological sustainability analyzed, but is evidently at odds with the growing scientific insight that sustainability unavoidably implies the setting of specific physical limits to the growth of our economy and presupposes the acceptance of well-defined ecological boundaries. could be established. In various ways ecological utopias are capable of providing a valuable contribution to our ongoing quest for an environmentally sustainable and ecologically responsible society. As a consequence, a legitimization and acceptance of the assumption that humans have the full right to rule over nature has occurred. Apart from that, in the debates there has been no room to discuss the far broader and more integrated ecotopian visions on ecological sustainability. Moreover, the existence of physical boundaries or limits to the ecological carrying capacity of the earth has not yet been recognized in modern politics. All in all, there are still very good reasons to continue studying ecological utopianism and to critically reflect on the many worthwhile lessons which can be learned from this tradition about the vital role of attitudes towards nature and the deeper meaning of ecological sustainability. This paper has explored the value of ‘ecological utopianism’ for interpretations of mankind’s attitudes towards nature, and the modern social debate about the meaning of the much debated and influential concept of ecological sustainability. By developing this analysis, an increased understanding of the significance of ecological utopias for our modern environmental problems and debates 25 J. Locke, ibidem, p. autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 15 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 15 13-10-30 14:38
  • 15. Philippe Rahm Towards Thermodynamic Urban Planning T he history of urban design and spatial planning over the past forty years was largely reviewed from a macroscopic and aesthetic viewpoint rather than from a microscopic and physiological one. Re-analysing it from the microscopic perspective, we can discover the factors that did influence the formation of cities. A new evaluation proposed here will make it possible to create an alternative to the actual development of urban planning that is currently based on the principle of economic globalisation which is unsustainable and unfair to people. It is an ambition of our studio to contribute to the development of planetary urban planning to make it more acceptable, human, honest and fair to all. Popularisation of the macroscopic and aesthetic urban analysis must undoubtedly be attributed to Italian architect Aldo Rossi who, in his book L’architettura della città (‘Architecture of the City’) of 1966, deprecates ‘naïve functionalism’ that reduces the history of the city and its design to the physiological and organic. From the very first page of the introduction he recognises the physiological cause as the origin of architecture. The starting point is the biological need that drives man to ‘construct an artificial climate’, more favourable for his existence. Evading this point, Rossi immediately claims that, first and foremost, man built his environment following aesthetic and civilisational intents. He studies those macrostructural intents, deriding all infrastructural approaches, which he considers naïve. With all due appreciation for Aldo Rossi’s achievements in the field of theory, and in a non-polemic spirit, we choose to side with the naive and to partly contest that macroscopic take, opting to reverse the angle of the analysis so that it starts from the microscopic level. If Aldo Rossi seemed so radical in 1970, it stemmed from the fact that since the 1950s antibiotics came into wide use in the West, a autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 16 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 16 13-10-30 14:38
  • 16. ‘One of the main requirements of good health conditions in a big city such as Paris is to foster free circulation of the air we breathe, through gradual removal of all obstacles which might prevent it [...] and by distancing cities from all centres of impurity and corruption’. J. de Horne, Mémoire sur quelques objets qui intéressent plus particulièrement la salubrité de la ville de Paris, Paris, 1788, [quoted after:] R. Etlin, L’air dans l’urbanisme des Lumières, ‘Dix-huitième siècle’ 1977, No. 9, pp. 123–134 (unless otherwise indicated, all quotations transl. by A.M.O.). 2 A. Corbin writes, ‘Soufflot created a chamber with a vault whose chaotic form makes it possible to eliminate stagnant places and to create rising air currents’. A. Corbin, Le miasme et la jonquille, Paris: Flammarion, 1986. 1 ics, taken twice daily for one week? It should be pointed out, by the way, that modernist sunshine and fresh air were not particularly successful treatments. What Aldo Rossi considered to be the first cause in the history of urban planning may have been in fact merely a consequence of the use of antibiotics: functionalism preceded aesthetics, physiology allowed symbolism, microscopic factors implied the macroscopic aspects. The reversal of the cause-and-effect chain, which we will propose to explain the history of the city and urban planning as resulting from the macroscopic and physiological considerations, is crucial to design the future. Partial success of Rossi’s postmodernism of 1970–1980 stems from the fact that it led to a construction of forms without causes, leaving merely effects of urban facts. It may be exemplified by a multitude of new squares with rich symbolism but without the physiological sense of the previous ones, when it had been necessary to fetch drinking water before social bonds were formed. We propose to study this particular reversal of the cause-and-effect relationships in urban planning and spatial design, and as a starting point we choose the achievements of new schools of thinking of history, geography and economy. In his texts Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies of 1997 and Collapse of 2005, Jared Diamond described the above mentioned reversal of the cause-and-effect relationships, pointing out the importance of environmental factors: climate, geology or autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 17 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 17 viruses in human history3. It was Spaniards who conquered South America, while Aztecs did not conquer Spain because the viruses carried by a bunch of conquistadors multiplied more easily and were more lethal than the viruses carried by millions of Aztecs4. The history of America presented by Diamond appears to be much more a consequence of viral toxicity than a political or religious programme written in its course. In a similar way, the American scholar explains the rise and fall of the Viking civilisation or of the civilisation on Easter Island, justifying their development by climatic changes and soil erosion. Following the logic of this new school of thinking, some scholars have recently pointed out that the times of social change in the history of China correspond to periods of drought in the climate5, while periods of great cold in the European Middle Ages are related to an increase in the importance of religion6. We might presume that, with advances of modernisation, the history of civilisation should become increasingly independent of the influence of the climate. However, in Climate Wars Harald Welzer de- ‘History has proceeded very differently for different peoples not because of biological differences but due to differences in environments’. J. Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, New York: W.W. Norton, 1997, p.9. 4 ‘Far more Native Americans and other non-Eurasian peoples were killed by Eurasian germs than by Eurasian guns or steel weapons. Conversely, few or no distinctive lethal germs awaited would-be European conquerors in the New World’. Ibid., p. 29. 5 ‘This is how the collapse of some Chinese dynasties is related to periods of abnormal droughts’. Hai Cheng, R. Lawrance Edwards, Les variations de la mousson et la société chinoise depuis 1800 ans [in:] Des climats et des hommes, ed. J.F. Berger, Paris: La Découverte, 2012. 6 ‘In 1315 (the year of famine during the little ice age from 1300 to 1350) there were few upheavals but many prayers. Later there will be less bigotry and more upheavals’. E. Le Roy Ladurie, D. Rousseau, Fluctuation du climat en France du Nord et du Centre au temps du Petit Âge glacière [in:] Des climats et des hommes, op. cit. 3 All illustrations: ©philippe rahm architectes change which brutally invalidated the whole hygiene programme of architectural modernism and its physiological language. Critical of narrow streets and opting for zoning, in the Athens Charter Le Corbusier deals with bacteria hot spots, thus following the first 18th and 19th century hygienic regulations introduced by Rambuteau and de Horne1, Maret and Soufflot2: he is against stale air in dark narrow streets and badly ventilated rooms. The formal language of the modernist architecture of the 1920s – wide windows and glazed bays, balconies and solariums for the purpose of air and solar treatments, as well as white disinfectant lime slurry – are vivid declinations of the design patterns of Alpine sanatoriums, invented in the 19th century to combat tuberculosis and other bacterial diseases. This medicinal language loses legitimacy with the discovery of penicillin. What is the point of demolishing small, narrow and dark lanes or moving flats to spacious parks if it is now possible to eradicate disease with antibiot- 13-10-30 14:38
  • 17. scribes the opposite tendency. He shows that natural disasters are behind the wars fought in the 20th and 21st centuries: to him, climate change is an underestimated social threat and it seems we are failing to accept the idea that this phenomenon, even if described scientifically, may generate such calamities as the implosion of social systems, civil wars or genocide7. Economist Daniel Cohen believes the same, offering surprising reinterpretations of what seemed to be the cause while in fact was the effect8. He explains the disappearance of social diversification in the modernist city not by the Athens Charter, which proposed to separate the working zones and housing districts, but by the invention of the lift, and then RER, the regional express transit system connecting suburbs to Paris. It was only yesterday that in a typically formed city the rich lived on the second floor, and the poor on the last one. The rich and the poor met on the stairs and even if they did not speak to each other, their children sometimes attended the same schools. Since lifts came into widespread use, buildings started to be inhabited by the rich or the poor but never by both because they lived in different districts. The district is decreasingly a place of social diversity’. As to RER, Cohen explains that it is not so much a means of transport that brings people from different social strata closer as an element contributing to their separation. ‘What is worse, with RER in use, suburbs tend to be increasingly isolated from luxury districts. In the past working class suburbs were not situated so far from city centres because workers had to walk to work on foot. With the opening H. Welzer, Climate Wars, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012. D. Cohen, Trois leçons sur la société post-industrielle, Paris: Seuil, 2006. 7 8 of RER, the distance could grow. However demography develops, Paris will never border with Sarcelles. Suburbians go to the city centre on Saturday nights to feast their eyes on pictures but then return home’. Endocrinological Land Development in the 19th Century Rethinking the history of urbanisation from the microscopic perspective – endocrinological in the 19th century, and bacteriological in the 20th century – leads to unexpected re-evaluation of the process of city and cityscape making. Medicinal properties of iodine were recognized in the first half of the 19th century, and were popularised by English doctors who started to send their patients to the seaside or to thermal spas where iodine was administered either in the liquid form: soda or sea breeze, or in the solid one: fish or algae9. It resulted in the construction of a railway network and urban development of the sea coast. New spa towns were founded, such as Biarritz, Brighton, Spa, Ostend, 9 ‘Making it possible to discover iodine in a great number of mineral waters where its presence had not even been suspected before, chemical analyses provided an explanation of their long-known qualities used in the treatment of cases where iodine is nowadays successfully prescribed. It was Dr Goindet of Geneva that had the privilege to introduce iodine, and then its compounds, into medicine. Searching for a method in Cadet de Gassicourt, he noticed that Russel counselled burnt rockweed for thyroid. Suspecting that the sponge which was then used in the treatment of thyroid and rockweed might owe their properties to iodine, whose presence in rockweed brine had been proven by Courtois, he tried it out in the treatment of thyroid hyperplasia and, luckily, succeeded. Not a year had elapsed since he started his experiments that he communicated his discovery to the Helvetian Society of Natural Sciences gathered in Geneva on 25 July 1820. Two other memoirs by Coindet, published soon afterwards, proved that iodine was indeed an efficient medicine for thyroid and was a remedy for scrofulous tumours and certain diseases of the lymphatic system’. A.A. Boinet, Iodothérapie, Paris: Victor Masson et Fils, 1865. Vichy, Arcachon or Évian-les-Bains. At the local level, urbanisation of Europe in the 19th century and the invention of tourism are the formal, planned consequences of the discovery of iodine and its medical applications. It was also instrumental in the formation of the image of European cities which since then turned towards beaches and waterfronts, sprawled and opened towards seas or lakes, those ‘veritable sanatoriums in the open air where the lucky sick come to enjoy the iodine-rich ocean air and pine fluids’10. For instance, in the 19th century the morphology of Swiss towns was totally reversed for that reason. Until the turn of the century buildings faced away from waterfronts and lake shores into which sewage was poured. Houses turned their backs at lakes and faced mountains. It was a total transformation. Ever since water becomes valuable because of iodine, new buildings – like those big residences in Montreux – turn towards lakes. The high street, which was once situated away from water, gets doubled with the construction of new boulevards designed for strolling along the waterfront. This is how European lake and sea shores, rehabilitated owing to iodine, become steadily urban. Some time later, around 1860, Louis Pasteur discovers that the air we breathe is not empty but contains bacteria, which are slightly less numerous in the mountains11. This medical knowledge, combined with what might be called the germicidal power of solar 10 Guide Touristique d’Arcachon 2012, http://www.arcachon. com/upload/GP_Touristique_Arcachon_BD_ K(3).pdf (access: 8 August 2013). ‘Above all, are there any germs in the air? Nobody claims otherwise because we realise that it cannot be otherwise’. L. Pasteur, Œuvres, vol. 2, Paris: Masson et cie, 1922. O 11 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 18 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 18 13-10-30 14:38
  • 18. radiation in the treatment of tuberculosis12, entails impressive urban development of the Alps: Leysin, Davos and Gstaad are established. Written at the end of the 18th century, the diaries of Timoléon Guy François de Maugiron or Voyages dans les Alpes (‘Voyages in the Alps’) by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure imply that mountain areas were generally avoided as places of extreme poverty, inhabited by degenerate people13. The discovery of iodine, followed by the popularisation of solar treatments, sun bathing or heliotherapy14, recommended in Switzerland by Dr Bernhard or Dr Rollier, turn these places into favourite holiday destinations. Just like the theses proposed by Rossi in L’architettura della città stem from the discovery of penicillin, the theses put forward by Le Corbusier in Towards an Architecture or in the Athens Charter result from the discovery of iodine, the germicidal power of sunshine and the observation that the numbers of microbes decrease in less polluted air. Thermodynamic Urban Planning in the 21st Century Understanding the causal mechanisms is crucial, and a microscopic mechanism often enables to reverse their order: what seems to ‘We shall live in the dark, like before. The sun will not penetrate into residential buildings more than before to displace the exterminator microbe. To sum up, there is a lack of airing or light in residential buildings, and particularly – a lack of sunshine. In short, we can summarise the findings of this research with a statement that tuberculosis is first and foremost a disease of the dark’. Congrès international de la tuberculose: Rapports présentés au congrès, Paris: Masson et cie, 1905, vol. 25. 13 ‘We attribute the name of cretins to idiots and imbeciles living usually on mountain passes. Is it not endemic in more or less swampy mountain passes, exposed to damp air?’ J.-E. Esquirol, Des maladies mentales, vol. 2, Bruxelles: J. B. Tircher, 1838. 14 J. Malgat, Cure solaire de la tuberculose pulmonaire chronique [in:] Congrès international…, op. cit. 12 be the cause at the macroscopic level turns out to be a consequence in the microscopic perspective. If we want to define urban planning and territorial strategy towards the future, we need to analyse the real causes underlying land transformations. From the architectural and urban planning points of view, climatic and energetic parameters are closely related and seem to be the main factors that influence and will continue to influence urban renewal in a given area. The concept of ‘thermodynamic urban planning’, which I shall define presently, may encompass a whole set of criteria activated in the process of urban renewal on our planet. The microscopic reason which will certainly underlie all major architectural and urban planning decisions in the 21st century is carbon dioxide (CO2). It is expected to play the key role; for two decades we have been trying to embrace the negative consequences of the growth of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere caused by non-renewable energy consumption, such as oil or gas. Fuel combustion releases CO2 into the atmosphere, which forms a sort of cover that makes it impossible for surplus energy accumulated over the earth to escape into the outer space. It results in global warming, disturbing the climate balance, on which urbanisation of the planet has been based for centuries, and causing disasters and migrations. Energy consumed by buildings (heating, ventilation, air conditioning or hot water production) is responsible for emitting about 50% greenhouse gases. Hence, architecture and urban planning are directly involved in an ecological and civic mission for the reduction of energy consumption. The discovery of the role of CO2 in global warming and the dissemination of that knowledge by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) since 1988 certainly determines the end of postmodernism and invalidates reading and designing purely aesthetic and symbolic architecture. The necessity to deal with climate warming imposes new duties on architecture and urban planning, and confronting them is a matter of no less import that the confrontation with bacterial diseases was for modernism in the 19th century. Following the Fukushima disaster (2011), a nuclear disaster was added to the climate crisis, forcing a process of steady abandonment of this kind of energy. Deprived of unlimited access to fossil fuels or nuclear energy, and unable to immediately replace them with renewable energy sources, such as the sun or wind, at the beginning of the 21st century we are urged to immediately reduce energy consumption. In this context, with view to the necessity to save it and use natural local energy sources, it is time to define the concept of thermodynamic urban planning; just as we are beginning to practise architecture called green, solar, ecological or meteorological. Thermodynamic urban planning may prove to be a new way to come to terms with globalisation, through reorganization of industrial production at the planetary level based on energetic and climatic, rather than economic, criteria. We are currently at the peak of the postindustrial society crisis, which was based on global distribution of labour divided between the North, with highly qualified personnel developing ideas, programmes, design and marketing, and the South, with unskilled workforce manufacturing objects, computers or clothes. Until 1960 the South exported only raw materials for use in the North. Since the 1960s industrialisation of the South has entailed de-industrialisation of the North; since then the South has been exporting ready-made products, autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 19 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 19 13-10-30 14:38
  • 19. leaving the North to develop product concepts, design and marketing. This situation is risky because the technological advantage of the North over the South is decreasing on a yearly basis and it is predictable that production of ideas, design and concepts will soon reach the same level in the South as in the North, which will automatically reduce employment and increase unemployment, especially in Europe. How is Europe and France to be seen in this regard? What can France do, with its limited industry and extensive technological expertise (nuclear energy, TGV) which will soon become obsolete, in view of technologies developed in the United States, including Google and Facebook, if it neither develops nor manufactures its own products? There remains the production of luxury goods, cultural and culinary tourism so well described by Michel Houellebecq15 as the future of industrial France huddled around the ‘territorial magic’ of its countryside. Cheeses, cold meats, woodpigeons and snails, the Massif Central and a network of routes ‘Lodging and Castles’. Indeed, cynicism aside, some products belong to a given territory, which is inextricably related to a certain climate, quality of mineral soil that gives produce unique taste, just like lime soil and sunshine to the great wines of Bordeaux. It is not about skills or cultural traditions which globalisation will certainly copy, hybridise and delocalise but certain geographical, geological and climatic conditions that are unique and characteristic for a place: as Houellebecq has it, it is a regional category rather than a state one. Although it is impossible to transfer wine production from Bordeaux to China or Bangladesh, it will not hinder the establishment of new territories like Napa Valley in California or Ningxia in M. Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory, trans. Gavin Bowd. New York: Knopf, 2012. 15 China whose wines were classified as the best in the world in 2011. To explain the concept of thermodynamic urban planning, we can start from three examples illustrating a characteristic mode of exploitation of unique energy resources typical for a given geographic location. The first example is the transferring of Facebook servers from California to Lulea in Sweden. Computers storing a gigantic amount of information overheat, and cooling them requires a tremendous amount of energy. The average annual temperature in Lulea is 2 degrees Celsius, and it is easy to understand what savings (in tens of billions of dollars) the American company can make by moving the servers from the Mediterranean climate of California, where the average annual temperature is 19.5 degrees Celsius. These three examples point at new, unusual, almost uninhabited urbanisation areas such as the north, deserts and high mountains. They have nothing in common with the places that have undergone urbanisation since the beginnings of humankind. In the 21st century we will witness a radical modification of the criteria of geographic value; we will see a change of human geography which will entail the establishment of new cities and a collapse of old ones. Thus, climate will have a key role in future urbanisation of the planet, following the global thermodynamic values related to the location parameters, with regard to latitude and altitude. It may turn out to be a solution fostering globalisation based not on unjust salaries or a specific international distribution of labour but on ecological and climate criteria applied on the scale of global population. The second example is the Swiss village of Trient. The small village, with a population of 150 residents, hidden in the rugged mountains of the canton of Valais, without a ski lift, will receive several million Swiss francs in the next few years because it has a glacier that supplies water to a dam which provides electricity to the whole Swiss railway. The third example is the German project Desertec, under which it is proposed to cover the whole of Sahara with solar panels to supply electric energy to the whole of North Africa and Europe16. 16 ‘All kinds of renewables will be used in the DESERTEC Concept, (…) but the sun-rich deserts of the world play a central role: within six hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year. In addition, 90 percent of the world’s population lives within 3,000 km of deserts’. http://www.desertec. org/fileadmin/downloads/desertec_foundation_flyer_ en.pdf (access: 8 August 2013) autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 20 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 20 13-10-30 14:38
  • 20. therModynaMiC parK We have applied global thermodynamic principles on a microscale in a city park in Taiwan: we created climatic differences as if we were to reorganise the planet’s geography reduced to the size of the park. The structuring principle is differentiation of climatic environments: from naturally existing warm, humid and polluted ones to newly created cooler, less humid and less polluted areas. Departing from what already exists, we defined three climatic maps, each of them typical for a given parameter of the atmosphere: the first one describing temperature, the second one referring to air humidity, and the last one describing the level of air pollution. Each of these maps contains modulations of respective parameters: from areas with extreme climatic conditions to those with deeper modifications and thus more suitable for human habitation. These three maps cross each other, freely overlap and thus create diverse microclimates, a multitude of various environments within the park’s space. One part will always be warmer but less humid, with less polluted air, while other parts will be cooler, drier but will have polluted air. The three climatic maps are based on the gradation principle: from 100% inconvenient, naturally intense conditions – typical for a local city (100% pollution, 100% humidity, 100% heat), to more pleasant zones with levels reduced even to 20%, where temperature, humidity and pollution were reduced to a minimum. To work out these three meteorological maps, we developed an extensive system of devices each of which reduces excess heat, humidity or pollution. What I call ‘meteorological devices’ are both plants, trees with specific qualities that absorb pollution or reduce insolation through dense foliage and waterspouts, humidifiers, fountains or technical solutions such as air dehumidifiers or mosquito repelling ultrasonic speakers. If we want to create a cool place, we increase the number of appropriate devices. Depending on their density in a given area, we create more or less pleasant and convenient spaces where climatic conditions sometimes overlap, combine, condense or, conversely, separate and dilute, generating diverse atmospheres which users can freely choose at will. Climatic devices are contemporary extensions of traditional park facilities: small constructions, such as benches, fountains, kiosks, garden pavilions or gazebos. Each of the devices reduces inconvenience caused by climatic factors at work and diffuses a more favourable climate, influencing one parameter only. The first are air dehumidifiers, followed by purifying devices, the third ones are air refreshing, light diffusing and shade creating devices. If we want to achieve a low level of humidity in a given spot in the park and create a drier place, we simply place more air dehumidifiers there. translation froM frenCh: aleKsandra wojda english translation: anna MirosławsKa-olszewsKa taiChung gateway parK authors: philippe rahm architectes, mosbach paysagistes, ricky liu & associates investor: taichung city government location: taichung, tajwan total area: 70 hectares design: january 2012 – december 2012 completion: january 2013 – july 2015 aleKsandra wojda Meteorological devices and the type of soil which determines them are the basic elements of our composition, scattered over the landscape in the form of various levels of concentration depending on the intended level of efficiency. They enable modulation of the landscape texture and are unique to our architecture. The distribution of programmes – public utility buildings, recreational areas, passages or playgrounds – takes place in a natural way, depending on the intensity of the new climatic zones. In the least convenient places there are closed air-conditioned buildings. Recreational areas are situated in the most favourable climatic zones, where the humidity levels and temperature are the lowest, and the pollution is minimal. autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 21 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 21 13-10-30 14:38
  • 21. pollution_map.pdf 1 13-09-23 16:45 plan-general.pdf sections.pdf 1 13-09-23 sections.pdf 1 1 13-09-23 16:45 16:44 13-09-23 11:57 philippe rahm architectes, mosbach paysagistes, ricky liu&associates, general plan of the thermodynamic park in taiwan, design: 2012, completion: 2013-2015 the architects developed three spatial narrations including layouts for devices connected, respectively, with: temperature (pink plan), humidity (blue plan) and environmental pollution (grey plan). the narrations overlap, forming the general plan of the construction (right). ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 22 13-10-30 14:39
  • 22. Humid air Electric fan Refrigerated coil H20 condensation Dry air Concrete slab with radiant tubing Humid air Condensation Dryer air Cooled fluid Water drain Underground heat sink (2m depth) 29˚C Atmosphere 25˚C Top soil 18˚C Eluviation layer 12˚C Subsoil hot air Cool air Electric fan 12˚C constant earth temperature Mosquitos Mosquito-free space Noise pollution Quiet space ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 23 13-10-30 14:40
  • 23. Lucy Sargisson Illustrations: Anna Zabdyrska Democracy, Nature, and Utopia T here is a trend in contemporary environmental political theory towards a call for a more democratic relationship between humanity and nature. Deep ecologists have been doing this for a long time but the trend I’ve observed comes from more mainstream sources. These include John Dryzek, who wants to develop a more ecologically responsive deliberative democracy and Andrew Dobson, who argues in his most recent work that we need to start a process of democratic listening to nature. It also includes thinker such as Bruno Latour and Jane Bennett who explore a new political ecology. All these thinkers raise questions about political agency and political participation: Who (or what) belongs to the demos? And they have all, in different ways (from diverse epistemological and ontological perspectives) arrived at the conclusion that ‘we’ (that is to say, humans) need to include ‘nature’ in the demos. Re-thinking environmental politics in these more inclusive ways involves re-thinking the relationships between humans and non-human beings, between beings, things and stuff. And I suggest that utopias are a good place in which to start this process. Calls for a ‘democracy of all nature’ In his most recent work, Andrew Dobson issues a simple but radical challenge to green political theory. Historically, he says, attempts to broaden democracy have focused on enabling excluded ‘Others’ to ‘speak’ (in order that they can participate in democratic politics). But he argues that if we really want to expand the demos to include non-humans, we need to re-focus our attention onto listening. According to Dobson, ‘the usefulness of the capacity to speak is compromised without the reciprocal capacity to listen – if we do not know how to listen, how will we know what to speak about? Given this, it seems odd that political theorists should have spent so much time worrying about how to get people to speak without thinking at all about how we get them to listen’1. Historically, the excluded ‘Others’ have needed to acquire political competencies. Dobson’s suggestion that those inside the demos or citizen body should learn to listen (above all, to those outside the citizen body) prefigures a very different kind of democracy. It places the onus on those who already hold power. It suggests that broadening the demos to include non-humans would involve learning to ‘listen to nature’. But it is unclear quite what this would look like. John Dryzek’s work on the environment and deliberative democracy might help. He argues that ‘democracy can exist not only among humans, but also in human dealings with the natural world’. and he suggests that nature exhibits ‘a variety of levels and kinds of communication to which we might try to adapt’. He says ‘The key is to downplay ‘centrism’ of any kind, and focus instead on the kinds of interactions that might occur across the boundaries between humanity and nature.’ He’s seeking an interchange with nature that involves progressively less of what he calls ‘human autism’.2 But Dryzek doesn’t just want to use liberal democracy as the vehicle for this communicative shift. He doesn’t think it’s sufficient to grant legal rights and guardians to animals. ‘Any A.Dobson, Democracy and Nature: Speaking and Listening, ‘Political Studies’ 2010, 58(4), p. 752-768 2 J.Dryzek, Political and Ecological Communication, 2007, reprinted from: Ecology and Democracy, ed. F. Matthews, London: Frank Cass, 1996, p. 3-29, next edition: J. Dryzek, Political and Ecological Communication [in:] J. Dryzek, D. Schlosberg, Debating the Earth: the environmental politics reader, Oxfrod: Oxfrod University Press, 2007, p. 637 1 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 24 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 24 13-10-30 14:40
  • 24. such representation might downgrade nature to [just] another set of interests, disaggregating and isolating these interests by assigning them to identifiable natural objects, thus ignoring their intrinsically ecological (interconnected) character’. Instead, Dryzek turns to Habermas’s notion of communicative rationality, grounded in ideal speech situations: ‘The key, he says, would be to treat communication, and so communicative rationality, as extending to entities that can act as agents, even though they lack the self-awareness that connotes subjectivity. Agency is not the same as subjectivity, and only the former need be sought in nature’3. Dryzek declines to offer a model of how this might look, saying that it would be inappropriate to offer a ‘blueprint’ because this new kind of democracy should emerge discursively. That’s understandable. But it’s a bit frustrating. Dyrzek and Dobson both make important arguments but they both stop, just when things begin to get interesting. And I’m going to suggest that utopian fiction and experiments can help. I’m going to examine 2 examples, very briefly, and I’ll begin with a real-world experimental movement. These are ‘The Councils of All Beings’. You may feel that they shouldn’t be included because they are coming from a deep ecological perspective, which is incompatible with deliberative democracy - but I think they’re worth a look. The website of Joanna Macy (author of the book ‘Thinking Like a Mountain’ and a founding figure in the movement), describes the councils as a step towards ‘opening’ a new relationship with nature. These usually occur as guided workshops, which seek to ‘connect’ participants to the world around them, leading to a shift in consciousness and, ultimately, to permit the ‘voices’ of non-humans to be ‘heard’. The workshops involve a series of steps. These are ‘mourning’ (‘allow[ing] ourselves to feel the pain of the earth), ‘remembering’ (our evolutionary history and releasing the memories in our DNA) and finally ‘extending our identity’. They combine to enable participants to ‘give voice’ to nature: ‘after finding an ally in the natural world and making a mask to represent that ally, we discover that we can indeed give voice to the voiceless ones. In Council, we lend our voices to the animals and plants and features of the landscape and are shocked at the very different view of the world that emerges from their dialogue. Creative suggestions for human actions emerge and we invoke the powers and knowledge of these other life-forms to empower us in our lives4. This is a method that seeks a deeper intuitive or spiritual understanding of nature. It invites the human participants to ‘open’ themselves and to ‘hear’ the voices of nature, and then to represent them. I find this deeply problematic because it appears open to all the objections about abuses of representative politics and interpreting the needs of the Other which have been frequently voiced against more traditional forms of representative politics. However, it does offer us a space in which to imagine – and perhaps experience – how it might feel to develop a new sensibility and a more inclusive polity from a deep ecological perspective. I now propose a brief visit to Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. Piercy depicts a participatory democracy embedded in a society in which a different ecological sensibility exists. For example, Connie is told, “We plan Ibidem, p.638-639 “Who is that with the green hair?” [asks Connie] “Earth-Advocate [says Luciente] - speaks for the rights of the total environment. Beside per is the Animal-Advocate. ... Every spring some people dream they are the new Animal Advocate or Earth Advocate. Those who feel this come together and the choice among them falls by lot”6. The council is discussing a proposal to clear some woodland in order to produce more edible crops for one village. The woodland is a rainwater catchment area and this proves contentious: “We have none too much water, people” a person with green hair said…“Without water we can grow nothing. Our ancestors destroyed water as if there were an infinite amount of M. Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time, New York: Alfred Knopf, 1979, s. 125 6 Ibidem, p. 151 5 all quotations above from http://www.rainforestinfo. org.au/deep-eco/council.htm 4 3 cooperatively. We can afford to waste nothing. You might say our – you’d say religion? – ideas make us see ourselves as partners with water, air, birds, fish, trees” 5. In this utopia, humans have learned to notice (and respond to) nonverbal communication from sentient and nonsentient nature. With some mammals this is quite sophisticated, but it relies always on the human learning about the mammal’s norms of communication. At one point, Connie asks her host (Luciente) about ‘government’. Luciente is puzzled (because there is no state and very little governance in Mattapoisset) but she invites Connie to observe a meeting of the township’s planning council. This gathering consists of 25-30 people of mixed ages. There is plenty of argument, but no ‘speechifying’. And it contains two special advocates: autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 25 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 25 13-10-30 14:40
  • 25. it, sucking it out of the earth and dirtying and poisoning it as flowed,” .. .Let us not be cavalier about water. What does the soil bank say?7” The computerized soil bank indicates that the water table will indeed be affected and the proposal is rejected. Instead, the neighbouring community (that needs more crops) will be aided by plant geneticists and soil scientists to increase the output of the existing land. Here Piercy is deploying the twin function of utopian criticism and creativity – what I call the Janus face of a utopian approach. Janus was a Roman mythical figure – he’s the God of beginnings (the month of January is named after Janus) and endings, change and transitions. I use him to signify the ways that utopias simultaneously face the present and the future, and the ways that the utopian gaze offers simultaneous criticism and creativity. Piercy’s voices from an imaginary future tell us that their ancestors messed up, and left a depleted ecology. The creative responses offered by Piercy include a radically egalitarian and democratic system of autonomous governance. Woman on the Edge of Time imagines how (amongst other things) a small, face-to-face democracy could contain advocates for the shifting actors of a given context. It imagines what kind of society might emerge from a politics that includes natural agents. It offers a picture of a political community containing humans who listen to non-human life, even if it is unclear how nature can ‘speak for itself’. Reading it enables us to begin to contemplate how such a society might feel and also to identify problems with it. For example, Piercy still uses the language of rights and the politics of 7 Ibidem, p.151 advocacy and I wonder whether this raises the same representational problems as the Councils of all Beings. Utopias such as Woman on the Edge of Time permit the reader imaginary visits to societies in which communication with nature forms part of daily life and is structured into systems of (self) governance. This is really valuable. Utopias open up spaces of possibility. In these spaces we can explore positive alternatives and anticipate problems and I suggest that we need to do this if we are to think seriously about something as incredible as ‘listening to nature’. I’ve been making claims about the value of utopianism for an environmental democratic politics. But I don’t want to overstress its value. It has limits. In particular it doesn’t provide models to follow or blueprints to copy. It’s important to note about the Piercy example, for instance, that the democratic utopian systems and processes that I described are embedded in a whole-society vision. It is ontologically and culturally different from now. It contains people who are motivated by different values than we are. It is embedded in a different culture. We can’t just extract and apply the democratic processes from such texts. projects and they always lie over the horizon; unrealised and unrealisable. In this paper, we have visited two different utopian attempts to imagine a more democratic relationship with nature. We might feel that neither is entirely satisfactory. We might find them deeply flawed, unattractive or simply bizarre. But the exercise of examining them is still valuable. To explore an idea to breaking point and to observe what happens when we do so can help us to clarify our thoughts about its first principles. For me, it confirms my discomfort with Dryzek’s approach and raises concerns about the politics of representation. This paper was first presented at the Utopian Studies Society Annual Conference in New Lanark, UK, July 2013. An extended version of this paper is available as Lucy Sargisson ‘A Democracy of all Nature: taking a utopian approach’ in the journal Politics Electronic version: 13 DEC 2012 DOI: 10.1111/1467-9256.12005 or hard copy: Politics Volume 33, Issue 2, pages 124–134, June 2013. Their value, for social scientists, is partly heuristic. They permit imaginary trial-anderror thinking – they become fictive versions of philosophical thought experiments. This is significant and it builds on the mirror function of utopianism that’s been identified by scholars of canonical utopias8. They reflect our imperfections and flaws back to us. They encourage us onwards to something better. But they are not perfect Utopias are impossible M. de Geus, Utopian Sustainability: ecological utopianism, [In:] The Transition to Sustainable Living and Practice, eds. L. Leonard, J. Barry, Bradford: Emerald, 2009 8 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 26 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 26 13-10-30 14:40
  • 26. On Ecology and a Dubious Ethos of Technological Determinism ‘Well, well, well, at least there’s a precise definition here,’ J. Reinforced-Concrete read under his breath. ‘»In the current state of civilisation, sustainable development is possible, it is the kind of development where the needs of the present generation can be satisfied without decreasing the chances of the future generations to satisfy theirs, too»’. Architects are so used to meeting ghosts that, hardly surprised, J. R.-I., M.Eng. made coffee and served it to his guests. This is how that literary evening began. And, as if to confirm his words, Straw Mulchman showed a few pictures. Act 1: On Eco-development and Surplus Words The reader may wonder who Straw Mulchman is. It is a personification of a straw mulch, which, in folklore, should not be offended for fear it may play tricks on the offender. It may also represent inability to act (trans. note). J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: Whoa! If the term comprises ‘development’, it is, I suppose, about developing, and not going back to clay and straw. I like technology and I’d like to see 2 World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. 1 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 27 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 27 ouse.at/ ‘To me, it’s clear,’ replied Straw Mulchman2, turning up on the window sill. ‘It’s about two kinds of fairness: one, between regions in the world, and the other, between generations. All later interpretations of the report are tons of cosmetics which dilute this one word: »fairness». Let me add, for the sake of clarity, that to me the conditions of sustainability are fulfilled only by low-tech buildings made of natural materials: straw, such as this,’ he said, taking out some straw from his shoes, ‘and clay, wood, possibly also recycled materials’. ://www.s-h John Reinforced-Concrete, M.Eng., M.Arch., lover of black turtlenecks and global architecture, was reading Our Common Future, the famous Brundtland report of 19871, which introduced the concept of sustainable development. He was looking for a quotation to describe his project when he found one… He did not know, however, that more and more ghosts were congregating in his study… ‘…But what does it actually mean?’ asked a toga-clad ghost of Socrates who was leaning against the drawing board. Photo: http Prologue Photo: m. siplane SOCRATES AND ENTHUSIASM FOR STRAW Photo: m. siplane Marcin Mateusz Kołakowski Above: Salto Architects, Straw Theatre – temporary headquarters of the NO99 theatre ensemble, Tallinn, Estonia, 2010-2011 Below: Robert Wimmer (Gruppe Angepasste Technologie, Technische Universität Wien), S-House – house of straw and wood, Böheimkirchen, Austria, 2005 13-10-30 14:40
  • 27. sustainable development as a new impulse for ecology to go hand in hand with technological development. I suppose it must be feasible. STRAW MULCHMAN: And here’s the rub… The term ‘sustainable development’, or equally unfortunate ‘sustainability’, is the weakest point in the whole definition. I preferred the original Polish translation ‘eco-development’ which was still widely used back in the 1990s. It had at least something to do with ecology. Since it was changed into ‘sustainable development’, all sorts of platitudes emerged. ‘Sustainability’ has been even more ambiguous from the start. Experts in this field, such as Layard and Davoudi, claim that there can be ‘strong’ sustainable development, which encompasses both the need to restrict and to maintain ethical standards, and ‘weak’ sustainable development, which is satisfied with just a few changes within the present system3. To me, the difference consists in the different meanings of ‘fairness’, and bending the definition. I’ve seen so many companies eagerly adorn their reports with this term, claiming that for the sake of ‘sustainability’ their company had to outsource to Malaysian companies which were not restricted by employment standards and ecology. What do you say to that, Socrates? Why are you silent? What do you think of our reading today? SOCRATES: First of all, friends, there’s quite a lot of text in this text. Anyway, it’s the same with most writing on ecology: there are many letters here. Over the past quarter-century reprints have got stuck in reprints of an even greater number of letters and writings, and something important has got lost in the process. Straw Mulchman is referring to the distinction between ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ sustainable development discussed e.g. in: Antonina Layard, Davoudi Simin, Sustainable Development and Planning: An Overview [in:] Antonina Layard, Davoudi Simin, Batty Susan (eds.), Planning for Sustainable Future, London: Spoon Press, 2001. 3 J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: Socrates, please, don’t tell me you’re against writing as such! You can’t be that backward! You can’t rationally undermine written word. SOCRATES: Yes, you can! J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: But it’s not just negating technology; it’s undermining civilisation. SOCRATES: Let me tell you a story I once told my pupils, which my pupil Plato wrote down in his little book Phaedrus. To me, this story is not only about writing but also of many new inventions, on technology, and ecology, as well… Here goes: ‘At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth […] and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt […]. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. […] But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written charac- ters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality’4. J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: Do you mean I’m a wiseacre because I like technology and prefer clear, precise statements to ambiguous speculations about fairness and ecology, which each of us defines differently? What do we need this verbal candy floss for? STRAW MULCHMAN: But what do you mean, we don’t know what it is? The concept of ecology was coined in 1866 by Ernst Haeckel in Generelle Morphologie der Organismen, where he described it as a science focusing on relations between organisms and their surroundings… Speaking of relations, Straw Mulchman continued, today, to translate it into the language of architecture, we’d speak of a context, contacts, attitude to other people, to nature… of relationships: in other words, of problems which people commonly call love. Let’s not be afraid of this word – love – because it has a lot to do with ecology... Perhaps everything! aCt 2: on delusive nuMbers and diagraMs J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: Love?! Fairness?! Either you are in a mood for teasing, or you’ve lost your mind. How can you give any sensible tips for architects based on such romantic esoterica? 4 This and other themes of the discussion between Socrates and Phaedrus can be found in Plato, Phaedrus, trans. Benjamin Jowett, http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/phaedrus. html (access: 15.10. 2013). autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 28 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 28 13-10-30 14:40
  • 28. SOCRATES: Do you think that if something cannot be measured, it’s not worth considering? I think otherwise. There are too many people around who know the price of everything, but know the value of nothing. In his laboratory, Albert Einstein had an inscription, ‘Not everything that can be counted, counts. Not everything that counts can be counted’. Don’t you think that featuring materials MJ/ kg and leaving out the weight of a product is actually deceitful? After all, concrete is 24 times heavier than straw so there is actually much less of it at the same weight. What’s more, each of these materials has a different function and listing them together may be misleading. What value are these figures then? J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: But Einstein also said: E=mc2, and that was very precise. Energy is a sensible starting point for conversation, especially a conversation on sustainable development. J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: And yet a light concrete block has a relatively mild impact on CO2 pollution. SOCRATES: All right then, let’s talk about energy in architecture. How important is it, from your point of view, for sustainable development? J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: It’s elementary! Fundamental! You can measure energy consumption, and calculate it into fuel, and through it - into environmental pollution and carbon footprint, etc. In architecture, if we want to walk about ecology in a sensible way, we must talk of ‘inbuilt energy’, the energy we have to use in the process of manufacturing materials, their shipment and building. In this way, we’ll obtain precise data. We’ll be able to compare and determine that we need about 88 MJ to manufacture 1 kilogram of Styrofoam, 35 MJ to produce 1 kilogram of steel, 10 MJ for a kilogram of wood, 3 MJ for a brick, 0.9 MJ for straw and only 1.1 MJ for concrete. SOCRATES: Excellent! You’re speaking wisely. Interestingly, this data implies that steel is a dreadful pollutant, not good at all, while concrete (like straw) is fairly harmless. I’ve often seen this data, especially at presentations made by concrete-manufacturing companies. Can I ask you also to complete the table with a column showing the weight of materials… SOCRATES: Yes, I recognise this argument from concrete ads! But it’s deceptive when speakers first eagerly discuss the properties of a light concrete block, which indeed contains less cement, and then imperceptibly stretch the ad and all its claims onto all types of concrete, focusing on modern elegance of these materials. Owing to such presentation of data, you can form an impression that concrete is one of the most ecologically friendly materials, while, as you know, it’s not. Manufacturing one ton of cement produces one ton of CO2, and the cement industry is one of the major pollutants on our planet, responsible as it is for 5 to 8 % of all man-made pollution. If we really care for the environment, shouldn’t we start introducing changes right there, by restricting the use of this product? STRAW MULCHMAN: And besides… speaking of well-being… would you be happy living next to a cement factory…how much of that happiness would there be per one m2? SOCRATES: At any rate, tables are too colourful, too straight-forward and absorbing, and also very deceptive… To have a big picture, you need to take more factors into account and ask, is this material recyclable? How easily (we know that it is easy to recast steel, while it is considerably more difficult in the case of reinforced concrete)? Is it easy to build with it and repair it on your own? Is the material biodegradable? How much rubbish shall we leave to future generations (buildings made of natural materials will give the future generations the opportunity to build their own architecture from scratch)? As to energy and figures, perhaps it might be more reasonable to compare materials in a more holistic way and in a proper context, for instance: how much energy is necessary to make whole walls of the same thermoinsulating power (e.g. U=0,11W/m2K)? Here, straw walls are 16 times superior to Styrofoam-insulated concrete walls. Just think about it: not 2, not 4, not 8, but 16 times superior. J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Calculating energy is vital to understand how harmful materials can be. Another important concept in this field is for example ‘exploitation energy’, that is the energy used in the building for heating, ventilation, cooling, air conditioning and work of various appliances. We can arrive at major conclusions by comparing inbuilt energy with exploitation energy. It turns out that inbuilt energy is three times smaller than exploitation energy… the conclusions are fundamental: to protect the environment effectively, we have to invest in technological solutions which, when used in buildings, will prove energy-saving. It follows, too, that it is much less important if buildings are built with any particular materials. The whole fuss about natural materials that Straw Mulchman’s making is actually hassle over trifles. SOCRATES: I can see you’re numerate. I recognise the numbers and diagrams you’re referring to from presentations by companies which speak of ventilation and heating, willing to sell their products. Are you aware, though, that the data you’re quoting refers autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 29 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 29 13-10-30 14:40
  • 29. mainly to poorly insulated office blocks of the 1980s and .90s? Also, a well-insulated building, such as a straw house, with well-designed thermal mass, will not need heating at all. Secondly, a lot has changed since the .80s. As long as buildings comply with norms and are well-designed, in 10 years’ time their operating energy will amount to only 5%. It means that inbuilt energy has to be an important consideration in discussions on energy-efficiency. Straw Mulchman is a slightly crazy zealot but I wouldn’t reject his arguments. Act 3: On Different Kinds of Questions and Who Likes Technology STRAW MULCHMAN: But why don’t we try to measure happiness per m2? I see that technological thinking is taking us nowhere. J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: Why taking us nowhere? Why aren’t we talking of so many new, sometimes brilliant solutions: solar batteries, biomass stoves, heat and grey-water recovery systems, of ventilation, heat pumps, electricity-generating photovoltaic cells, or of new solutions in passive houses? It’s so fascinating! SOCRATES: Of course, it is! Of course there are some fascinating, good solutions and inventions! It’s a subject for our next meetings. But I believe that before we start discussing each of those inventions, there must be room for reflection and questions. Who invents these appliances? What for? How much happiness do they give to us, and how much to the environment? What kinds of happiness, anyway? When should we use them? And, more importantly, when is it not advisable to use them? I am not against good inventions but let me be skeptical. For thousands, millions of years ecosystems evolved supporting life on earth. For thousands of years people lived in a sustainable way; there was no need to invent terms for it. They didn’t steal resources from the next generations. Since the industrial revolution everything has changed, we’ve been euphoric over new inventions from the steam engine to Facebook... They have always been enthusiastically welcomed but not always that beneficial – remember asbestos or housing estates made up of apartment blocks? Over just one hundred years advances in technology and inventions have changed the world which had been sustainable for millions of years. Some people’s lives are incomparably easier but at what cost to other people and the environment? We are too strong and too irresponsible, too unfair to the next generations and to nature. Mass extinction of species has been called the sixth disaster. It is estimated that from 27,000 to 40,000 animal and plant species become extinct annually as a result of human inventions! Ever since the 1990s it has been suspected that the use of inventions such as pesticides has contributed to the mass extinction of bees. It means that by 2000 their population had diminished in some regions, including Europe, by 90 %. Our native bumblebees have become an endangered species! Einstein, who you refer to, said that if the bee disappeared from earth, the human species would have four years left. Unpredictable climate changes may make come true the bleak scenario of an ecological disaster, mass human migrations, and fossil fuel and water wars. Let’s hope it won’t happen… but it is viable. The only ones to doubt it are a group of environmental skeptics who, it has recently been revealed, have received a total of 118 million dollars from oil companies to undermine ecological reports. Do we want to be as cheerful and easygoing as they are? Doesn’t this situation call for reflection and a few questions, before we start to praise each new invention? J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: All right, all right. If you approach it so philosophically, let me quote Robert Pirsig, a famous philosopher of technology, who said that if Buddha was everywhere, he must be present in machines, too, and that it was not possible for the technical part of the world to exist separately from the humanistic side. I am fascinated by technology so I like to put it in my buildings and I know my clients like it, too. STRAW MULCHMAN: No, you don’t! All you like is buying technology, and not developing it – that makes a tremendous difference! You don’t like repairing it and you’re not that interested to know how something is constructed, how it works and whether it’s recyclable. Your designs are based on ready-made products from catalogues. Instead of being a designer, you’ve become a sales representative of gadgets. A client whose only ethics is to know what’s trendy. You are a necessary cog in the machine of a system which mainly wants to possess. But you know what? If you don’t know what something is made of and how to repair it, then you actually don’t possess it. Look at advertisements for sustainable design… they’re just product catalogues. J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: It’s easy to throw insults. At least I’m not nihilistically taking technology back to when Queen Anne was alive, like those who build of straw, who have turned their hatred of technology into their banner! STRAW MULCHMAN: Quite the opposite – they do like technology. They keep on developing it, experimenting to come up with more userfriendly solutions that will also be friendly to nature and to future generations. Please, go to a construction site where natural materials are used, and you’ll hear discussions on technology and technological solutions and their impact on the environment and people. Those involved in such building will not only ask ‘how to do something?’ but also ‘why do it?’ or even ‘is it possible not to do it?’ – the latter is also a thoroughly autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 30 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 30 13-10-30 14:40
  • 30. technological question. If you go to a high-tech construction site, you’ll mainly hear conversations on how to finish building the fastest and cheapest way possible. What does it mean?… J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: Listen, Straw Mulchman, you don’t even have architecture qualifications. You don’t understand the situation at a construction site. Of course we are concerned about the deadlines and costs, but we also care about beauty and quality… and technology is a part of it. Those primitive buildings made of straw and clay you’re so much in favour of are backward – it’s a trap contemporary architecture should avoid. STRAW MULCHMAN: It’s sad and surprising how little you know of natural architecture. You’ve been taken in by those who want to discredit it because it’s against their interests. It’s sheer calculation on their part, while you are just ignorant. I wish you could see how varied natural buildings can be. They can be both simple, classical, and modern. Act 4: On Technological Determinism, the Mafia, Politics and Dangerous Regulations J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: Why do you have it in for technology? It’s everything we do. You can’t evaluate it in terms of good and evil. Technology is beyond morality. The only negative thing is a lack of technology development. Every region in the world would like to catch up with those that are more technologically developed. Everyone prefers to have wellworking appliances rather than faulty ones. Technology development goes side by side with economic growth and is advocated by all political parties from left to right. Owing to the development of technology, we can solve the major problems of today’s world, such as crises, inflation or unemployment. STRAW MULCHMAN (sarcastically): Oh yes! But it makes me afraid when I think of those politicians who have actually been successful in curbing inflation, unemployment, crises or overpopulation… Remember them?... Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot. SOCRATES: Straw Mulchman, it was a cheap shot. J. Reiforced-Concrete is not a fascist. He believes that technology in itself is neither good nor bad. However, if it were the case, what point would there be discussing all those relationships between technology and ecology? Sustainable development involves thoroughly ethical considerations. J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: I mean that fighting technology development is tilting at windmills. SOCRATES: I’m afraid we’re touching upon the problem of technological determinism, which claims that technology must develop, and that the process is unstoppable. If you come to think about it, it’s quite dejecting and sad if we assume that technology doesn’t depend on us… that we can do nothing… that all we can do is beautify that corpse which is dead technology (because it’s not alive, after all). I’d like to believe that there is an alternative. J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: I’m afraid you’re the only one to think that way, Socrates… SOCRATES: I don’t think so. Ever since Thomas Kuhn wrote the groundbreaking Structure of Scientific Revolutions back in the 1960s5, an interesting science called STS (Science, Technology and Society) has been developing. It has become an acknowledged field of study which analyses the influence of society on the develThomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962. 5 opment of science and technology. It is notable that there is an STS book The Social Construction of Technology System at a small exhibition presenting the most groundbreaking scientific works at the famous MIT. It shows the illusory nature of technological determinism through evolution of various inventions, including bicycles and plastics. The authors claim that technology may equally well develop or not in various directions, and the decisive factor is public awareness and aspirations, as well as relationships within the groups that are part of it. And although I know that Straw Mulchman was being obtrusive today and you don’t feel like listening to him anymore, you must admit that the natural technologies he advocates may exemplify an alternative direction of architecture development. Look, reinforced concrete and plastics were developed in the 20th century; they were extensively researched in a favorable cultural, political and economic climate, so apart from the rational reasons of their success, there were many additional ones, which became trendy and were associated with modernity, so they were subsidised by the state. Legislature, which strived to fully codify building law, enhanced the role of this material. Since it was required in many parts of the building, such as the foundations or lintels, etc., there was no alternative. And yet for thousands of years houses, castles and palaces had been built without reinforced concrete. The construction industry was struck by a sudden amnesia. At the same time, natural building of clay or wood, not to say straw, was not developed. At the end of the 20th century there were precious few examples of successful natural architecture… and even fewer examples that might inspire architects and potential clients. Towards the end of the century you might draw a conclusion that since clay, wood and straw were old technologies that had given way to concrete and plastic, the old ones were inferior, while the new ones were autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 31 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 31 13-10-30 14:40
  • 31. superior. Many still think the way you do, Mr Reinforced-Concrete. One might even propose an analogy to Darwin’s theory. The changes that have taken place over the last decade show that technology development is neither so linear nor so obvious. The concept of the ethical consumer emerged in the society, denoting one who seeks products manufactured following ethical standards. The greatest European fair, Ecobuild, in London presented tens, if not hundreds, of natural materials, with wood being the most popular. Almost one hundred years of neglect in the development of natural materials is slowly being made up for. Wood, which had been thrown on a scrap heap a few years ago, is now a showcase of trendy architects. What I want to say is that there are many factors contributing to the development of technology, which can only be understood from a humanist perspective. J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: ... But should anyone support the use of concrete if it’s as bad as you claim?... it’s some kind of conspiracy theory. STRAW MULCHMAN: Oh, there may be reasons galore! And you don’t need to look far for fodder for conspiracy theories. Have you heard of a New York mafia called ‘The Concrete Club’, which took over all contracts related to cement and concrete, if their value exceeded 2 million dollars, like the New York designs by Ieoh Ming Pei6? Those mafiosos are still doing time in prison but the concrete industry tends to monopolise and set up big corporations. The housing industry could be very different now. Natural building materials, including clay, straw blocks, wood or stone, are usually available locally, and by nature their production is decentralized. 6 http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1988/06/06/70628/ J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: But nobody forbids anybody to build of clay or straw. STRAW MULCHMAN: Unfortunately, nobody helps, either, and soon it may be effectively hindered. That’s the main problem and the reason why I’m so angry. Although there are hundreds of examples in the world that using these technologies we can build more than just hobbit holes, for example imposing public buildings, soon we may have to face the situation that it will become illegal in Poland. There are loud calls to introduce a law to make it obligatory to certify all building materials. As a result, clay and straw which have been used for centuries, and which, as we’ve said, need support and development, will become illegal. It is unrealistic to expect straw blocks or clay from every pit to be certified. Who does it benefit, do you think? Do you still think I’m talking about conspiracy theories? SOCRATES: Not at all! Science is reasonable, and so is knowledge of energy… But first things first… what is energy, actually? STRAW MULCHMAN: Energy, from the Greek, is a property characterizing the ability to do work. SOCRATES: That’s it! To DO WORK!... We’ve spoken of inbuilt energy and exploitation energy but we can also speak of potential energy, psychic energy, or vitality. What kind of energy can architecture release in us… What kind of work and activity can it encourage us to do? STRAW MULCHMAN: If we associate lodging mainly with buying, then it does suck energy out of our pockets. Then E=mc2 would mean ENERGY = (money) x (credit) 2 SOCRATES: But buildings can give positive energy – encourage you to have fun and be active! Epilogue: What E=mc2 means SOCRATES: What worries me most in our conversation is the thought of how many people would like to deal with problems of ecology and technology using technological methods only. STRAW MULCHMAN: I know… Socrates, now you will probably want to quote Martin Heidegger, who wrote in ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ that the problem of technology is not a technological problem. In this, he hit the mark. The problem of technology is a humanistic problem… J. Reinforced-Concrete is making a lot of fuss over technological development, while what matters is a lack of humanistic development. J. REINFORCED-CONCRETE: Humanism is too soft and too easily exposable to manipulations by pseudoscientific swindlers. You may be kind but stupid and it’s a pity that you don’t appreciate my views on science… and energy. STRAW MULCHMAN: That’s what it’s all about! That’s the magic of low-tech building. Because these techniques are simple and accessible, they encourage you to act. People are craving opportunities to develop their surroundings because most activities have been handed over to machines. And tangible building excites, gives us hope that we can act and that technology depends on us. These natural buildings made of clay, wood and straw have the greatest energy… I think the phrase ‘straw enthusiasm’7 should be changed into ‘enthusiasm for straw’. Energy can be calculated with the following formula: Energy = (Potential) x (Man)2 or Energy = (love) x (willingness)2… What do you say, Mr Reinforced-Concrete? 7 In Polish, the idiom ‘straw enthusiasm’ means ‘flash in the pan’ (trans. note). autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 32 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 32 13-10-30 14:40
  • 32. Ida Kiss possibilities to reduce energy consumption thus mitigate green house gas emissions? Carbon neutral cities? H owever the sustainability of a city must be understood far beyond energy efficiency, our approach to a liveable city is undertaken through the reduction of energy consumption. Cities themselves are very energy efficient systems. That is one of the most important reasons why contemporary approaches to sustainability focus on cities as the key to sustainable development on a global level. 1Urbanization has accelerated in the last decades and especially in Central-Eastern Europe this process happened with little control. Urbanization was driven more by real-estate developers heavily bonded to political interests. 2This process has lead to urban sprawl what also meant higher energy demand of traffic, and majority of the buildings were built in a poor quality, energy efficiency was not among the design principles of that era. Luckily enough global financial crises came what stopped the heavy growth of building industry. The age of crisis can be taken as a possibility for redefining concepts and create guidelines for a new period of growth. Charter of Calcutta. 1990. International Conference and Exhibition on Architecture of Cities. Organised by the Indian Institute of Architects, West Bengal Chapter. Reduction of energy consumption is also a way towards better air quality of our cities. Nevertheless it has its own limits: we will always need power to heat the water for a hot shower, our electrical appliances need to be charged and we cook. What are the practical 1 World Bank (Carmin, JoAnn; Zhang, Yan) 2009. Achieving Urban Climate Adaptation In Europe And Central Asia 2 While the City of Stockholm voted for fossil independency in 2003 and became the first green capital of Europe in 2010 carbon neutrality of Central-Eastern European cities still seems to be a utopia. ENERGY FLOW IN CITIES Energy in cities has its certain flow. Heat and electricity is generated in power plants and used in homes, offices, industry and transport. Transport of private vehicles has again its own energy circuit by directly using fossil fuels. As a result of our activities a range of goods and wastes are produced. Waste can be energy, heat, solid materials and fluids as well, out if which a certain percentage can be reused or recycled and other must be handled with special care as they are harmful to the environment. The metabolism of a city is understood by this energy flow3. This system should be as closed as possible, - meaning the less dependence on external resources and the less waste produced – for the city can become more sustainable. In the urban metabolism process the various sectors can be handled as potential energy sources for each other. Energy cannot just be consumed but also generated by cars and buildings. Waste can be handled as an energy source, though if we reduce the amount of domestic wastes by more conscious consumer habits and recycling it might threaten the stability of energy generation by waste incineration, as it happened in Norway who already needs to import waste from other countries. Waste water can also be used for generating heat and/or electricity in biomass power plants. There is also a great potential in generating heat from waste water in-situ with the help of local heat-exchangers. Newman, Peter. W. G. 1999. Sustainability and cities : extending the metabolism model. (Lanscape and Urban Planning 44 p. 219-226 3 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 33 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 33 13-10-30 14:40
  • 33. Cars can also charge back either locally or for the bigger network with the help of Vehicle-toGrid system. As cars are parked in 95% percent of their time on an average they can be used for storing or generating energy to supply buildings. Buildings can also produce energy by having photovoltaics or wind turbines installed on them, and the extra can also be charged back to the system to supply other users. USE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES IN CITIES It is more obvious that renewable energy sources can be used on the countryside, where there are mostly single family houses with big roofs, with plenty of space to install photovoltaic panels or solar collectors. But renewables can also be used in cities even in the most densely built areas. Solar panels can be installed on the roofs though the roof area per person is much lower in case of multifamily houses and the effective area can even be much lower as buildings drop shade on each other. Solar potential should be investigated in detail in case of each city as there are still great possibilities despite of all these disadvantages. Multiple terawatts of energy can be produced in a city like Budapest, as various researches have already proven it throughout Germany or the USA.4 In CentralEastern Europe we have better possibilities to use solar energy than the Scandinavian countries, and this is not only the lack of money why it is not widespread in this region but also the lack of knowledge, research and innovation on the professionals’ side and mostly because of the scepticism and ignorance of our politicians. Micro wind-turbines are a reality as well and can already be seen installed on some urban buildings. The urban landscape has its own topography. Bigger streets, rivers and canals are wind canyons what are advantageous for these small power-generators. In the so-called ‘nearby systems’ the produced energy could be shared within a community from a commonly realized investment, though this also requires a mature sense of community and the legislation of energy-neighbourhoods. Renewables on the third off-site level of energy supply are also great alternatives and can more easily be incorporated to the conventional system of big energy-suppliers and small end-users. Besides upgrading the old power plants for using renewable energy sources such as biomass or biogas, solar and wind farms can also feed whole cities. The use of renewable energy sources in an urban environment requires an intelligent energy system, where small producers can charge back to the grid so that others also can have a share of the energy they produce. THE FALSE IMAGE OF GREEN BUILDINGS Our cities are made of buildings. 30-40% of the overall consumed energy is used in buildings; other 30-40% is used in transport and the rest in industry. The denser a city is the less energy is used for transport, and the more it lives from the business and services sector, the less is used in the industry. In cities like New York, London or Berlin buildings are responsible for about 60% of the total energy consumed. 5 This fact makes obvious that the biggest save can be achieved by the energy efficiency of buildings. Labels as ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ has value on the real-estate market. Investors and developers might excel more in green building than our governments. Especially nowadays their clients are looking for properties that are cheaper to maintain than average offices or the ones built 10-15 years ago. That is why more and more ‘green offices’ or ‘green buildings’ are under development recently, however it must be carefully checked what is there behind this title. Green building assessment helps to make a clear difference, although many potential tenants have no idea about the real meaning of a certain qualification. Some investors might then choose the easier way and get the label, no matter what level the building achieves. Once the stamp of the assessment is won there will be no big difference if the building would be an average or of good performance. 98% of the buildings in our cities are already built for the next 2-3 decades. There are always some new developments but the quality of the overall building mass is depending on the quality of the old buildings. Buildings need a renovation approximately every 50 years. By today prefabricated houses have arrived to the point where there is an urging need for their complete refurbishment. 30% of city dwellers live in this type of houses in Central-Eastern Europe.6 Prefabs can be refurbished in a very energy-efficient way with a so called deep-retUNHabitat. (2009). State of the World’s Cities 2008/2009 (p. 280). Earthscan. 5 6 Hegedüs, Jozsef; Teller, Nóra. 2004. 'The social and economic significance of housing management.' In Housing in South Eastern Europe solving a puzzle of challenges. World Bank and Council of Europe. MapDwell project http://en.mapdwell.com/solarsystem/ cambridge 4 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 34 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 34 13-10-30 14:40
  • 34. rofit, when the optimally maximum thickness of heat insulation is applied on their facades and roofs, windows are changed to insulating windows with 3-layered glazing and heat-recovery ventilation system is installed. With the scenario 70-80% of the energy can be saved annually and the now energy wasting prefabs can become low or very low energy demand buildings.7 The level of refurbishment is limited in case of historical buildings. The core of our old towns is densely built and many of the buildings enjoy some kind of protection. Still, their windows can be renewed to the level what is comparable to contemporary windows with respect to the original structure; heat insulation might be applied on the inner facades and in roofs and the technology of heat-insulating renderings are also improving what helps these buildings to perform better. With a careful estimation about 40% of energy can be saved in historical districts as well with an 8,5 years return. Refurbishment should be executed with strategical thinking in mind as it defines the energy use of our cities for the next century. Our cities can really become carbon neutral if energy efficiency and climate consciousness is the guideline for the fine tuning of their elements. Photo: tom chance,wikimedia commons 7 Csoknyai, Tamas. 2007. 'Dunaújváros, Hungary.' Section 3 in Report for Training for Renovated Energy Efficient Social Housing. Of course calculating with energy efficiency only, even thinking about 8,5 years in return, these interventions bring value on the short term only. On a long run the whole life-cycle would be kept in mind and here comes the value of the energy already built-in in our existing buildings. This amount of energy is a clear save, that can also be expressed in money. The use of environmental friendly building materials cannot be translated into saves this easy. However in the whole lifecycle assessment it is shown that considering the energy that should be used after demolition is much lower in case of these materials as they are either organic and biodegradable or recyclable. Building regulations of the future must require the whole life-cycle assessment and limits for this period of time should be incorporated. ZED Factory, BedZED (Beddington Zero Energy Development) housing development in London, 2003 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 35 13-10-30 14:40
  • 35. NATURAL MATERIALS: HISTORY OR HOPE? I n my favourite book, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Buckminster Fuller (*1895 Milton, † 1983 Los Angeles) reflects on the Earth as a single spaceship, one so well designed that it allows for the regeneration of life even despite the phenomenon of entropy. According to Fuller, the Earth is a mechanical object much like a car – “and so we have to change the oil, fill up the fuel tank and put water into the radiator, to take care of it as a whole”1. Polluto or 10 problems of the natural environment And yet it seems, at the threshold of the third millennium, that now this unique vehicle is starting to break down on us, and quite soon will need to be renamed “Polluto”2. The rising number of inhabitants on the planet and their striving for improved living standards is creating enormous pressure on the environment. Let us, to start, sum up the main problems facing us: 01 climate change → the UN framework convention on climate change defines it as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods“. Climate changes are manifested in a variety of ways, including an increase in average temperatures, changes in samples of rainfall, unpredictable weather patterns or rising sea and ocean levels, caused by the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps 3. UNHCR. 2008. Climate Change, Natural Disasters and Human Displacement: Perspective of the UNHCR. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. [Online] 2008. www.unhcr.org. 3 Fuller, Buckminster. Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Baden : Lars Müller Publishers, 2008. p. 60. 2 Ibidem, p. 80 1 Earth at Night. A satellite picture showing the distribution of lights around the globe, highlighting an imbalance between the developing and developed countries ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 36 02 pollution → pollution of the natural environment as a result of human activities – the use of fossil fuels, industrial activity and agriculture – which have a negative impact on human health and natural biodiversity. 03 disappearance of the ozone layer → a layer of ozone is present in the stratosphere at a height of 10-40 km and traps the majority of ultraviolet UV-B radiation arriving from the Sun. The disappearance of ozone is caused by the effects of compositions containing fluorine, chlorine and bromine, also released as a result of human activity. Thinning of the ozone layer leads to raised values of UV radiation on the level of the earth’s surface, which has an unfavourable impact on water and land ecosystems, the food chain, and human health. Among the negative influences on human health it is worth mentioning, autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 36 13-10-30 14:40
  • 36. gions, deforestation contributes significantly to emissions of CO2. 6 04 resources → the gradual exhaustion of non-renewable natural resources. Estimated reserves according to British Petroleum: natural gas for 66 yeas, coal for 180 years, crude oil for 45 years. For renewable natural resources, their extraction is proceeding at an excessive rate. 07 soil degradation → urbanisation, construction, mining, armed conflict, agriculture and deforestation all lead to degradation of soils7, a problem reaching from erosion and contamination of the upper soil layer to the excessive extraction and contamination of groundwaters. It may cause damage to natural biotopes and lower soil fertility, while changes in the infiltration capacity increase the risk of flooding. A loss of fertile soil lowers regional agricultural production, while soil carried away through erosion causes serious damage to water systems. 05 water – quality and quantity → unsustainable treatment of water resources 5has led to critical shortages of water in several parts of the world. One in five people lacks access to safe drinking water, and the difference between the supplies of water and their consumption is growing ever greater. Water quality is negatively influenced by human activity, primarily the use of fertilizers and pesticides. 06 deforestation → loss of forest cover occurs for many reasons – wood or charcoal being used as fuel or a cash commodity, cleared land being used for pastures, plantations or settlement. Destruction of forest growth without any subsequent replacement causes a disturbance to natural biotopes, a loss of biodiversity and soil aridity, as well as having a negative impact on the resistance of soil to erosion. Particularly in tropical reVelders, G.J.M., a další. Technical Report on Stratospheric Ozone Depletion. RIVM report 481505011 5 In the European Union, 44% of water is used for generating energy (primarily for cooling purposes), 24% in agriculture, 21% for public waterworks and 11% for industrial production. Source: (Collins, et al., 2009) 4 08 waste → the world economy is grounded in the high consumption of raw materials 8. In EEA member states 9 every year 4 tons of waste are produced per inhabitant, while every citizen of the EU annually is responsible for 520 kg of household rubbish. Liquidation of waste can have may negative impacts on the environment, including emissions into the atmosphere, surface waters or groundwater. Waste also represents a loss According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), deforestation has a share in up to 20% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions; updated calculations (van der Werf et al., Nature Geoscience, 2009) state 12%. Deforestation is the second largest source of anthropogenic emission of CO2. 7 12% of the soil surface in Europe has been affected by water erosion, 4% by wind erosion. Source: (van den Born et al., 2000) 8 In the countries of the EU-15, per capita consumption annually equals 15–16 metric tons of raw materials, with the largest share of consumption held by construction materials, followed by fossil fuels and biomass. The largest amount of household waste in the EU is still transported to rubbish tips (45 %), though an increasing percent is recycled or composed (37 %) or burned to generate energy (18 %). 9 EEA – European Environment Agency 6 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 37 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 37 of natural resources. Treatment of waste is a source of greenhouse gases, primarily methane, and contributes to global climate change. 09 biodiversity 10→ loss of biodiversity lowers the variety within biological species, reduces the number of species themselves, and may even increase the number of certain species that have lost their natural enemies. Human effects on the environment have led to a rapid reduction in biodiversity, even on the genetic level. “The main causes are changes in natural habitats. These are due to intensive agricultural production systems, construction, quarrying, overexploitation of forests, oceans, rivers, lakes and soils, alien species invasions, pollution and — increasingly — global climate change.” 11 10 population → the human population has been constantly growing since the period of the Black Death around the year 1400 CE. According to the UN, the population on earth has achieved 7 billion by 2011, and in 2050 is likely, according to various scenarios, to reach 7.4, 8.9 or 10.6 billion 12. The economic imbalance between developed and developing nations is also a threat to the environment. Climate changes The question of the condition of the environment has often been narrowed to the debate over current climate changes. Over time, 10 The World Environmental Defence Fund in 1989 defined biodiversity as “the richness of life on Earth, the millions of plants, animals and microorganisms, including the genes that they contain, and the complex ecosystems that create the natural environment.” 11 European Environment Agency: Biological Diversity. [Online] www.eea.europa.eu. 12 United Nations. 2004. World Population to 2300. New York : United Nations, 2004. Photo: C. Mayhew, R. Simmon, NASA GSFC e.g. skin cancer, cataracts, or damage to the immune system 4. 13-10-30 14:40
  • 37. source: www.duravit.nl this debate has led to the emergence of two strongly opposing camps. The first is concentrated around the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) 13 and is convinced that current changes in the world climate are the result of an increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The second adheres to the belief that climate changes are a natural phenomenon, the result of growing solar activity. In the course of the history of our planet, it is evident that colder periods (glacial, or ‘ice ages’) have long alternated with warmer ones (interglacial). At present, we are in an interglacial period, which tends to have a shorter duration than an ice age. According to the calculations of the Niels Bohr Institute, sudden changes of climate of 7 – 10 K every 1500 years are a natural part of variations in the climate system, and opponents of the theory relating CO2 concentration to global warming do ascribe the main role in this area precisely to an increase in solar activity 14. On the other side of the debate, the IPCC stated in its Evaluation Report for 2007 (AR4) 15 that global temperature increases are up to 90% related to human activity, calculating that the rising temperature on the earth’s surface is the outcome of increasing 14 e.g. Scafetta, N., West B., J., Phenomenological reconstructions of the solar signature in the Northern Hemisphere surface temperature records since 1600, Journal of Geophysical Research, 2007. The authors state that solar activity has contributed to over 50% of global warming since 1900. 15 IPCC. 2007. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007 . Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [Online] 2007. www.ipcc.ch. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) of the UN and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in 1988 as a scientific body for evaluation of risks associated with climate change. It prepares regular evaluation reports that form documentation for the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changes (UNFCCC) 13 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 38 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 38 13-10-30 14:40
  • 38. 2012 Architecten, Villa Welpeloo – house, 70% of which is made of recycled materials, Enschede, Holandia, 2009 concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (primarily CO2 and methane), which is brought about by human activity such as deforestation, burning fossil fuels, and agriculture. The human population, currently equal to around 6.7 billion, annually produces 2.4 billion metric tons of CO2. Between 1800 and 2002, the concentration of CO2 rose from 280 ppm to 350 ppm, while in the same period the temperature rose by 0.8 K. Increased temperatures on the earth’s surface have had such effects as the melting of glaciers, the retreat of the snow cover and rising sea levels 16. The 2K scenario Recent research has indicated that over the past 150 years, solar activity had a connection to the surface temperature of the Earth for the first 120 years, yet for the past 30 years the curves for solar activity and surface temperature have differed substantially 17. In reaction to the findings of the IPCC, the Copenhagen Accord has set as its long-term goal the lowering of the emission of greenhouse gases such that the earth’s temperature does not rise by more than 2°C. Research has indicated that to achieve this goal, it will be necessary to lower emissions of CO2 to 10 Gt/a by 2050, or in other words by 1 t of CO2 per person annually 18. 16 Daniels, Klaus and Hammann, Ralph E. 2009. Energy Design for Tomorrow. Stuttgart : Edition Axel Menges, 2009. pp. 368. ISBN: 978-3936681253. p. 18 17 “...according to our latest knowledge on the variations of the solar magnetic field, the significant increase in the Earth’s temperature since 1980 is indeed to be ascribed to the greenhouse effect caused by carbon dioxide.“ (Max Planck Institute, 2004) 18 Daniels, Klaus and Hammann, Ralph E. 2009. Energy Design for Tomorrow. Stuttgart : Edition Axel Menges, 2009. pp. 368. ISBN: 978-3936681253. p. 23 Yet even regardless of whether human activity is or is not a cause of global climate changes, it should be evident that human activity does have a negative influence on the state of the natural environment, which is why, in my view, the global efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions should be seen as important from the standpoint of a change in our approach to the effectiveness of construction and technologies, to energy loss and the use of renewable resources. One of the goals should be the retention of non-renewable resources for future generations, in the spirit of the well-known definition of sustainable development: “that satisfies the needs of the present without limiting the possibility of future generations to satisfy their own needs “. Renewable natural materials In other words: in lowering the impact of construction activity on the environment, from the standpoint of construction materials, it is more effective to make use of non-renewable natural resources in connection with a higher degree of recycling, and to increase the proportion of use of renewable, natural materials. Generally speaking, natural materials display lower values of bound primary energy and other eco-indicators, and influence in a favourable way the quality of the buildings’ interior environments. The disadvantages of such materials, which are linked to their natural origin – most frequently, lower resistance to water damage, microorganisms, vermin or fire – can be eliminated through the appropriate architectural or structural approach. Yet nonetheless, there still remains the question of whether it is possible to find, in the wider application of natural materials, hope for sustainable construction in the third millennium. Le Corbusier, in his reflections on mass-produced buildings, criticized natural materials as heterogeneous and unstable, unsuitable for full use because of their unpredictable dis-homogeneities and defects. Artificial materials, by contrast, were in his view homogeneous, laboratory-tested and created from stable elements. “... Steel girders and later reinforced concrete are pure manifestations of the calculation; the material is precisely and completely exploited, while the wooden beam of past ages could well hide within itself a treacherous knothole and its carving lead to a great loss of material.“ 19 It is evident that the path to a wider use of natural materials is blocked by three factors: –he technical limitations of building with natural materials (primarily fire-safety and structural integrity) – the need for regular renewal of natural materials – the ego of the architect, who always wishes to create freely, and not to have his hands tied by techniques or methods; the desire of architects to use new, progressive, inspiring materials Natural architecture XXL Use of natural materials could be one of the ways to achieve buildings with relatively low primary energy consumption and a minimal environmental impact. Wood is the only renewable resource that can be used for realization of load-bearing structures of several stories – in the Czech context, of up to five floors. True, at a certain scale the use of natural materials is, for the time being, limited by their technical capabilities – we are still unable to build a wooden skyscraper, or a wooden 19 Corbusier-Saugnier, Le. 2005. Towards a New Architecture. New York : Dover Publications, 1985. autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 39 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 39 13-10-30 14:40
  • 39. source: flickr, Photo: t. stellmach assembly line for an automotive works. At the same time, the use of renewable natural resources is limited by the slow speed necessary for them to be renewed in the first place. While it is possible, for instance, in continental Europe to speak of a high productivity for biomass per square area thanks to high rainfall and temperate climate, in other areas of the world this is far from the case. Imbalance between extraction and new growth causes a threat to the stability of ecosystems and damage to the environment – as attested by the textbook cases from Central America or the ancient Mediterranean. For many long centuries, the Mayan civilization consistently practices – as we would now say – sustainable management of its forest cover. Yet under the reign of the ruler Jasaw Chan K’awiil (r. 682–734), there occurred a rapid increase in the construction of temples, demanding large material resources – primarily straight, mature trees that could bear the weight of stone constructions. Over time, such a demand led to the destruction of forests that had previously served not only as a valuable source of construction timber, but also for fuel, nutrition or medicine. Abandoning a sustainable type of forestry had the result of upsetting the fragile balance of the local ecosystem (deforestation, soil erosion, hydrological relations) and in the final analysis, the decline of the Mayan civilization. In the Mediterranean, deforestation of large areas started to occur as early as Hellenic times. Wood from the forests was used for heating, for constructing ships and build- autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 40 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 40 13-10-30 14:40
  • 40. ings, and for furniture or sculpture; the cleared land was then used for agriculture. Such massive deforestation resulted, again, in erosion and the ensuing degradation of farmland, along with climate changes, and led to the weakening and the fall of the great classical civilizations. One example is the once-important trading port of Ephesus (now Efes in modern Turkey), in its day one of the proudest cities of Ionic Greece and later of the eastern Roman Empire. Clearing of forests on the hills around the city brought about erosion, as rain water carried away the upper layer of the soil – and the runoff soil gradually caused the port to fill in, destroying the city’s source of prosperity. Even despite repeated attempts to clear the port, it gradually moved farther and farther from the sea (now lying a full five kilometers inland), and losing its commercial significance. Reuse – Reduce – Recycle In the context of the presumed growth in the Earth’s population to 10 billion by the end of 2050 20(4 times the figure from 1950), the rising standards of living in what are now primarily ‘developing’ countries will mean that in the associated construction activities, the use of natural materials will not be possible. The only sustainable possibility is to use exclusively those construction materials that can be fully recycled or reused, regardless of whether the materials are themselves natural. 20 United Nations. 2004. World Population to 2300. New York: United Nations, 2004. source: flickr, Photo: s. yiqun Devastation of forests, the effects of which still bring problems to the Mediterranean region today, was criticized by no less a figure than Plato, in his dialogue Cratylus: “What has remained appears, in comparison with what existed before, like the skeleton of one fallen ill – devoid of fat and of fertile soil…. Here there are mountains where there is nothing more than pasturage for bees, yet it was not so long ago that on them there grew trees… and grassland lay without bounds. And moreover, every year Zeus watered them with his rainfall, in which they were not lost as they are now…. He brought copious supplies of spring-water in brooks, of which today there still survive shrines upon the site where springs once rose.“ This concept was promoted by the authorial team of William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their book Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We Make Things. Against the traditional idea of ecological design consisting in “minimization” i.e. the more efficient use of materials and energy, the concept Cradle to Cradle (C2C) is grounded in “unbroken material cycles and the maximum use of renewable energy”. Not only does such an approach delay the exhaustion of resources (both material and energy), but in the ideal case can arrive at a system entirely free of waste production. The product, in our case the building, would have to be designed not only from the standpoint of the future user (function, aesthetics, quality) but equally would have to keep in mind what would happen after it was no longer used – how use could be made of it whether in terms of natural processes or in the framework of future industrial production. Industry grounded in the C2C philosophy works along principles similar to natural processes, and uses materials like nutrients circulating in a healthy metabolism. What is important is to retain the principle of an enclosed cycle, whether a “technical” or “biological” cycle: the materials used must remain within the cycle as “nutrients” (waste equals food). Materials optimized for the biological cycle actually serve as biological nutrients and can be subjected to safe biodegradation in nature. Materials conceived for the technical cycle, by contrast, are seen as “technical nutrients” and should not become part of the biological cycle. Design with respect to the product lifecycle is now an inseparable part of the automotive industry. Recycling is no longer considered by automotive manufacturers only at the end of the car’s useful lifespan, but is treated in the Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio, Ningbo History Museum, China. Twenty types of bricks from the neighbouring demolished farm buildings were used for the facades of the edifice. ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 41 13-10-30 14:40
  • 41. Scheitlin Syfrig Architekten, Holzhausen in Steunhausen, Switzerland, 2006. The first wooden multi-storey residential building in Switzerland to be completed following the introduction of new fire regulations. Apart from the central circulation path and the basement, the whole construction of the building is made of wood. from the creative potential of using recycled materials, resulting in a fresh new architecture with utterly unexpected qualities. Their Villa Welpeloo is 60 % constructed from re-used materials found in the immediate vicinity of the construction site. The façade cladding is formed from wood taken from old cable-drums at the nearby cable works (a savings of 85% in CO2 emissions relative to new coverings), while the load-bearing structure is formed from steel girders taken from a discarded “paternoster” lift (a savings of 95% in CO2 emissions relative to a new steel framework). The lift used for construction was built into the structure as a hydraulic surface within the house; the light fixtures are made from components from defective umbrellas, and the bathroom tiling is formed from “smileplastic” (recycled plastic coffee-cups). very first stages of its development. For example, Volkswagen has developed an entire range of measures and procedures through which it is able to achieve 85% recycling and a total of 95% use from scrapped cars. Similar requirements should be placed on construction, or respectively on the architect: we should recall that construction and completed built-up areas consist, within the EU, of 40% of all waste produced by human activity. Photo: d. hlaváček The architect as discoverer Unfortunately, sustainable architecture is often viewed as a limitation of architects’ creative possibilities, and the response to it is often lukewarm. One example is the response by Peter Eisenman, when asked to give an interview on the theme of sustainable building: “To talk to me about sustainability is like talking to me about giving birth. Am I against giving birth? No. But would I like to spend my time doing it? Not really. I’d rather go to a baseball game.” 21 And yet, to design buildings on the basis of the principles described here is nonetheless an intriguing challenge for architects, and the new approaches could be reflected in a new aesthetic for the built environment. Let us cite, for instance the work of the architectural studio 2012 Architecten, for whom the word “reuse“ is both a mission and a creative strategy. Their projects have displayed that waste-flows and limited raw material sources could serve as a wonderful opportunity for innovative design. The team of 2012Architecten is not only motivated by the ecological standpoint, but no less by the inspiration Hawthorne, Christopher. 2001. The Case for a Green Aesthetic: Sustainability needs star architects, media coverage, and a few great buildings. Metropolis. [Online] 10 2001. www.metropolismag.com. 21 Recycled materials are also a favoured inspiration for architect Wang Shu and his Amateur Architecture Studio. His Historical Museum in Ningbo uses in its façade 20 types of red and grey bricks, recycled from former farmhouses in the vicinity, laid in the bricklaying technique inspired by the traditional method of “wapan”, used for building emergency shelters following natural disasters. The poetic structure of the façade fits perfectly into its surroundings, as if it had stood there for ages. Sensuous architecture For now, let us return to natural materials. The current advantage of new, industrially manufactured materials offers unforeseen applications, even though long-standing experience with their use is still lacking. Our new buildings often lack depth, mystery and shadow, and no longer are a lure for our senses, through which we could gradually autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 42 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 42 13-10-30 14:40
  • 42. Photo: m. čeněk start to discover the building22. Nonetheless, the sensual apprehension of humans is essentially integrative: with the integration of the senses there emerges a resulting impression through the involvement of all senses, and the activated portion of the brain is far greater than with the use of a single sense, as the individual senses mutually influence each other. Every significant architectural action, as a result, is for many senses: we judge the material used with our eyes, ears, noses, tongues, skin, bones, musculature... als that allow us “to penetrate beneath their surface and convince us of the truthfulness of matter “23; their beauty and their emotional force is unique. While industrially produced materials have a tendency towards precise, ageless perfection, natural materials naturally reflect the process of aging, and the factor of time forms another quality of the architectonic space. A renaissance of natural materials in architecture is, in my view, one of the paths of moving from a de-materialized architecture without meaning towards a multi-sensual experience of the architectonic space. Fascination with recently created materials, in combination with the generation of new architectonic forms, has led to a shift away from natural materials. Yet it is the natural materi- “Flatness of surfaces and materials, monotony of lighting, elimination of microclimatic differences: all of this contributes to boredom and the stultifying monotony of experiences.“ (Pallasmaa, 2008) 22 Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2005. The Eyes of the Skin. Chichester, England : John Wiley & Sons, 2005. 23 Team Czech Republic – Solar Decathlon 2013, AIR House, Prague, 2013. Constructed by students of the Czech Technical University in Prague, this experimental, energy self-sufficient house was entirely built of wood. ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 43 13-10-30 14:40
  • 43. Dawid Krysiński library of congress Right-about Modernism? Towards Sustainable Transportation Just as Ruth Glass is often quoted in discussions on the origin of the gentrification discourse, Jane Jacobs is a symbol of breaking free from modernist fascination with the car and its presence in urban space. Her famous reference to the need to ‘temper the automobile’ is deep-rooted in urban reality. Traffic congestion, environmental pollution and intense suburbanisation are just some of the consequences of automotive expansion into urban space1. This expansion was stimulated by modernist architects and planners, fascinated by modern technology, including the increasingly accessible cars. Due to unintended consequences of mass motoring, J. Wesołowski, Miasto w ruchu. Przewodnik po dobrych praktykach w organizowaniu transportu miejskiego [City in Motion. A Guide to Good Practices in Public Transport Organisation], Łódź: Instytut Spraw Obywatelskich, 2008, p. 17. 1 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 44 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 44 13-10-30 14:40
  • 44. Paul Rudolph, unrealised design of Lower Manhattan Expressway in New York of 1967-72 – a modernist city vision prioritising car traffic library of congress It seems crucial to realise the density of the changes involved in order to comprehend why the idea of sustainable transport propagates in Poland with such difficulty and why it is happening now. Jacobs’ ideas merely initiated wide-ranging changes in urban policy which were termed ‘sustainable transport’. The essence of this concept was giving priority to the most efficient and cost-effective means of transport; however, it took into account not only strictly economic issues but also the condition of areas surrounding car-dominated roads. Hence, decreasing attractiveness of a street to its users and increasing pollution or lack of space for those traffic participants who did not use cars started to be referred to as cost. Finally, it was acknowledged that the city should be considered in a new light, abandoning the idea of extensive development and focusing on the old ideas of concise, multi-functional space where motoring would not be as indispensable as at the time of late modernism. This postmodernist concept took roots the earliest, in the 1970s, in Western Europe. In time it also caught on in the United States, and eventually reached post-communist countries, including Poland. This happened just after the fall of communism, which is not incidental. Opening the country to Western solutions meant not only that Western political and economic concepts were transplanted into Poland but also that values characteristic of more developed societies were adopted here, as well. Sociologists refer to such processes as imitational transformation, stressing that conspicuous imitation refers to models from several stages of capitalism concurrently2. It may result in bizarre solutions that accumulate in one place and at the same time in effect of a longer and at times internally contradictory historical process. The situation is further complicated by local conditions, determined both by pre-transformation characteristics and consequences of the transformation itself. M. Ziółkowski, O imitacyjnej modernizacji społeczeństwa polskiego, [w:] Imponderabilia wielkiej zmiany. Mentalność, wartości i więzi społeczne czasów transformacji, red. P. Sztompka, Warszawa – Kraków: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 1999, s. 42. Besides the first transport strategies of the 1990s, the pace of proliferation of the above idea in Poland was set by car expansion, similarly to the West. It happened, however, much later than in Western Europe because the car industry began to develop dynamically only after 1989. The process was further precipitated by Poland’s accession to the European Union which increased availability of relatively cheap Western vehicles that received ‘a new lease on life’ east of the Oder3. With the propagation of private car ownership, there emerged traffic problems in big cities, which became so cumbersome that it was necessary to seek remedies. Shortage of parking spaces, noise, traffic jams or pavements blocked by cars raise objections among different groups of residents not only due to actual difficulties but also in response to visual alterations of urban space. If in the first decade of Poland’s transformation it was commonly believed that transportation problems could be solved by making up for infrastructure backlog (building long-planned ring roads or inter-city roads), in the second decade this view clashed with calls to turn towards the idea of sustainable transport. According to the proponents of this approach, both activists and academics, experiences of Western European countries imply that there is no other way to solve transport problems in cities. Building new roads will not help because all it does is encourage people to use cars. Enlarging car parks in city centres is pointless because they will fill up anyway. If the mounting problem is to be 2 M. Beim, Zapiski zakorkowanego mieszczucha [Notes of a Townee Stuck in a Jam] ‘Rzeczy Wspólne’, 2011, No. 1(3), p. 95. 3 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 45 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 45 13-10-30 14:40
  • 45. solved, then, according to activists and academics, there must be a reversal of policy to show the car its place in the line, and to demonstrate that it is not necessarily (in fact, it should not be) the basic means of transport in the city because there are other, more ecological vehicles that take up less space: buses, trams, trains or bicycles. The idea of Warsaw’s Marszałkowska street as a promenade, the discussion on the layout of Mogilska street in Krakow, disputes on the layout of Poznań’s Święty Marcin street or of Kazimierza Wielkiego street in Wroclaw, and even protests against the inter-district road between Krakow’s Ruczaj housing estate and the city centre are just a few selected examples of how the concept of sustainable development has been introduced into the public discourse. However, given the context of current local authorities’ policies, the chances for this idea to catch on are really slight. Culture or Structure? Importing the concept of sustainable transport means not only voicing various demands but also showing disapproval of the present-day transport policy in Polish cities. Critics claim that it reflects tendencies long abandoned in Western Europe. Antagonists emphasise local authorities’ inconsistency towards development plans which, contrary to actual practice, adequately reflect the principles of sustainable development, even though they were often agreed at the beginning of the political transformation. In this context, critics also point out that side by side with construction projects promoting public transport, there are other projects which solidify modernist, car-oriented forms of urban space. Hence, proposals to widen city streets, build interchanges within city limits and reduce accessibility to public transport are opposed. If objections against local authorities’ policies are considered justified, there follows the question of the source of the discrepancy between transport strategies and local officials’ actual policies which hinder the implementation of transport sustainability. Proposed justifications usually refer to the cultural sphere, viewed from the perspective of the society’s aspirations. It is notable that the Polish society remains fascinated by motoring, and the car, even if increasingly accessible, is still regarded as a status symbol. This approach to motoring should be taken into account in local policies since the authorities are as involved in the local culture as other residents but they also adjust their choices to their voters’ expectations. As a consequence, we have yet to wait for the Poles to change their attitude to motoring; it will come when the market is saturated and a car of one’s own ceases to show, just like a computer or a mobile phone, who we are and how much we have4. This line of reasoning echoes Inglehart’s transition from materialist values to postmaterialism, which, in the case of motoring, would mean a departure from the still widespread and individualised consumption towards public transport perceived as less cumbersome for urban space. The birth of social movements involved in the propagation of the idea of sustainable transport in Polish cities is given as a proof of the changes that may gradually lead the Polish society towards postmaterialism. And yet such justifications seem unsatisfactory, even if they are obviously right. The cultural sphere must be understood in a 4 M. Szałkowski, Dojrzewanie do ustępstw [Getting Ready to Compromise] interview conducted by A. Serbeńska, http://edroga.pl/drogi-i-mosty/ zarzadzanie/85-dojrzewanie-do-ustepstw, 05.05.2009 (access: 30.11.2009). broader sense, beyond the Poles’ (especially drivers’) view of the car as a status symbol. This approach, even if it stems from consumerist fascination with cars, is also rooted in the general image of the desired political system in Poland. A cultural justification must refer to the fascination with neoliberalism, which, Andreas Billert observes, has been popular among Polish elites ever since the start of the political transformation. Billert points out that ‘Neoliberal ideas have met (…) with an almost enthusiastic response among Polish economists, which has resulted in the implementation of a «shock therapy» and the Polish transformation model. The consequences of such an orientation and the resultant model of transformation have been felt, first and foremost, by Polish cities’5. As a result of shaping the social reality according to the liberal model, using a private car ceases to be solely a consumerist decision driven by fascination with this good. Purchasing a car of one’s own is clearly a convenience, and sometimes even a necessity preventing social exclusion. Thus, a cultural matter becomes structural and cannot simply be defined in terms of more or less conscious habits or choices made by the Poles. The decision to use a car becomes an inevitable necessity, which is well-illustrated by economic and legal determinants of both transportation policies in Polish cities (and, to be more exact, public transport organisation) and urban and suburban spatial development. A. Billert, Miasta w postindustrialnej Europie i w kleszczach polskiej transformacji, [Cities in Postindustrial Europe and in the Throngs of Polish Transformation] [in:] Miasto w działaniu. Zrównoważony rozwój z perspektywy oddolnej, [City in Action. Sustainable Development from the Grassroots Perspective] [transl. Anna Mirosławska-Olszewska] ed. P. Filar, P. Kubicki, Instytut Obywatelski, Warszawa 2012, p. 75. 5 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 46 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 46 13-10-30 14:40
  • 46. Public Transport in Retreat The past two decades have not been favourable for public transport. Although before the political transformation it used to be the basic mode of travelling, since 1989 the situation started to change. The closure of many workplaces and gradual popularisation of private car ownership reduced the demand for employee transportation. It resulted in a limitation of the scope of transportation services offered, which in turn made public transport less attractive but decreased takings of the sale of tickets. Formed at the beginning of the transformation, local and provincial authorities bailed out stateowned public transport enterprises but only to a certain extent. Their subsidies rarely balanced increasing running costs of the existing network of connections. Moreover, the time of the rolling stock supply according to the central distribution list was over, so enterprises had to deal with bus and tram replacements on their own. Faced with financial difficulties, local governments found it increasingly difficult to meet growing demands of transport providers, and readily justified spending cuts claiming that connections were unprofitable and that in market economy public transport should be self-sustaining. In practice, it resulted in a decrease in the scope of the transport services offered, fostering the use of cars in urban space, and particularly in the environs. Above all, this policy affected those who did use public transport but were not able to make it sufficiently profitable. It could be said, therefore, that liberal policy of local governments was (and still is) a convenient way to address difficulties that are at least partly independent of local and regional authorities. A radical free market approach to transportation issues is perceivable also when it comes to stimulating competition in the transport market. In this case liberalism in local or regional policies is a secondary effect in relation to extreme pro-market regulations at country level. Until recently, legislature enabled local governments to freely issue transport services licences to private economic subjects. Theoretically, it was supposed to foster making the offer client-friendly but in practice this approach resulted in stiff competition at the cost of security and quality of the transport services (a lack of tariff integration or even standardized and easily accessible information on schedules of various transport providers is unsurprising). Moreover, such competition focused solely on the places with major passenger streams. Less frequented routes were left up to public transport providers who struggled with restructuring and a deteriorating financial situation. The model of passenger transport organisation in Poland lacked such regulations which would allow consistent, clear and reliable transport services. were unwilling to reach to local or regional budgets since they were half-empty and, as it was mentioned above, it would be preferable if private transport financed itself (at least largely) independently. Yet even obliging local governments to organise public transport does not guarantee success in this field. There have been attempts to curb the hitherto prevailing, unrestrained market practices with a law that imposed on local and regional authorities the duty to pass transportation plans and to hold tenders on transport services meeting the needs of residents of communes, districts and provinces. In practice, when new regulations first entered into force, it led to disagreements between the former transport providers and local governments, instead of putting the situation in order and enabling systematic financing of transport services. The former demanded that the local governments should subsidise them under the present legal regulations. The latter Spatial Eldorado In the context of such difficulties public transport was becoming decreasingly versatile to potential clients, and at times disappeared completely from city environs, forcing former passengers to cope on their own or to get to nearby localities. In this situation a private car was indispensable, as the Polish General Social Survey results clearly illustrate. They reveal that the farther a locality is from cities, the greater the number of cars, regardless of their users’ income. In suburbs the car is not a privilege. It has become a necessity in daily life without which doing errands would be next to impossible. Satisfying daily needs does not happen in a vacuum and usually entails driving to nearby cities. That in turn increases congestion in cities which municipal authorities find increasingly difficult to cope with. Difficulties in organising and financing public transport stem not only from liberalminded local and regional elites’ professed preference for self-sufficiency when called to increase expenditure on transport out of emptyish local government budgets. They are also the aftermath of equally liberal spatial planning, determined by country regulations. This issue is discussed at length by above mentioned Andreas Billert who points out that Polish legislature allows chaotic property development, welcomed by local governments which do not impose any requirements on investors. The lack of a broader urban planning vision results not only in building housing estates devoid of proper autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 47 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 47 13-10-30 14:40
  • 47. infrastructure but also leads to uncontrolled and unregulated suburban sprawl. Buildings are erected in places that are not prepared for it, which entails, Katarzyna Kajdanek argues in her book on Polish suburbia, continual shifting of responsibility for infrastructure between local authorities and new residents in suburbs6. These conflicts are not surprising, given that chaotically developed suburbs and outskirts of cities generate considerable infrastructure costs. The present model of spatial development is a hindrance for a policy that might reduce the share of private cars in the total number of travels in cities. Moreover, the model hampers redefining the policy in terms of new road infrastructure, which is one of the key demands of the supporters of the idea of sustainable transport. It is hardly feasible to reduce capital expenditure on roads when new housing estates are constructed in the middle of nowhere, at a considerable distance from existing infrastructure and without a broader urban planning vision. Suburbia can hardly be served by public transport, especially when it is expected to be self-sufficient. Low population density raises the cost of public transport services in these areas to hardly acceptable levels even in highly devel6 K. Kajdanek, Suburbanizacja po polsku [Suburbanisation the Polish Way], Kraków: NOMOS, 2012. oped countries , and in the case of Poland the situation is worsened by the above mentioned spatial chaos. 7 Squeezed Between Thoroughfares Chaotically developed and sprawling cities are just one of the reasons why ever since the beginning of the transformation extending road infrastructure has been the top priority of local governments. Other reasons include a disastrous condition of city streets8, and investment backlog with regard to the preparation of the target road layout in Polish cities. Attempts to implement long-devised plans are understandable, particularly since they are fostered by the availability of EU funding which, paradoxically, comes from a place where the idea of sustainable transport originated and was eagerly embraced. Polish local governments’ policies should not raise 7 J. Węgleński, Metropolitalna Ameryka [Metropolital America], Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna, 1988. 8 Information on the results of the works coordination inspection of reconstruction, modernisation and repairs of roads and accompanying infrastructure in selected urban agglomerations, http://nik.gov.pl/docs/ inform/030709_remonty_drog_w_duzych_miastach.pdf (access: 28.12.2009). any doubts given that many Polish cities still lack ring roads taking transit traffic away from centres, where congestion is rising, and the majority of roads require immediate repairs. Street construction or modernisation raises hopes that the road network throughput will increase and cumbersome traffic jams will be cleared. This policy is criticized, however, by supporters of the idea of sustainable transport who point out that there is also a psychological aspect to extending infrastructure. With improved travel quality, people are encouraged to use cars, which in turn stimulates traffic growth, and thus transport difficulties recur9. Proponents of the idea of sustainable transport claim that this vicious circle, also called the transport black hole10, can be broken by promoting alternative forms of transport and abandoning the concept of extending road corridors. Still, preference for public transport at the cost of road extension and modernisation is rather challenging in view of modest budgets, regulations fostering thoughtless spatial development or noticeable infrastructure backlog, all of which are disapJ. Wesołowski, op. cit., p. 16. J. Gadziński, Ocena dostępności komunikacyjnej przestrzeni miejskiej na przykładzie Poznania [Assessment of Transport Accessibility in Urban Space As Examplified by Poznan] Poznań: Bogucki Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 2010, p. 27. 9 10 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 48 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 48 13-10-30 14:40
  • 48. il. anna zabdyrska proved by the society still fascinated with motoring. If there is to be any sustained development, it must be in the sense of parallel implementation of old and new models. The question of transport is a perfect example of imitational transformation: propagation of individual car ownership and of the opposing idea of sustainable transport take place simultaneously in Poland, even if the process took much longer in Western Europe. There is still a long way to go to achieve transport sustainability because local authorities’ policies do not involve analyses of the potential of various means of transport or promoting those that would prove to be the most cost-effective, efficient and least cumbersome to the surroundings11. Instead, it is marked by defensive attempts to attract all sorts of voters: both pro-car and postmodernist ones. Modernist models still fare well, and are set to stay for several upcoming decades, as some postmodernists believe. Overshadowed 11 by attempts to make up for infrastructure backlog and provide road networks in the suburbs, against the background of liberal discourse on spatial development and public transport funding, the car is to strengthen its dominance, tempting Poles and offering what alternative means of transport cannot do, or, even if they can, they do so in quasi-attractive and unsatisfactory ways. M. Beim, op. cit., p. 94. autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 49 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 49 13-10-30 14:40
  • 49. Levente Polyak The Recycled City The problem and opportunity of vacant properties I n most European and North American cities, as well as in the overcrowded metropolises of the developing world, the most unevenly distributed and scarcely available resource is space. For a long time, the real estate sector counted among the leading industries in many Western cities, accounting for a significant proportion of their economic growth. As a result of the economic growth of North American and European economies in the first half of the 2000s and the corresponding explosion of real-estate prices, renting living and working spaces has accounted for an increasing proportion of individual and family incomes, gradually turning urban living into an everyday struggle for private space. However, in the past years, as a consequence of the real estate bubble’s explosion and the resulting financial meltdown, a significant surplus in available square meters emerged even in the most dynamic city economies. A few years after the outbreak of the economic crisis, only in the Netherlands, known for the extreme density of its settlements and the lack of space, there is over 6 million m2 of office space, that is, the 16% of the country’s total office capacity, laying abandoned. This proportion is even higher in Amsterdam where it reaches 18%, the equivalent of 1.3 million m2. According to a study by the Delft University, for an approximate 400-800.000 of this stock it is virtually impossible to find a tenant, because of their obsolete spatial organization or disadvantageous location. In the meanwhile, the fate of office buildings has reached many other building types, namely school buildings, factories, workshop buildings, commercial spaces and residential buildings all across the country. This phenomenon is by no means specific to the Netherlands. If the urban landscape of Amsterdam and Rotterdam is dominated by unrentable office towers, Leipzig’s empty res- idential buildings, Rome’s disaffected movie theaters, or Spain’s deserted hotels join the list of vacant properties in Europe. Not to mention the countless halted construction sites across Southern Europe: as an interviewee of the documentary film ‘Unfinished Italy’ remarks, “the most important architectural style of post-war Italy is the Unfinished Sicilian.”1 The long-time underused properties are revelatory about the economic crises, but not only about that: they tell about the rigid management concepts of the pre-crisis era, unable to keep up with the changing economic and social circumstances. Vacant real estate is an important element of all property systems; otherwise it would be impossible to find flats, shops, offices to rent. However, above a certain rate, vacancy is Unfinished Italy (2011). Directed by Benoît Felici; see: http://www.unfinished-italy.com 1 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 50 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 50 13-10-30 14:40
  • 50. Julien Beller (collective EXYZT), Le6b – former office block transformed into a cultural centre harmful to everyone. Owners pay charges after their unrented shops, apartments, offices as well, unused properties are deteriorating, losing their value throughout the process. The commercial activity of a neighborhood is gradually degraded with the presence of vacant properties that don’t generate any traffic and deprive neighboring shops from entire groups of potential customers. Boarded-up houses and shops with lowered shutters worsen the public safety of an area, where nobody sees what happens on the street. Urban actors across Europe respond to the problem of empty properties in various ways: the lack of financial resources leads govern- Photo: l. polyak Photo: l. polyÁk of the Berlin Wall or cities of the American “rust belt”, when they lost their industries and a large proportion of their inhabitants. In this sense, Detroit and Leipzig, with a radical decline in their population, were precursors of other cities in recognizing and trying to manage their empty properties. Seen from a contemporary perspective, the “Shrinking Cities” project initiated in 2002 by the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig, the Bauhaus Stiftung in Dessau and the Archplus journal is nothing less than a preliminary study to get ready for a broader crisis, an experiment to elaborate methods and instruments to treat the problem of vacant properties and urban areas spreading out all over Europe and North America, a proposal to introduce a new urban planning vocabulary, the preparation of the terrain for easing the economic crisis by the means of urbanism. As a consequence of the crisis, many formerly prosperous cities of Europe and North America found themselves in the same position as East German towns after the fall Zones Urbaines Sensibles (ZUS), garden on the roof of the former office block Schieblock in Rotterdam; the ongoing process of adjusting the building to new functions started in 2007. ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 51 13-10-30 14:40
  • 51. Photo: l. polyÁk Abandoned office block in the centre of Budapest Photo: l. polyÁk knowledge and disperse citizen knowledge are represented? ments and municipalities to re-interpret their existing infrastructure and to reactivate it by involving new functions and new actors. Some states introduce extra tax for properties vacant for more than 6 months (Great-Britain), others establish legal means to requisition long-time vacant residential buildings owned by legal persons or institutions and to convert them into social housing (France). Yet other states offer tax breaks for owners who allow social or cultural activities in their empty properties (Czech Republic, Poland). Some municipalities create online maps about the available vacant properties (Amsterdam); or fabricate legal and financial incentives to encourage the temporary use of unrented shops (Vienna). Evidently, systematic responses to vacancy begin with enumeration. Besides the reluctance of real estate developers and municipalities alike to disclose their vacancy data (fearing that this information may damage their reputations and commercial perspectives), many authorities simply do not dispose of relevant records and thus have no means to inventory their vacant spaces. This insufficiency or inaccessibility of government, municipal and corporate databases makes it difficult to estimate the real proportions of vacant real estate and the potential of their conversion and reuse, delaying the elaboration of related development and management plans as well as policy proposals. The insufficiency of municipal and state real estate inventories also raises the question of transparency: how to create a database in which both centralized administrative In many cases, the response to this question is offered by community mapping initiatives, that is, the crowdsourcing of real estate data. Organizations in cities with as diverse development contexts as New York, Paris, Hamburg or Vienna initiated the collective mapping of vacant properties. In New York, Brian Lehrer, a radio host at WNYC invited listeners to contribute to his “Halted Development” crowdmap. The community map, indicating unfinished construction sites, gave a significant help with its revelatory power and arguments to the policy initiative as a result of which unfinished luxury condos were converted into social housing.2 The New York-based homeless-rights organization “Picture the Homeless” used a similar strategy when its members created a map of empty properties in the city.3 In Paris, the housing-rights organization Jeudi noir 2 3 http://goo.gl/maps/wy8xw https://vacantnyc.crowdmap.com/ autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 52 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 52 13-10-30 14:40
  • 52. Vacant houses in the centre of Budapest launched an inventory of long-time empty buildings;4 and this task is taken up by (im) possible living in Italy,5 Leerstandsmelder in the German-speaking countries,6 and by Lakatlan in Budapest7 and Central Europe.8 Community mapping projects, by developing new mapping techniques and by learning new methods, tools and technologies from each other, may contribute to a greater visibility of the vacancy problem: therefore a participatory mapping campaign can help shaping the policy concerning vacant units of real estate as well as put pressure on municipalities to formulate new policies in this issue. Photo: s. molnar 4 http://www.jeudi-noir.org/2012/10/29/vous-connaissez-des-batiments-vides-envoyez-nous-ladresse/ 5 http://www.impossibleliving.com/explore/ 6 http://www.leerstandsmelder.de/ 7 http://lakatlan.crowdmap.com/ 8 http://kek.org.hu/lakatlan/vce/ To consider the “in-between time” opening between the moment a property goes vacant and its new use as an opportunity, design professions were also helped by new considerations of the limits of the shrinking market and the discovery of areas ignored by official planning mechanisms. This approach gives preference to small-scale, often temporary, community-oriented interventions over extensive construction projects, responding to the needs of local communities instead of to the requirements of speculation-driven investments. Each empty building needs a different intervention and program in order to achieve its resurgence, and this task requires a new strategy from the architectural profession, as well. When the Dutch landscape architecture firm Rietveld Landscape presented in the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennial the exhibition “Vacant NL” in which the agency inventoried about five thousand empty public buildings across the Netherlands, they took position in support of a new architectural paradigm. Instead of serving Photo: l. polyÁk Mapping is, however, only the first step in strategies to reuse vacant properties. The responses given to the problem of empty properties appear at various levels of urban planning. The inflexible planning system characteristic of the modernist era has been gradually replaced by “soft urbanism”, allowing for experimentation and for trying possible functions at test-sites, before fixing them by large investments. This open-ended planning system also gives more emphasis to the temporal dimension of developments, enabling temporary uses and successive phases in the development process. large-scale demolitions and investments targeting fictional users, the new paradigm gives preference to the reuse of existing buildings and infrastructural elements with helping them gradually adapt new functions. According to the new model of architectural interventions, experiments lead to the testing of new functions, where successful uses are fixed in the program and failed ones get ejected from it. The Vacant NL exhibition and its catalogue, the “Dutch Atlas of Vacancy” exploded in the national architectural discourse like a bomb, and offered a strong new orientation to the country’s architecture policies: instead of new developments, architects should focus autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 53 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 53 13-10-30 14:40
  • 53. on abandoned buildings. The 2012 International Architecture Biennial of Rotterdam followed a similar path: as a central part of the Biennial, the office Zones Urbaines Sensibles (ZUS) tested their economic and urban development concepts in and around a vacant downtown office building baptized “Schieblock”, designating it as a “test site”. The goal of the temporary use of the Schieblock was to fill it with sustainable economic functions, re-establish its connections with the surrounding urban fabric and throughout this process, in order to turn the Rotterdam downtown into an attractive, dynamic location. The core of the of the Schieblock’s program is to pair and connect various functions in a mutually fecundating way, stimulating the exchange of competences and information, and creating links between different social groups. The members of ZUS call this development model “unsolicited architecture”, where architects act as real estate developers by initiating projects instead of waiting for commissions. Besides reusing and reconnecting empty buildings, this development model also offers an incubating process to NGOs, social and cultural activities as well as and start-up companies, for whom affordable workspace may give important help to establish themselves. The role of economic and civil incubator is one of the most important promises of abandoned properties, that makes vacant real estate increasingly interesting for urban strategyand policymakers. Despite the efforts of municipal and governmental actors, the incubation function is best realized by NGOs: many European cities witnessed the establishment of “in-between use agencies” helping the cultural and social reuse of empty properties, in order to help strengthen these spheres, as well as to support neighborhood renewal. The employment of in-between or temporary use as a tool for urban development is a delicate process, based on establishing communication between owners and potential users, on network building, and on the identification of resources and the collection of data. This requires a flexible legal framework, a fast decision-making process, local sensibility and the continuous integration of experiences in the model. This process may be significantly facilitated by the establishment of an intermediate organizations, independent enough from but cooperating and exchanging information with municipalities, whose functioning is not decelerated by the system’s cumbersome bureaucracy. Organizations of this kind (like Berlin’s Coopolis or Leipzig’s Haushalten) build databases and cooperation networks, involve and connect competent actors, delegate tasks and assure the constant flow of information between offer and demand. Transforming empty properties to allow them adopt new uses offers advantages to all: owners profit with the renovation and preservation of the building, users access affordable work and living spaces, residents enjoy their revitalized neighborhoods, merchants benefit increasing traffic and sales, and the design professions gain new work opportunities and expanded professional perspectives. This is the background of the KÉK – Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre’s Lakatlan project.9 To deal with the problem of vacancy was particularly relevant in Budapest, as the city has suffered more from the economic crises than many other European cities. The recession, combined with many building types becoming obsolete and no longer able to respond to contemporary needs, as well as with the mismanagement of real estate properties owned by private as well as public owners, has emptied a significant proportion of the city from its previous functions and use. Over 30% of office spaces are vacant in Budapest alone, adding up to an estimated million square meters of wasted space, not to mention the countless empty storefronts, abandoned residential buildings and even commercial complexes. In the Fall of 2012, KÉK launched a lecture series with a variety of presentations from the fields of architecture, urban research, planning, economic development and homeless rights. In parallel, we developed a crowdmap using an Ushahidi platform, inviting citizens to participate in the mapping process.10 To map vacancy, we needed to define categories and temporalities vacancy, to create a system that is organized according 9 www.kek.org.hu/lakatlan/en www.lakatlan.crowdmap.com source: http://lakatan.crowdmap.com 10 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 54 13-10-30 14:40
  • 54. Map of vacant houses in Budapest to the type of property as well as to the period during which the property has been vacant. For identifying the properties, we needed to keep the editing process open, enabling users to comment on each others’ entries and to accumulate information concerning any property. In the meanwhile, the task of mapping vacant properties requires cooperation between institutional and non-institutional sources of information. Municipalities dispose of the cadastral map, the registration number of each property, their geographical location and size. To complement the official information, participating citizens have their everyday observations and memories that they can transform into timelines telling about the duration of vacancy of each property, the previous occupations, their success or failure: this may give a more complex picture of the issue of vacancy, of small commerce as well as of housing shortage or the process of postindustrialization. In the crowdmap’s website, therefore, citizens can upload their observations, in a way that they constitute a database comparable to the municipal set. We created an easy-to-use interface and provided a wide access to the website; the accuracy of the observations is double-checked with the help of various verification methods. as well as the City Hall have equally found their interest in reusing vacant spaces in various areas of the city. In this process, the map proved to be more than a simple instrument to visualize information: it is in the same time a tool to attract participation and an interface to stimulate discussion, helping reshape our perception of the city. Helped by the map, a veritable experiment has begun to unfold: granted a project gallery by the City of Budapest, the Lakatlan project set itself in 2013 to initiate a matchmaking process between owners and potential users, establishing the notion of “in-between use” both in the official discourse and in public opinion. Since its launch, the Lakatlan lecture series and the crowdmap have quickly become catalysts of the public discourse on vacant properties. Representatives of homeless organizations, NGOs, art galleries, design initiatives ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 55 13-10-30 14:40
  • 55. Jana Tichá Green Architecture ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 56 13-10-30 14:40
  • 56. Photo: a. lhotáková Photo: a. lhotáková Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, und grün des Lebens goldner Baum. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust I, l. 2038 ‘All theory is grey, my friend. But forever green is the tree of life.’ These words put by Goethe into the mouth of Mephistopheles have become a well-known line. Green is a metaphor of the life-giving forces of nature which man cannot fully master. Although human life is limited by nature, or perhaps because of it, man tries to stand up to it in many ways. Self-determination in relation to nature is one of the foundations of Western civilisation, whose attempts to create abstract systems, culminating in the modernity project1, have been widely The term used by the author, ‘moderne project‘, can be translated in several ways. The most appropriate seems to be ‘modernity project‘ which covers a number of phenomena that the writer refers to: the concept of modernity founded on the philosophy of the Enlightenment, achievements of the Industrial Revolution, and aesthetic tendencies of modernism (Pol. trans. note). 1 discussed2. In architecture respect for the natural environment and the need to comply with its demands have been obvious for a long time. Knowledge of how to build so that the construction could withstand the forces of nature and how to choose the most convenient spot to carry out a project was essential in the architect’s profession3. With the process of modernisation, however, the tendency to standardise construction technologies grew, and the natural environment was treated as something to be optimized: nature was to be subordinated to construc- Problems of representing the real world through abstract systems with regard to their relations to architecture are undertaken, in phenomenological terms, by Dalibor Veselý, in his interesting work Architektura ve věku rozdělené reprezentace, Praha: Academia, 2008 (ibid. Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004). 3 Cf., e.g., the fundamental theoretical handbook for European architecture: A. Palladio, I quattro libri dell’architettura, Venezia, 1570, Am. ed.: ibid., The Four Books of Architecture, transl. R. Schofield, R. Tavernor, Cambridge, MA.: The MIT Press, 2002. 2 Projektil architekti, headquarters of an NGO, Brno, 2012 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 57 13-10-30 14:40
  • 57. Photo: a. lhotáková Photo: a. lhotáková Projektil architekti, Sluňákov Centre for Ecological Activities, Olomouc, 2007 tion, and not vice versa4. After World War II the modernity project, with its characteristic technology-oriented (and technology-mediated) approach to the world showed some cracks through which some previously neglected aspects of reality penetrated into the society’s and specialists’ minds. One of those was environmental degradation resulting from modernisation processes. Respect for the environment and living in harmony with nature were some of the major postulates of liberal movements in the United States and Western Europe in the 1960s5. Initially, this attitude was treated by the majority of the society as a part of an alternative, ‘romantic’ way of life6, but the oil crisis of 1973 made decision makers consider concrete political, economic and financial questions related to the natural environment. ‘Hard data’ of the influence of modern civilisation on the state of non-renewable natural resources had been published a year earlier in the text The Limits to Growth7. Since the 1970s there has been a gradual convergence of the ‘romantic’ and the ‘technical’ approaches to the natural environment. New objectives were expressed through the principles of the ‘sustainable development’ policy agreed in the programme document Agenda 21 at the 1992 4 Modern tendencies towards homegenisation of the environment are evocatively described by Rem Koolhaas in: Generické město, ‘Zlatý řez’ 2010, No. 32, p. 20 and n. (cf., ibid., Generic City, [in]: ibid., S,M,L,XL, New York: The Monacelli Press, 1995, p. 1248 and n.). 5 At the UNESCO conference in San Francisco in 1969 John McConnell pointed out that it was necessary to raise public awareness of the importance of the natural environment and proposed to hold Earth Day: a global event which would not only celebrate the planet and its life-giving forces but would also be an opportunity to draw public attention to ecological issues. First Earth Day was celebrated a year later, on 22 April 1970. Today it is observed in 192 countries throughout the world. Source: http://www.earthday.org/about-earth-day-network (access: 22 June 2012). The opposition between the ‘romantic’ versus ‘technical’ approaches to the world as regards ecological issues is a relatively frequent topic of discussions. Some authors viewing it from a historical perspective stress two basic trends in ecological architecture in the Western civilisation: Barbora Krejčová refers to them as ‘romanticising’ and ‘technicising’, cf. B. Krejčová, Průkopníci ekologické architektury, ‘Era 21’ 2008, No. 4, p. 54. 7 D.H. Meadows, D.L. Meadows, The Limits to Growth, New York: Universe Books, 1972, Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro8. Currently, ecological issues are (at least in principle) an integral part of almost any project and investment, including architectural ones. Despite this fact, the terminology of these issues has not been standardised yet, and even in academic discourse we can come across the metaphorical expression ‘green architecture’ used for example in the catalogue of the first collective exhibition of ‘ecologically aware’, energy-efficient architecture in the Czech Republic compiled by Petr Kratochvíl9. In the Czech Republic it was only recently that issues related to ecology and the natural environment started to feature prominently in architects’ discussions. In this respect the year 2008 seems crucial as it was then that, apart In the field of architecture and building the document titled Agenda 21 on Sustainable Construction, published in 1999 by an international institution CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction) in response to the general Agenda 21, is of key importance, cf. Agenda 21 pro udržitelnou výstavbu, Praha: ČVUT, 2001 (edition in English available on: http://cic.vtt.fi/eco/ cibw82/a21.htm, access: 4 Oct. 2013; Eng. trans. note). 9 Zelená architektura.cz. Katalog výstavy, ed. P. Kratochvíl, Praha: GJF, 2008. The exhibition was prepared under research project GA AV IAA800330701. 8 6 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 58 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 58 13-10-30 14:40
  • 58. Non-governmental LEED (LEED Green Building Rating System, Green Building Council with the seat in Washington13) and BREEAM 10 Especially: P. Suske, Ekologická architektura ve stínu moderny, Brno: ERA, 2008, and the thematic issue of the magazine ‘Era 21’ titled Udržitelnost v architektuře, ‘Era 21’ 2008, No. 4. 11 Zelená architektura..., op. cit., p. 56 and n. 12 The conditions to obtain financial support for the use of energy efficient technologies and renewable energy sources in housing are specified in: Směrnice MŽP” 2009, No. 9. Users can also refer to a manual: M. Báčová, Manuál energeticky úsporné architektury, Praha: Státní fond životního prostředí a česká komora architektů, 2010. 13 www.usgbc.org (access: 25 June 2012). 14 Photo: ap ateliér mandating agencies (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, a branch office of BRE Global with the seat in Great Britain14) are trying to popularise the idea of ‘Sustainable Building’ in a broader sense. They are current global systems of certification, used to assess public utility buildings. Assessment criteria are varied and not limited to the building’s energy balance but also take into account the project management process, users’ health and comfort (including temperature regulation, access to fresh air, workplace layout and anti-reflective glass windows), accessibility of the site, choice of recyclable and health risk free materials, quality of terrain, water consumption monitoring, waste-water treatment technologies etc. The first building in the Czech Republic that was LEED gold certified is the edifice of ČSOB (Československá obchodní banka) in Radlice, designed by Josef Pleskot and AP Ateliér, an office of one of the major Czech banks situated in a small town, employing over 2500 people. The design of the building whose forcefulness and function is symbolic of modern civilization may not be inconsistent with the principles of sustainable development. The designer, Josef Pleskot, refers to the ethics of ecology, which makes us Photo: ap ateliér from the catalogue and exhibition compiled by Petr Kratochvíl, other publications also came out10. That year the winner of the Grand Prix Obce architektů, a prize awarded by the most prestigious review of contemporary architecture in the Czech Republic, was the edifice of Centrum ekologické výchovy Sluňákov (Sluňákov Centre for Ecological Education, 2007) designed by Roman Brychta, Ondřej Hofmeister, Petr Lešek and Adam Halíř (Projektil architekti). The construction and technological solutions used in the building correspond to the purpose it is to serve. It uses largely energy-efficient solutions: heat recovery in the air conditioning system, solar hot water heating collectors, pellet stoves, cold collectors, a waste water recycling system and a rainwater collection system. Besides these active energy efficiency solutions in the building, there are also passive ones: a glazed southern façade and insulation with an earth bank in the north provide optimal thermoregulation inside the building11. Sluňákov was a kind of showcase for technologies which were soon adopted in housing, mainly owing to financial support under the government programme ‘Zelená úsporám’ agreed in 200912. However, ecological aspects of architecture in it are restricted to energy efficiency, and when possible, obtaining it from renewable energy sources. Photo: ap ateliér Josef Pleskota, AP Ateliér, ČSOB (Československá obchodní banka) building, Radlice, 2008 www.breeam.org (access: 25 June 2012). autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 59 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 59 13-10-30 14:40
  • 59. Photo: arc@arc.cz Photo: arc@arc.cz Photo: arc@arc.cz Oldřich Hozman, ARC Studio, House with an Atrium, Řičany, 2007 careful, sensitive and economic, and brings us also into harmony with nature15. The architect is optimistic about the possibility of combining ecology with technology; he believes that ‘ecology is in a close relationship to technology’16. Despite institutional attempts to standardize and establish clear qualification criteria, ‘green architecture’ is still characterized by a variety of designing strategies. The author of the first Czech publications on ecological architecture and many productions based on its principles, Petr Suske, observes that ‘from the point of view of ecology, globalisation of architecture and its universalisation may be a greater problem than rainforest logging’17. To Suske, an ecological house ‘must respect specific local features, including the climatic conditions in a given region, its cultural context and social needs’18. These views are reflected in his designs where he makes use of experimental technologies and local materials, such as raw brick in the Hliněná basta (Clay Turret) restaurant in Průhonice (1997) or bunches of straw to insulate Dům v kožichu s deštníkem (Sheepskin-Clad House with an Umbrella) in Mlada Boleslavi (2002). Oldřich Hozman19, who is a follower of Rudolph Steiner’s anthroposophy and the so-called Baubiologie, the science of a holistic approach to relations between man and man-made environment which developed P. Suske, op. cit., p. 8. Ibid., p. 120. 19 Cf., e.g., O. Hozman, Cesta k celostnímu utváření prostředí, ‘Zlatý řez’ 2011, No. 34, s. 52 and n.; ibid., Co lze vnímat pod pojmem zdravé prostředí. Víceúrovňové vlastnosti prostoru a materiálů, [in:] Zdravé domy. Sborník mezinárodní konference, Brno: Fakulta architektury, 2009, and n. 17 18 R. Koryčánek, Domy z meziprostoru, Praha: Galerie Zdeněk Sklenář, 2007, p. 6. 16 J. Tichá, J. Pleskot, Rozhovor, ‘Zlatý řez’ 2009 , No. 31, p. 52. 15 in Germany in the 1960s20, pays particular attention to natural materials and their quality. Oldřich Hozman’s productions are mostly detached houses (House with an Atrium, Řičany, 2007, House in Lány, 2012) and reconstructions and adaptations of existing buildings (Maitrea House of Personal Development, Prague, 2008) to energy-efficiency standards of a ‘healthy house’ requiring a wide use of natural materials, such as raw bricks, wood, straw or reed. These materials are an enormous challenge for the present-day architecture. Modernist architectural concepts were apprehensive about using these materials due to their composite nature which made them difficult to standardise and to oversee the building process, and made it difficult to predict how the building will age. In recent years, however, with rising interest in ecological aspects of construction and energy efficiency (as well as equally important cost saving during construction), these materials have started to attract more 20 The principles of Baubiologie were formulated by Hubert Palm, trained as a medical doctor, in the publication Das gesunde Haus. Unser nächster Umweltschutz, Konstanz: OrdoVerlag, 1979. autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 60 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 60 13-10-30 14:40
  • 60. visitor in any place, which can be understood both literally and metaphorically because the productions portfolio of ‘natural architecture’ contains both Scholzberg vantage towers in Horni Maxov (2006) and Bára in Chrudimi (2009), the New Post Office on Mt Sněžka (2007) and the building of the Municipal Forest Holding in Písek (2011). The history of ecological trends in Czech architecture is short but extremely dynamic. What was considered by the majority of architects in the 1990s as a radical approach stemming from personal beliefs, has since become part of the mainstream, regardless of whether ecological awareness is manifested in a total approach to the natural environment or in the use of advanced technologies. Relations between architecture and ecology may vary in form, and ‘green architecture’ may have various meanings. Should we give priority to energy efficiency of the building itself or try to build it in an energy efficient way with energy efficient materials to begin with? Is it more important to develop new technologies to control building interiors, or rather do without them and return to traditional solutions dating back to the time before the industrial revolution? Should we radically change our lifestyles and our constructions, or merely adapt present-day buildings? This is how the future of ecological architecture is perceived by one of its makers, ‘It is also possible that architecture called «ecological» will not emerge at all, because More on this topic cf. D. Hlaváček, Přírodní materiály: historie nebo naděje?, ‚Zlatý řez‘ 2011, No. 34, pp. 6 and n. 22 Convincing arguments that the Czech architecture has been dominated by the ‘realistic’ and ‘utilitarian’ trends can be found in the publication by Rostislav Švácha Česká architektura a její přísnost, Praha: Prostor, 2004. 23 Cf. I. Fialová, J. Tichá, M. Rajniš, Přirozená architektura / Natural Architecture, ‘Zlatý řez’ 2008, p. 49. 21 English translation by Anna Mirosławska-Olszewska 24 P. Suske, dz. cyt., s. 9. Photo: a. lhotáková Architectural experiment is not traditionally embedded in the Czech culture, and architecture as a conceptual discipline practised side by side with utilitarian productions has practically no history there22. As a result, radical attempts to find the ‘zero point’ in architecture are the more conspicuous, for instance Martin Rajniš’s works completed since the beginning of the 21st century. Rajniš justifies his idea of a revolution in architectural culture by expressing his belief that modern design and building embedded in modernist concepts is by its very nature opposed to the idea of ‘sustainable development’. Rajniš’s designs, revealing how the revolution should be implemented, are often at the confluence of architecture and fine arts. Experience of travelling to places inhabited by communities that remain far apart from the achievements of modern, industrial civilisation, inspired Rajniš to radically reevaluate relations between nature and culture in architecture and to formulate Manifest přirozené architektury (A Manifesto for Natural Architecture)23, which makes use of natural materials, simple technologies, and adapts to the local climatic conditions and topography. To Martin Rajniš a house is a mobile shelter for a human nomad who is just a its principles will become an intrinsic part of reflection on architecture in general’24. Photo: a. lhotáková and more attention. Wooden architecture is particularly notable in this respect21. In the Czech Republic wood has been used mainly in housing and detached houses construction. The scope of this technology is limited by fire regulations and other conditions. Due to availability and flexibility, wood is often used in alternative and experimental designs. Martin Rajniš, Patrik Hoffman, New Post Office on Mt Sněžka, 2007 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 61 13-10-30 14:40
  • 61. Ivan Jarina, współpraca: Anna Maria Jarina House under the Apple Tree in Marianka I n the broad context of eco-friendly architecture I am mostly concerned with architecture which blends with the local ecosystem, with architecture which is an object of landscape rather than a construction. The architect observes the surroundings, seeks the genius loci, adapts to the context rather than modifies it. In this approach it turns out that what initially seemed to be a limitation becomes a challenge. The designing process starts with difficulties, with seeking proportions, materials or colours characteristic of a given place, where the search for beauty takes precedence over the provision of all desirable functions and technologies. That is why in my work I apply the soft planning approach, in which my clients’ initial ideas of the needs they have are progressively replaced by our joint search for priorities, which results in the singling out of the clients’ major necessities in the spirit of minimalism, while other wishes are fulfilled gradually, if they are still considered important. The aim of this approach is to obey the principle of economy in natural resources management that is characteristic of sustainable architecture. In practice it means applying the 3R principle: reduce, reuse and recycle. The wooden house where I live with my family was built as a master house, in which various techniques of building with wood were utilised (the framework was a log house, a frame construction with a wooden ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 62 13-10-30 14:40
  • 62. Ivan Jarina, Architect’s home in Marianka, near Bratislava dome and sandwich). Traditional materials are used with some reluctance, which is typical of modernity, rather than retro oriented. The house under the apple tree was constructed in the spirit of slow design, applying the principles of slow architecture. The idea is to find enough time for everything, and the resolution ‘I must’ is replaced with ‘I want’. The centre of the house is an old apple tree which was intended as the heart of the house, and was meant to divide it into the sections for adults and for children. Having a live tree in the home is a radical solution which, at least to some extent, forces the family to adjust their lifestyle to nature. In a home where nature is not observed through glass but is at hand you quickly learn to respect the cycle of nature and can enter ino a dialogue with it. The house was erected in an orchard by the forest on a small six-are plot. The final decision where to lay foundations was made by the children who often played by the lone apple tree. The composition of the building is completed by a garden arranged in a free style that does not overwhelm natural elements in the area. The glazed atrium offers a magnificent view of the surroundings. It was important for me to create a house using natural materials, often recycled and definitely recyclable. That is why the materials used were mainly wood, old recycled bricks, fireclay bricks from a dismantled furnace in a nearby brick factory or stone unused by a neighbour. The need to carefully select materials with at least some eco traits is shown by the increasing popularity of the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) method, which focuses on materials lifecycle assessment. Anton Schneider of IBN v Neubeuern listed 25 principles of healthy living which I would like to refer to here. In the building process it is vital to use natural and original construction materials, without harmful components, but with good air circulation and ventilation, and the use of convective heat. Energy consumption should be minimized, while the use of renewable sources of energy is to be maximized, and construction materials are to come from local sources. Schneider pointed out the need to minimize or stop using disappearing natural resources or harmful substances. He advocates utilizing natural, minimally processed resources, with minimal emissions of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. I believe that technical solutions should complement the building’s architecture and its harmony, rather than the opposite, of which many architects seem to forget today. Photo: Courtesy of Atélier Van Jarin Collaboration: Anna Maria Jarina ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 63 13-10-30 14:40
  • 63. damas gruska UnsUstainable UndeVeloPment B ratislava borders with Austria. Part of the border runs along the Danube but the rest was delineated purely politically, not naturally. Even without boundary posts it is not hard to check where it runs: all you have to do is find satellite images in Google Maps, or walk or bike along it. In the first case you can see the difference between small fields on one side of the border, and vast monoculture fields, vestiges of the time of state-owned agricultural enterprises, on the other. In close-up you can see ravages left over by the communist system, which have not been completely removed even during the twenty-three years since it fell. Before the war the boundary was almost indiscernible, all the more so since areas on both sides were inhabited by ethnically related people. What is to blame: the historical gap or disastrous post-revolution development? Perhaps both; and anyway it is observable elsewhere, as well. Similar ugly views can be seen all over Slovakia: remnants of decades of social engineering when ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 64 decision makers could not envision other ways to feed starving valleys than to construct giant factories. It was simply the easiest solution in communist and capitalist times. Factories supplied work for thousands of people but it was necessary to transport workers to them or to build new housing estates. It began with intervention into the social structures of local communities, followed by exploitation of the surrounding natural environment. The majority of factories gradually went bankrupt, leaving behind dilapidated torsos of factory floors, ownerless waste dumps, glum, identical, sprawling blocks of flats, and an army of jobless people who are still not rooted in the local community. It seems that nobody has drawn any conclusions. All post-revolution governments have shown a marked preference for big investors (beginning from the form of investment), to a clear disadvantage of small and medium enterprises. The logic of election cycles makes them choose short-term solutions, particularly at a time when unemploy- ment figures are record high. Yet the reasons of this situation are even more complex. The velvet revolution in Slovakia was partly triggered by ecological issues. The semi-official publication Bratislava Aloud (1987), whose authors dealt with environmental issues in the broadest sense of the word (the publication was compiled by eighty-four authors and reviewers) had resonance with the public: the first edition consisted of 1,000 copies but unofficial data reveals that within a month about 60,000 copies were made on different mediums. The people of Bratislava, where the major industry were chemical plants, particularly at the time when it was under surveillance of the communist security service, were particularly sensitive to environmental issues. It is not surprising, then, that the velvet revolution elevated the authors of the publication to positions of power, though 13-10-30 14:40
  • 64. All photos in the article: D. Grusk ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 65 13-10-30 14:40
  • 65. ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 66 13-10-30 14:40
  • 66. not necessarily connected with environmental issues. This is why some energetic activists ceased to be concerned with these problems. Also, economic transformation led to a partial or complete closure of many big factories, which, incidentally, were some of the major pollutants. Impoverished in the new economic system, farmers were forced to reduce the amount of chemical fertilisers, protective sprayings etc. Gradual elimination of liquid or solid fuel heating, vehicle replacement and the like contributed to a fast and visible ‘natural’ improvement of the quality of the environment. Nothing could henceforth hinder the development of a consumer society. In any case, at the time when the society was completely preoccupied with the economic transformation (part of the reform was the mantra that we had to fix our economy before we fixed anything else), dissolution of Czechoslovakia, building the republic of Slovakia and complete devastation of public space, which was soon to be seized by various private enterprises, there was no other way but economic violation. In addition, media space was early taken over by young right-wing know-it-alls, whose only intellectual asset was superficial familiarity with a few ideas of Friedrich von Hayek’s. Further political development did not foster sustainable development. Within twentythree years there emerged no significant green party which would deal with these problems. Although Bratislava has traditionally been ruled by ‘right-wing’ coalitions – quite an extraordinary thing for a European capital, which proves how immature the political scene has been – at the state level, paradoxically, right-wing parties have been closer to ecological concerns than the ‘social democracy’ in power at present. The latter consists of entrepreneurs mixed with nationalists, a far cry from a modern left ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 67 wing party. One example will suffice to illustrate the point: when the former coalition promoted the idea of small dykes as an antiflood measure, the other aim of which was to retain as much water as possible in the forest – a low budget project, fostering in addition employment growth among unskilled workers – the new ‘social-democratic’ government immediately halted it for the sake of concretebased solutions. The state of sustainable development in Slovakia is best illustrated by the case of Bratislava. Following World War I the nationality structure began to change dramatically (to the disadvantage of the German and Hungarian minorities), and after WWII the same happened to the social structure. To increase working class representation, new factories were built and existing ones were (also) enlarged. As a result, since 1945 the population of the capital increased over threefold. To provide sufficient accommodation, new housing estates were built, including the allegedly biggest one in central Europe with 115,000 residents. The city sprawled in all directions allowed by the geographic location and the proximity to the border, extending over an enormous area. For comparison, nearby Vienna, which is four times bigger, covers the area that is less than 10% larger than that of Bratislava. In the meantime, the majority of factories went bankrupt, leaving behind vast brownfields (postindustrial areas), some of them stretching as far as the city centre. Despite abundant unused land, the city authorities did not impose any restrictions on building development of quality farmlands on the outskirts of the city. As a result, the situation deteriorated. In addition, due to bombings during WWII and the destruction of historic castle grounds, vast undeveloped stretches of land are generally regarded as an integral part of Bratislava’s genius loci. If any avail- able land gets built over, typically another development takes place in the vicinity, usually replacing some postindustrial facilities. In this way, the city is permanently scarred (overgrown with weeds, cluttered as a result of wrong space management, and ultimately defaced). Both legislation and daily practice contribute to the relatively easy demolition of industrial heritage. It is often said that the worst that could happen to a building is for it to be entered in the National Register of Historic Places. Vast city space requires proper maintenance of public space, transportation services and the like. The authorities are merely paying lip service to the idea that public transport should take priority. No new tram line has been constructed; on the contrary, one of them has been out of order for ages, and the other ones are under threat. Building the underground has been a leitmotif of all election campaigns. No wonder that, driven by a post-revolution euphoria, residents tend to rely on private transport – mainly cars (the number of cars in proportion to the population is higher in Bratislava than in many metropolises in Western Europe; moreover, Slovakia is the biggest car manufacturer in proportion to the population). No wonder that the Car-Free Day remains an unknown concept in Bratislava. The situation reflects the local politicians’ approach. According to an interpretation of the long expected and finally accepted urban development plan, the only building which can be situated anywhere (including parks) is a subterranean garage. By the way, as to greenery: existing parks are usually not properly kept, if not downright neglected, so that they could be replaced with brand new, modest buildings. Setting up new parks is out of the question. And it happens that in their public speeches successful local politicians speak against greenery in the city 13-10-30 14:41
  • 67. at every possible opportunity. Traditional market places where local farmers sell their agricultural produce are progressively disappearing (market places survived communism, only to be destroyed by market economy), and that is happening with the city’s consent as it gives priority to developers who are eager to get lucrative land, rather than to citizens in need of high quality fresh local products – all this at a time when market places prosper spectacularly in other places in the world. Moreover, virtually unregulated construction of super- and hypermarkets has contributed to the disappearance of smaller shops, especially in the city centre and hence to its depopulation, and to the reduction of the variety of locally grown produce. Once a rural country, today’s Slovakia is no longer self-sufficient in the food sector and most foodstuffs, produced in Slovakia until recently, have to be imported. It is not only a problem of foodstuffs but mainly of domestic production for the citizens of the country. For example, wooden houses, once immensely popular in Slovakia (as it is one of the most afforested countries in Europe), are very slowly and tentatively coming back into fashion. Municipal recycling policies are equally irrational. Although it has become possible to sort waste, this activity has been left up to the residents’ enthusiasm, with no financial or legal regulations (such as obligatory waste segregation). The author of this text dutifully sorts out rubbish, and regularly puts out a practically empty waste container in front of his house, for which he pays as if it were full to the brim and as if the waste were not segregated. In addition, allocated ‘public’ rubbish dumps and the price of their disposal have resulted in the situation that illegal dumps are scattered all over the city, just like in the whole country. The counterweight for ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 68 the government and municipal policies (i.e. lobbyists’ tools) are two powers: on the one hand, the European Environmental Agency (EEA), with legislature and finance related to its activities at its desposal, and on the other hand, municipal activism. The former may have a great impact on sustainable development but it is less conspicuous, especially with regard to legal norms. What does catch the eye are mindless excesses of the Agency (for instance, hectares of quality farmland covered by solar panels). From this perspective, the approach to sustainable development resembles a sickly adopted child who is kept alive by drip infusions from Brussels. Thus, we tend to repeat all mistakes made by our more mature neighbours, without employing at least any mechanisms to rectify them. as the post-communist consumerist euphoria evaporates. Only then will we realise that our development lacks sustainability. Without it, it is impossible to think of the future, while the question of sustainable development remains just another obligatory slogan when applying for grants. Translation from Slovak into Polish by Emiliano Ranocchi English translation by Anna Mirosławska-Olszewska Activism, based on more or less formal associations, may bring more benefits than millions of subsidies. When cycling to work, I personally appreciate ‘illegal’ repairs of pavements and patched holes in asphalt – an initiative carried out by some anonymous activists at night – much more than municipal designs of cycle lanes. Not to mention the fact that the authorities’ interest in bicycle transport ends with cycle lanes, so the majority of users find it challenging to park their vehicles in the city and outside it. In general, I consider activism to be Slovakia’s greatest hope. Not because it might solve all problems related to sustainable development but because it seems to be the only power which is able to turn officials’ inertia into something perceptible, tangible, concrete and sensible. The words in this article express my criticism of sustainable development in Bratislava. Each of the above mentioned problems is tackled by activism; activists can also resensitise the Slovak society to some questions concerning the natural environment as soon 13-10-30 14:41
  • 68. ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 69 13-10-30 14:41
  • 69. Devis Bonanni All photos in the article: author’s archive Agricultural Methods and Farmers’ Little Manias ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 70 13-10-30 14:41
  • 70. S ince time immemorial, one who considers himself a farmer pictures himself behind the wheel of a tractor. In other words, ever since tractors came into existence, generations of farmers do a double take at farming machinery fairs. Horsepower is a measure of the ploughman’s masculinity. Tractors manufactured today have horsepower of over three hundred so you could plough the whole world with them. The tractor is an indispensable tool in the farmer’s career. It was one for me, too – at first. I knew a time would come for me to sit on a tractor and enjoy the smell of burning diesel coming out of the exhaust pipe. Modern vehicles, with leather seats and sound-proof cabins that make you think of a spaceship – those in which you feel that even the roughest terrain seems flat like a billiards table – did not appeal to me. In our village I saw a woodcutter driving his Same at a trot, without a cabin even in the middle of winter, unheeding frost that would come late in the afternoon. His only shelter was his thick beard and flannel shirt. ‘My tractor will be one like that’, I thought. Old school. Rusty. Loads of ironware, wornout rubber gear knobs, the Diesel engine so slow you can count its revolutions. ‘They are out of production’, says an old breeder. Sometimes in winter you are tempted to curse God when you are trying to start it in the morning, but once you have done it, you do not need to stop till the end of your life. Today it is sheer electronics, you don’t savvy it, and when something’s wrong, they have to plug it to the computer to set it right. A tractor without a cabin, to feel the cold air stinging your face, and the smell of the first soil ploughed in the spring. Ah, yes, soil – how much land do you need to have to justify buying your first tractor? Having acquired half a hectare, I bent over backwards to get a power cultivator. It is half a tractor but enough for me. Two wheels. An engine. Four hundred and fifty cubic centimetres and twelve horsepower, as it is advertised at the vehicle exchange. The place where I went to pick it up on Sunday morning was so steep that even trees seemed to find it difficult to grow straight. Why they needed the power cultivator remains a mystery to me. ‘I’ll get myself a power crawler, at least I’ll be able to pick up wood’, the seller assured me. ‘So I thought’, I said, ‘with all these verticals…’. Having returned to the base, I needed a good half hour to start it. I repeat what I wrote above: you can go crazy when you want to start a tractor like that but then you can leave it on for the rest of your life. Two wheels and an engine. And a cutting tool, of course. The rotating wheel grinds soil so finely that it looks like sea sand. Logically, if a bricklayer often has a finger missing, a farmer should soon lose a toe, since these blades rotate so close to the farmer’s shoes. Luckily, my toes are still in place, at least for now. Other accessories: a scythe for haymaking and a small plough. To start it, you need to wind the cord round a metal disc and pull with all your strength. If you do it too weakly, the cord will only wind half length and return. If you do not let go soon enough, it will break your spine. If you have pulled rightly, the engine will cough and then snuffles will come out of the exhaust pipe. In such cases the engine seems to sigh. It is silent for a very long time, and then it coughs again and again. And then it clunks triumphantly. Such an incredible clunk! Shot followed by shot, and you pull the accelerator cable to hear the roar of the whole four hundred and fifty cubic centimetres. On the metal plaque it is written ‘Lombardini engines’. Twelve horsepower. You put it in gear and drive off. A moment’s uncertainty and the cutter plunges into the soil. It raises such a dust-cloud that you would never be spotted in it but for the noise vibrating in the air. Your feet are strewn with moist soil because you’re driving a two-wheeler, negotiating your way across a pristine field. It was a season of great satisfaction. You did all your farm work using fifteen litres. The ironware, which, I am sure, will live longer than me, used half a litre per hour. Someone should write a book on old-time engines and machines. You could say that inventors put their soul into them, and that is why they can live longer than us. I was lent a reaping machine for one summer. One of those models that made rural Italy’s history. Try mentioning it to an old cowherd and you will see how moved he will be, against his nature. Those were the reaping machines! Petrol ignition, and then diesel, which is how fuel oil was once called in the place where I come from. To start one, you had to pull the cord thirty times. Each time it would snuffle, and then die immediately. And you wondered if the engine would ever start. Then a shot – and the next one, and the next – set the blades in rotation. Cough by cough, and off you go making hay in June heat. Those vibrations made your bones ache on days on end. Uneven terrain, contrary to laws of physics, on almost vertical slopes. You had to have strong arms, but arms like that do not exist anymore, just like old-time machines. You left the tractor on in the field, for fear it would not start again, and ran to grab some food. Those were machines with souls, to be cherished and loved. To furrow a field made up of grassy clods that do not have the slightest intention to yield, you need a plough. A tractor driver from a neighbouring village came, with over a hundred horsepower, and ‘opened’ the soil with a heavy blade. The rest was my job. I drove up and down over giant clods, which autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 71 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 71 13-10-30 14:41
  • 71. bounced me up as they pleased. I was a thin branch following a mad snuffling power cultivator trying to pick up clods and spit them out behind in a river of soil. Shot by shot, the grassy coat turned into a flat surface of lovely soil under April sun. The field, finally under control and ready to sow, exuded peace and tranquility. I went up a hill over the field, sat down and enjoyed the view from there. At that time - since forever - the Women of Carnia poked their pitchforks into the soil. You can see those women in fields next to any village, stooped over naked, powerful land. They deserve a monument. Out of those patches of land, which they loved more than their husbands, they scraped enough food to feed generations of Italians when their men were abroad looking for good fortune. Whenever they came back, the desire was so strong that nine months later there was another mouth to feed. Then the Women of Carnia widened the potato field a bit more and sowed a few dozen more rows of sweetcorn. Today the Women of Carnia are old. They are widows of husbands who did not bear old age as well as they have. And so on any April day you can see the spectacle of those old women around villages. They are stooped so low not to be closer to their beloved land but because their spines got bent during a lifetime of toil. They are all septa- or octagenarians. Headscarves and aprons with a snuff-box in the pocket – the only concession for the sake of addiction. Legs clad in worn-out shoes that have seen many springs. Pitchforks in hands. I have never understood why the hoe became an icon of the rural world. In my homeland we use pitchforks. Those for haymaking, similar to Neptune’s tripod but with one prong more and with thicker and stronger iron. Pressing the wooden handle, you poke it into the soil and turn it, shaking and hitting with prongs to break it. In Carnia we do not dig with the spade, but hit with the pitchfork. If properly done, this movement requires the strength of a child. The lever on the handle enables you to turn soil by pressing with only one finger. With the help of your knee, you can turn soil without straining your spine. It is a perpetual movement, which the Women of Carnia have mastered better than anything else. Then there are also weeds in fields. Following each digging cycle, the experienced arm will pull out tufts which, if left behind, might plague the plantations. But even weeds understood long ago that they are no match for those timeless women, so they only gaze from a distance. That is why mountain fields look like the gardens of Paradise with rich and abundant crops. Beans follow potatoes, potatoes follow beans. Always the same seeds, carefully stored. Always the same ritual, based on a seemingly primitive technology, which is so efficient. That is how the Women of Carnia do it. One of them is Auntie Aura but she is rather cosmopolitan. She has been to England (she says it in English) looking for good fortune. In the first season that I used the power cultivator she stood at the edge of the field, admiring the dirty river flowing from under the cutter onto my feet. Unlike her peers, she has always been fascinated by modernity. So, when the signs of aging started to ail her, she asked me to test this wonder machine in her field. I ploughed her plot of less than one hundred metres three or four times, miraculously turning over surface soil to a depth of thirty centimetres. The whole village was impressed and I started to work other plots. Old women, spared their perpetual toil, blessed and praised me. What an engine! A miracle making demon! In mid-June I went to Auntie’s again. She told me dreadful news, ‘I’ve never had so much soft soil as this year but neither have I had so many weeds overgrowing my beans’. Tumbleweed was everywhere, I saw it with my own eyes. Her neighbours’ fields were infested with amaranth. A disaster. I thought those old women must be cursing me, who had once been their one-day hero. I sat down, trying to put two and two together. The same thing happened to sweetcorn fields ploughed with the cultivator a month before. In one night they were overgrown with hundreds of castilleja coccinea, a weed resembling ground-creeping ivy which wraps itself around young seedlings. Alarmed, I called Alvisi. I was considering turning everything over and sowing the whole field again. ‘Calm down’, he said, ‘I’m on my way’. He arrived in the afternoon, and walked round the autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 72 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 72 13-10-30 14:41
  • 72. field, pausing from time to time to think. Finally, he announced, ‘We’ll save each and every seedling and we’ll back up other weeds’. At first it seemed absurd to me. We worked hard, bending our backs or knees not to strain either of them. When we finished, it was dark but young sweetcorn shoots were safe, at least for now. What happened in my aunt’s field, same as in ours? While breaking soil, the cutter in the power cultivator set free the seeds in clods of soil which a pitchfork would not break. As I wrote, the result is a sea of soil so fine that it looks like sand. Thousands of seeds were opened and activated while the soil was broken. Also, in our field hundreds of castilleja roots were cut, each into several pieces, so they could multiply freely. It was the first time that I started to doubt if mechanics was really a nostrum for the farmer’s toil. The image of me sitting in the tractor seat began to teeter. Ever since people have lived on this planet, they have been trying to put the universe in order. That is why we build straight walls, rather than uneven ones; we take care of our homes; we have invented mathematics to apprehend the complexity of things. That is why a farmer wants a flat, glistening stretch of land where he can draw farming geometries that bring peace to his soul. External order patches his internal chaos. Weeds are the major obstacle to achieve it. One day we deluded ourselves that we could win this fight with tractors and chemistry. The 1950s. They were called the green revolution, as if it could conceal the deceit that would be revealed anyway. Farming is an infinitely complex activity. In a cornfield there is not only sweetcorn – there is the whole Nature. There are hundreds of species of plants, insects, bacteria, and even a few small rodents. There are big stones protecting anthills, there is gravel which drains water deep down. There is life and death, there are things growing and things withering – in other words, decomposing. Today the farmer knows nothing about his own land. He sits on his tractor and never gets off to take a close look at what is happening a metre and a half below his bottom. He looks from afar and it seems to him he is free from his ancestors’ toil. He looks from afar and deludes himself that he controls everything from the height of the steering cabin. In the co-op he is told to farm his land with that machine, fertilise it with that product, sow enhanced seeds, de-weed it with that substance, and eventually harvest. And then you will be told how much your work is worth. autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 73 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 73 13-10-30 14:41
  • 73. Nature’s complexity is brought down to five or six standard procedures. When faced with the disaster of spreading castilleja, following the same crooked logic, I told Alvisi to turn everything over and re-sow the field. I was looking without seeing. That year we had to intervene three times to save sweetcorn seedlings from the deadly embrace of creeping ivy. Patient. Bent over land. Slow. Trustful. During the second intervention I understood that the idea we clutched at was not completely senseless. Castilleja, whose spread had been slowed down by our activities, receded. It was replaced by other weeds but they were less harmful for sweetcorn. Each alimentary plant has its enemy. Sweetcorn is the most resilient but you cannot expect miracles. Sow thistle was spreading, and there were a few islands of stinging nettles. These plants can be used in salads, soups or as toppings for tasty rice. I saw a growth of clover, a soilimproving plant that has always been used in crop rotation. In October we had a modest crop from that patch of land: three or four sacks of sweetcorn. But we also had new awareness. What would have happened if we had followed my advice to turn everything over and re-sow the field? Castilleja would have multiplied from a hundred to ten thousand, grateful for our ignorance. What grows in that field today? Come and see. There is not a twig of creeping ivy. With our help, clover is gradually replacing it, regaining advantage over other weeds. At that time, I was already familiar with Japanese farmer philosopher Fukuoka and his method called ‘natural farming’. It made interesting reading, but before I could truly appreciate it I had to bang my hard head against a thin stalk of creeping ivy. Masanobu Fukuoka proposes a farming method based on copying the natural model and on working ‘with’, rather than ‘against’. Fukuoka had not ploughed his rice and barley fields for over twenty five years. He uses biological defense instead of pesticides and chemical de-weeders. He lets spiders thrive on his estate so they keep other harmful insects under control. He backs up continuous clover coverage as a means to scare away other weeds, to protect land from being washed away and to improve soil. On this base he grows rice in the summer season and barley in autumn and winter. He sows clay-covered seeds, scattering them directly onto the ground; he does not make holes or furrows. Fukuoka claims that in Nature seeds fall onto the ground and germinate. There are no seeds on earth which could not grow in such conditions. His rice seeds do germinate: he sows them onto a barley field in autumn; next spring, when barley is harvested, rice will have the space and time to grow. The same refers to barley. The Japanese farmer used to be a microbiologist and worked in a lab but, having noticed that the aim of modern science is to subdue Nature to human greed, he came back to his family estate, to his land. The method of clay-covered seeds has been used in places destroyed by fires and in semi-arid areas. In both cases plant life was successfully restored and vast areas were saved. And yet, above all, Fukuoka proposes a philosophical approach to Nature. If land cultivation is to change, the man who cultivates it must change, as well. One spring morning a neighbour of mine who owns a meadow nearby – a young man whose old man left him a small potato field and forced him to farm it – decided that he could autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 74 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 74 13-10-30 14:41
  • 74. not stand slaving on Sundays while he could enjoy the cool shade of the local. A friend of his came over in his tractor and thrust the mechanical cutter into the ground. I was looking at it from a distance and shaking my head. I was laughing. Not at them – at us. At us, fools that we are. I had already been through it. I did not interrupt them; they would not have listened anyway. In ten minutes’ time the field turned into a finely cut smooth surface. A fortnight later, the moment that the first potatoes started to germinate, they had competition – a horde of purple plants. Those plants grew overnight only in that one field. There was not a purple plant in sight anywhere but in that field. The young man cursed the old man and the land but still did not see. Ever since the following season the field has been abandoned. The soil is exhausted, tired of potatoes and of people. The mysterious purple plant does not represent Nature’s violence aimed to punish the young man but a sheer need to regain balance. The plant was probably the only one able to grow in such distressed soil and its development was the first step towards recovering ecological balance. When we plough a field, what we actually do is wound grass. Why should Nature not try to heal the wound? This is a simple reason why the farmer will always have to deal with weeds. Here and there clover grows, and we promise ourselves that one day its white flowers will spread all over the place, together with flowers of other leguminous plants improving the soil. We plant two or more species in the same area. We do our best to vary crops in space and time. We are looking for our own way because this is what farming is about: not a mathematical formula but a dialogue between the man and his land. And we bring to this dialogue all our anxieties, fears and hopes. Translated from Italian into Polish by Emiliano Ranocchi English translation by Anna MirosławskaOlszewska I still make mistakes today. In agriculture making mistakes is a rule. Although I have learned a lot, I have not learnt everything. Sometimes my ignorance surprises me. I am perfectly aware that a certain activity is counterproductive, and yet I keep on doing it. Stereotypes refuse to die. In the Black Sheep fields1 we are trying to learn from our mistakes. We have set up flowerbeds which we have not tilled for several seasons, and they are still soft enough to make furrows by hand. 1 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 75 Emi doda przypis 13-10-30 14:41
  • 75. The Future of the Messag Mateusz Curyło Pictures: Agata Leszczyńska Computers may be copying machines, but, thanks to Aphrodite, we are not. Friedrich A. Kittler, Universities: Wet, Hard, Soft, and Harder1. We live in singular times. Some philosophers, like Vilém Flusser, call them postmodernist or posthistoric. Flusser stresses the loss of the dominant role of writing in the society and new ways of creating modes of valuation, perception and acting in the world. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman refers to them as ‘liquid modernity’. The category of liquid modernity puts existential uncertainty of our time at the forefront. Paul Crutenz describes our time as a new geological epoch: anthropocene. The anthropocene, in existence for 200 years, is supposed to have an unprecedented impact on people on planet Earth. Robert Pepperell calls our condition ‘posthumanist’. Posthumanism means that humans lose the dominant position in the world. Cyberneticist Norbert Wiener called our times ‘the second industrial revolution’. As a result, man is to compete with machines not only in terms of manual work but also intellectual activity. Bernard Stiegler uses the phrase ‘the age of philosophical engineering’. It is a time when philosophical ideas are implemented in technology. We tend to refer to our time as ‘the information age’ or ‘the age of information revolution’. It just goes to show that we do not know what we are talking about. http://csmt.uchicago.edu/kittleruniversities.pdf (access: 16.8.2013) 1 The concept of information is applied in many fields. We use it in the theory of communication, informatics, cybernetics, biology, marketing, knowledge management and cognitive science. And yet we do not understand what information is. There is Shannon’s mathematical theory of information and measuring information. It is the easiest to imagine the bit as a measure of information produced by a single coin toss. A coin toss entails uncertainty. It can be heads or tails. After the coin is tossed, uncertainty decreases: from two options (heads or tails) to one option (for example, tails). In this way one coin toss produces one bit of information. For a series of tosses uncertainty grows exponentially. For two tosses (two bits) there are four options, for three tosses (three bits) there are eight. This way of thinking raises various questions. Does a coin toss really have a potential, or does it have it only due to our lack of knowledge? Does a toss of a counterfeit coin (with two tails) produce autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 76 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 76 13-10-30 14:41
  • 76. re age information or not? How does the substance of the coin and symbols etched on it relate to information? Speaking of information, we call into existence another component of the world, apart from mass and energy. Attempts to solve dilemmas related to information are undertaken by scientists in many fields. When biologist Terrence W. Deacon strives to explain information through the category of absence, presence, intention, reference and difference, he gets confused among the terms used by Derrida. Unfortunately, he lacks the French philosopher’s appeal. The apparently exact definition of information is in fact more confusing than French philosophy. Over half a century has elapsed since Alan Turing invented ‘a universal computing machine’, Claude Shannon published A Mathematical Theory of Communication, and John van Neuman developed and implemented computer architecture. These theories are fundamental for contemporary computers. Mobile phones, tablets, notebooks, giant Google and Facebook servers are all based on Turing’s theory of the universal computing machine, Shannon’s theory of information and the von Neumann architecture. If a computer scientist were asked what a computer is, s/he would probably quote one of the above theories, or another one that was omitted, and would try to explain it. The computer would turn out to be a universal computing machine, a machine transferring symbols or a machine processing information. If we look at a desktop computer, we will see a singular effect. The computer consumes power from a socket or a battery and transforms electricity into heat, light and sound. From a naïve point of view, the computer is a flashing and noise-making heater. Computers are traditionally considered to ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 77 be symbol-processing telescopes which are used to watch those symbols. Look at the computer, and you will see how symbols process themselves. Enter an equation, and you will get a result. Brian Cantwell-Smith discovered the opposite to be true. Symbols and IT theories are telescopes with which we observe computers. Computing machines are analogue heaters in which more or less controllable processes take place. These processes can be described using Turing’s theory of machine, the Lambda calculus and the theory of information. Concrete processes are defined by means of programming languages. Computers do not process information, symbols or programs. Information, symbols and programs are ways to describe how computers work. In fact, we do not know what computers are or what the nature of the computational processes that they perform is. We call our times the information age or the age of computerisation. We do not understand the nature of information and we do not understand the nature of computational processes in the computer. We know, however, that we live at a time of radical change. The extent of the radicality of the transformation is usually described by an analogy to the emergence of writing about four thousand years ago. Writing extended human cognitive capacities, including the capacity to remember, reason and issue orders. Although written records were used in Babylon and Egypt for administrative, religious and economic purposes, it was only Greek culture that made full use of the potential of the new media technology. Phonetic, alphabetical, universal and easy to learn, writing made it possible for personal lyric poetry and philosophy to develop. The alphabet turned gods into concepts. Whimsical gods were replaced by coherent, single, clear, well-defined and cognisable concepts. Writing divided the world into the object and subject of cognition, and fostered the emergence of good and justice. Everything that we traditionally consider the greatest achievement of human spirit, including the concept of the human spirit itself, we owe to the Greek use of writing. The emergence of writing had a tremendous influence on the human condition: mental, including the brain; intellectual, including the emergence of lyric poetry and Platonism; social, including the beginning of history as an accumulation of knowledge which enables historical activity and the notion of linear history; economic, including the possibility to record transactions and debt and universal numerical measure of value. We live in equally radical times. The von Neumann architecture, which builds and explains present-day computers, clarifies and is clarified by old media technologies. Putting it simply, it consists of addresses, buses and data. Commands to read/ write addressed data run along buses. In the discursive von Neumann media system the human being is an address to which the command to write or read flows. In the recurrent structure command data at addresses contains read/write data commands at next addresses. Friedrich Kittler, German media theorist, proposed to simplify the von Neumann architecture and to apply it to previous media systems. Taking McLuhan’s ‘medium is the message’ to extremes, he claimed that there was no software, and technologies were a response to other technologies. Hence, he discarded people, programs and messages from 13-10-30 14:41
  • 77. the theory of media, leaving sheer hardware and its schemes: hardware making hardware, technology making technology. McLuhan’s ‘medium is the massage’, sometimes translated as ‘medium is the message’, was actually a printing mistake, work of creative incident. Kittler’s view of the human being as a negligible source of error in hardware is both an exact and radical theory of media. The von Neumann architecture is architecture of the army, royal power, Egyptian use of writing, school and watch. The commander issues an oral order addressed to a subordinate, overwriting the command to attack. In the king’s presence, the subordinate awaits the order to read data. The king addresses himself. In ancient Egypt hieroglyphic writing made it possible for central power to develop thoroughly. Writing enabled recording trading transactions by attributing to addresses data in the form of enormous amounts of gold and slaves. The data was stored in trading records addresses. Owing to writing, the possibility to transfer commands over distances and addressing orders, recurrence inherent in the von Neumann architecture, enabled an unprecedented development of hierarchy and specialisation. Workforce mobilisation that was necessary to build was subordinate to the recursive power structure. The biggest megamachine recorded in history, whose message – the Cheops pyramid – has been the best preserved of the seven wonders of the world, was mainly made up of people and Neumann architecture are primitive in comparison to modern machines deliberately built based on the von Neumann architecture. had the von Neumann architecture. School has transferred the von Neumann structure to a place previously occupied by education. A pupil at school is an address recorded as data at the address in the class register. The pupil is addressed by the register. S/he is overwritten during lessons, and during an exam s/he receives the command to read data. Present-day examination forms, often made for assessment procedures, contain addresses and data themselves. Reading the pupil is changed into the yes/no in the examination form addresses. The pupil is quantified into binary-read data, and is thus divided into further addresses, much below the level of the individual number in the register, below the individual examination form number, below the human address. The watch, the analogue predecessor of the smartphone, is probably the first automated personal device turning the human being into a cyborg managed by the von Neumann architecture. The register is the dial, the indicator bus sends the read data command from a given address. The read data command from the given address is addressed to the proud owner of the watch. The ticking of the mechanism makes it possible to determine the policy of sleep, work and free time that is independent of the overwritten biological clock. Machines that can be described by the von ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 78 Norbert Wiener, mathematician and one of the founding fathers of cybernetics, lay the foundations for the construction of digital computers. He was also one of the first persons who pointed out the consequences of changes brought forth by the onset of the computerisation age. Wiener needed computers for a concrete and peculiar, in fact magical, purpose. He wanted to facilitate shooting down a plane in flight. To shoot down a plane, you need to shoot not at where the plane is but where it will be. The bullet will hit the plane in the future. You need to know the plane’s future. The message is a set of discrete or continuous measurements distributed in time. The eardrum measures continuous air vibrations, turning them into discrete neutron launches. I receive the message. I hear the message. Sometimes I know quite quickly what someone wants to say. The message has a past and a future. If I learn the past of the plane, I can, by making statistical calculations, predict its probable future. Who knows the future of the plane reduces the risk of a non-hit so s/he saves time and ammunition. Predicting the future of the message is currently nicely called the Big Data information technology. The big data is stored on big servers. The task of the big data and big servers is to save time and resources by predicting the message. Large-scale savings were first introduced by Wal-Mart. The chain of American supermarkets, known for low wages and an even lower profit margin of contractors, derived its power from information technologies. If we know the cost of transport, labour and components, we can calculate predicted profits of companies with which we are negotiating or 13-10-30 14:41
  • 78. we might negotiate. We learn the partner’s possible messages. We strengthen our bargaining position. Wal-Mart used the cybernetic design of an antiaircraft gun to shoot down employees’ and contractors’ profits. The Wal-Mart scheme corresponds to the use made of almost all big servers in the world. They deal with predicting messages such as sickness, stock exchange transactions risk or an opportunity to sell a product. Everywhere that a new server is placed, there appear: risk marginalisation and profit margin increase. Everything works as long as we consider computers as information processing systems, and assume that information is free. As long as we believe in magic half-truths. The computer is a heater. If it does not emit thermal energy to the environment, it will melt down. Information costs. Measurements consume energy and someone has to pay for it. Big servers are big heaters, and the big data are big costs. Heaters are put/ located in cool places, and costs of measurements are transferred to the society. We know of examples of the risk of using big servers that led to social disasters. The economic crisis of 2008 took place when transferring risk in the financial system outside big financial servers owners resulted in the overheating of the whole system. Privatisation of the insurance sector combined with the predictions of future incidence rate in the USA resulted in the transferring of the insurance costs of the sickest and poorest to the whole American society. In both cases the system was used to transfer risk outside ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 79 itself. In both cases the system generated or is generating enormous costs for the whole society. Jaron Lanier, American pioneer of computerisation and new media, believes that very similar principles underlie the operation of Google, Facebook and any other media which do not want to balance the costs of data accumulation. Fortunately, or perhaps to our detriment, Google and Facebook have not overheated yet. The problem of free information, potential profits and information processing costs is described in the theoretical tale of Maxwell’s demon. The demon is between two containers of gas, and controls the door between them. As we know from experience, a glass of water will eventually have the same temperature as the surroundings. The two connected containers equalise heat. Maxwell’s demon is a clever fraudster. The temperature depends on the speed of movement of molecules in the container of gas and in the glass of water. The demon observes each molecule passing through the door and opens and shuts it accordingly, storing the warm ones in one container and the cold ones in the other. As a result, the temperatures in both containers are high and low, respectively. It is as if water started to boil in the glass all by itself. Having divided the molecules into warm and cold ones, Maxwell’s demon opens the door and feels draught. He has just created a perpetuum mobile, a source of ever- lasting power. To create a perpetuum mobile, the demon would only need free information. Measurement is never free and always requires energy expenditure. Information processing generates heat. Hence, the demon has to collect energy from the surroundings to function, and excrete energy to compute. Every demon, ultimately, consumes and excretes. It is also the case of the magic derivatives which caused the financial crisis. It is also the case of computerised privatisation of health insurance. It is also any other case when someone claims they have a perpetuum mobile. A perpetuum mobile does not exist, and the society bears the cost. Military data addressing command architecture and belief in future predictions via a perpetuum mobile are two foundations of contemporary information technologies. The von Neumann architecture has greatly developed since the time of ancient Egypt. Man is no longer the final address. Instead, concrete memory cells, libidal energies or behavioural systems are addressed. It so happens in the case of cinema, advertising, the majority of computer games and school leaving examinations. In Egypt economic records made debt and property possible – a record of past and present receivables. Currently, evaluation of the future of the message has made credit possible – debt on account of future profits. The big data technologies are increasingly strong and efficient. We are becoming better and better at predicting the future of the message and getting the future into debt. Even if our technologies do not, or cannot, work, we do not mind. We invest into the new antiaircraft guns technology on a mass scale. We take aim at our own future. 13-10-30 14:41
  • 79. Combining the von Neumann architecture with the Big Data results in the antiaircraft gun theory situation described already in the 1950s. In the former media systems man was the read or write address. Today it is not people but concrete memory and behavioural units that are read and overwritten. We count digitalised units to communicate - not with them but with their habitus and memory. Advertising does not need to appeal. On Coca-Cola bottles we can find many random names and titles. Masters and Johns. They aim not at an aesthetic effect but at a physical extension of the neuron network capacity related to the brand. Man is deprived of the former place in the media and social system. Man is no longer addressed. Due to increasing automatisation of computing, people who do intellectual work are losing sources of income. Let us forget about invoice clerks and typesetters. The first to go were journalists and musicians, the next will be drivers, teachers and doctors. The numerous class of highly qualified intellectual workers is being replaced by centralised computer systems working in clouds. The middle class is getting impoverished, while power and capital is being accumulated. This poses a threat to the economic and social order. A symptom is the decline of democracy, decrease in budgetary receipts and increase in unemployment rates. This is the source of various terms to refer to our times. Due to an enormous amount of data processed and a change of its evaluation, we call them posthistory and postmod- ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 80 ernism. Due to uncertainty stemming from risk transfer outside central servers, we call them liquid modernity. Due to the energy released and the size of heaters used, we call them the anthropocene. Due to the loss of man’s position as an address in the media environment, we call it posthumanism. Due to the competition between intellectual workers and machines, we call it the second industrial revolution. Due to the belief in antiaircraft guns to shoot down the future and a perpetuum mobile, we call it the information age. Writing served not only to build pyramids. In other cultures there have been some limitations on von Neumann structures and technology. Norbert Wiener jokes that one of them was burning magicians and gadgeteers. It is a cruel joke. Fortunately, there are other solutions than burning people. Jews came out of Egypt and received six hundred and thirteen commandments. Three hundred and sixty-five are negative so the situation is still bleak. Jews clearly separated the part of culture that is liable to the von Neumann copying structure. There exists a distinctive set of carefully copied data in the form of the Sefer Torah. Both the process of its copying and physical properties of the medium are strictly determined. The data in the Sefer Torah is not an abstraction detached from the mode of recording. The addressing structure in the form of the letter layout is largely determined by the Halakha. Any mistake in the data is corrected. Each copy is carefully proofread. According to the Halakha, writing an additional book equals omitting a book. Copying the Sefer Torah has the von Neumann structure. Both the number of addresses and the data overwritten on them must tally with the original message. Oral Halakha is overbuilt on the von Neumann structure of the rewrite data command at addresses. Oral law no longer refers to addresses of the book but to people. It is continuously being created. The media structure of the Jewish tradition is notable for its serious treatment of both the command-copied Sefer Torah and of the position of man in the oral media environment. The Sefer Torah is a read-only memory to be copied and stored. It is non-negotiable and non-overwritable. As a result, it is extremely difficult to introduce dangerous changes to culture. Jews do not accept potential messiahs. Every rabbi is the wisest but none is the only wise one. The only wise one is the Sefer Torah. At the same time, it is treated as a person, since it is a part of culture. It deserves a burial. The burial of the Sefer Torah, paradoxically, emphasises that communication belongs to the living. It emphasises the fact that a living person is the most important part of the media system. The Jewish media system, with its tough, inviolable core and knarls negotiated by the living, is probably the most lasting. In the system with the Sefer Torah there is a central read-only type of memory and a read-write type discussion about it. To violate the read-only memory, one would have to be a messiah. Yet no one is the only wise one. Jews teach us that a lack of trust in messiahs is an alternative to witch burning. It is not technologists, wizards or gadgeteers operat- 13-10-30 14:41
  • 80. ing locally, on the outskirts of culture, that are dangerous. Danger comes from messiahs who try to change the very core of the social and media system using their authority. Greek culture was also founded on the tension between oral and written elements. However, the foundations of culture – the judiciary and epic poetry – were embedded in oral culture. Easy to use alphabetic writing developed the culture of lyric poetry and philosophy. The von Neumann structure was used for the purpose it serves best: to memorise and copy. Writings by Greek philosophers and scientists were ways to create and store their output. In Phaedrus, one of Plato’s dialogues, we can find the most outstanding example of the Greek use of written word. Phaedrus and Socrates are lying under a sycamore tree. Phaedrus is reading Lysias’ speech. From time to time Socrates asks Phaedrus to go back, or to repeat a passage. He always takes notice of how Lysias manipulates feelings, and how he repeats rather than arguments. Without the memory of writing Socrates would not be able to do so. He would flow with the speech. Phaedrus is a record of one of the moments when critical use of writing was invented. Critical and individualistic use of writing, radically different from the Jewish approach, made it possible for Greek culture to develop dynamically. Paradoxically, it was possible only owing to a strong oral culture. When the new technology supplants the old one, Greece begins to develop. writing destroys the Horoi mortgage stones, relieving Athenians of debt. Athens become free and powerful. Even during Socrates’ life, weakened and increasingly literate Athens codified land trade. Platonic criticism is powerless. Greece was strong as long as the new medium was controlled by the oral tradition. As long as writing was used to a limited extent, both for political aims and in individual creation. The Greek example teaches us that librarians often lose sight. The Chinese adopted other solutions. Zhuangzi derided a crane helping to plough land, and learned writers derided perspective. Everything that released man from daily toil was treated with suspicion. A legend says that Taoist wise men acquired scientific knowledge but did not pass it on. Depriving others of the pleasure and effort of making discoveries spoils the game. The ‘Taoist’ approach is interesting and contrary to ‘good practices’ of interface designs. Effort allows one to understand and grow. A lack of effort causes degeneration of muscles, mind and body. Ancient Taoists teach us to be suspicious of interfaces that promise power without effort. At present we find ourselves in a rather amusing situation. We have messiahs from Google and communities which believe in the coming of Singularity and transferring of minds into the internet. Although it is hard to believe, it is happening. Singularity is the time in history when intelligent computers will create new intelligent computers. People will become dispensable. For some incomprehensible reasons they are to be transferred to the internet as artificial intelligences. DARPA is researching the possibility to extend soldiers’ lives in the social media. Algorhythms would extend a soldier’s life on Facebook trying to copy his behaviour. There exists the University of Singularity founded by Raymond Kurzweil. It deals with science which is to prepare us for a big event. In 2013 Google has revealed its vision of the future. Minds on the internet on Earth which is a copy of Earth stored in data bases. ‘Governments are too focused on democracy and the rule of law,’ says a digital copy of Larry Page, Google’s CEO, ‘we’ve found those things to be distractions’. It can be observed in the case of legislature in Athens. The law written down by Solon begins with a critical assessment of the situation created by the old constitution. A combination of the powers of speech and ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 81 13-10-30 14:41
  • 81. We ourselves believe in the promise of power achieved effortlessly with ‘good practices’ of interface creation. Interfaces are supposed to represent complicated activities with simple metaphors which will enable the user to rule computers without any knowledge or understanding. What is worse, the young generation is much worse at using computers than the older generations. Brought up on modern interfaces, it does not understand what drivers or catalogues are. Young people are not digital natives. They are blind librarians. At the same time, there is the giant information industry that centralises power and economy. It uses the von Neumann architecture and the antiaircraft gun theory. Messiahs are also blind librarians aiming at themselves. We have lost not only the memory of ‘good practices’ towards technology. We have also lost common sense. Jaron Lanier writes that in our times technologists are crazier than luddites. It is hardly disputable. Various solutions are proposed. The two major ones are: Lanier’s proposition to create a new economy of the internet and Bernard Stiegler’s proposition to allocate 20 % of the GNP to culture. Both are sensible and follow the same idea. It is to make the development of ideas and technology independent of the capitalism of antiaircraft guns. Our legal, economic and social structures are not up to the challenges of new technologies. We are losing balance, wobbling. It refers to both the blinded and those who blind. Even the description of our times proposed at the beginning of this text should be read backwards. For example, if we live in the age of posthumanism, it is not a reason to cheer. It is a challenge to create and secure a new place for man in the new media system. For instance, if history is over, it does not mean that we have no future. It means that the author has died and no god is holding the future of the message in his hand. It would be all the ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 82 nicer if it were not held by antiaircraft guns and arbitrary commands of random messiahs. Afterword In a comment on the margin the Editors asked me to explain my standpoint. What is my proposition? Who should hold the future of the message in hand? The case is open and dubious, so I speak in the first person and in the afterward. Friedrich Kittler, whose theory I overuse here, was a radical fatalist. Despite that fact, he claimed that technology itself was liberating. Ireneusz Kania believes that the Polish nation does not understand tragedy. So I will reply from the depth of national foolishness. Development of technology needs man-hours and enormous financial outlays. There are two kinds of entities which have sufficient capital to hold the future of the message in hand. One of them are international corporations, and the others are states. If they want to survive, states have to notice that technology is not ‘a neutral historical or market force’, but it is part of infrastructure. Someone builds bridges in states, manages borders and collects toll. The first move should be to seek other budgetary receipts than those of labour. There will be less work. A good solution would be electronic state currency with a turnover tax on every transaction. A multiple turnover tax. This tax would generate budgetary receipts in the post-Ford world and would hinder profits deduction. I did not agree with this idea before the ‘invigilation summer’. My view changed while I was writing the article. Another move should be to decide the form of information economy. One solution would be socialism with a civic pension. Another is a kind of Lanier-style internet hypercapitalism. Each instance of data processing in the Big Data would be invoiced and require a micropayment to a data processing account. We would cease to pretend that information is for free. In both cases capital flow would allow new management of man-hours and revival of the middle class. The state and the corporation would cease to be the only entities capable of developing new technology. It would be done by state-supported citizens and hackers or citizens and hackers supporting themselves on new digital economy. Only the second move would result in the emergence of new possibilities of technology development, going beyond investment management and predicting its future. There is yet another step preceding the first step. In favourable conditions it would suffice. It would be to slowly mould civic technological awareness and grassroots investment into socially beneficial technologies. To form good habits and the ethics of technology use. To form a belief that our future is, despite efforts to close it, still open. To become subjects of our own technology, however, we have to understand and accept the way we are its objects. Instead of an answer, I would like to leave the Reader with a feeling of freedom of questioning. Questioning technology which is the open future of our joint message. ----The text is based on the following thinkers’ works: Brian Cantwell-Smith, Zhuangzi, Vilém Flusser, Martin Heidegger, Eric A. Havelock, Harold Innis, John V. A. Finne, Friedrich A. Kittler, Jaron Lanier, Maimonides, Lewis Mumford, Bernard Stiegler, Norbert Wiener. English translation by Anna Mirosławska-Olszewska 13-10-30 14:41
  • 82. Rossano Baronciani End.less ‘[...] how come that, born out of chaos, we are unable to face it ever again; we look and in our eyes order... and shape are born”. Witold Gombrowicz, Kosmos workroom. It is also why studies of Claudio Monteverdi’s 1608 opera Il ballo delle ingrate (The Ballo of the Ungrateful Ladies)1 and an essay by Jean Baudrillard titled Impossible Exchange (1999) inspired an academy graduate to write a theatrical play Senza fin.e (End.less). The educational offer of the Urbino Academy of Fine Arts as described in the academy information brochure covers a full range of professional stage qualifications, including knowledge, competences and skills. What the brochure does not refer to, or at least not directly, is information about real opportunities to experiment with and imagine not only a theatre space but also the whole world hidden behind it. The stage design school auditorium contains not only designing tables and computers, coloured pencils and video projectors but also electric saws and all sorts of tools. In this way background painting, costume sewing, sculpting or lighting design are of equal importance in the stage design A close relationship between Monteverdi’s opera and Baudrillard’s essay, on which visualisations of settings and scenes outlined in the play are based and which is analysed in classes offered by the Academy, was discovered by observing that exchange between the reality of daily life and the virtual dimenThe Ballo of the Ungrateful Ladies is Claudio Monteverdi’s lyrical opera of 1608, based on a poem by Ottavio Rinuccini. The scene features Cupid begging his mother, Venus, to intervene with Pluto, so that he would let ungrateful ladies (women who scorned their lovers) return to earth for a few hours. Then they will see what fate awaits proud women. The theme is heavily influenced by the Counter-Reformation. It also explains why the characters are only mythological beings that belong to the non-real dimension, isolated from human fates and places. 1 sion, where transfer of money, information and all sorts of communications takes place, is essentially impossible. Monteverdi was forced to choose an authentic non-setting for his opera; Baudrillard proves the impossibility of escape to other dimensions of reality or of other potential meanings. ‘The sphere of the real is in itself no longer exchangeable for the sphere of the sign. As with floating currencies, the relationship between the two is growing undecidable, and the rate at which they exchange increasingly random. […] Reality is growing increasingly technical and efficient; everything that can be done is being done, though without any longer meaning anything’2. Depletion of meanings entails an uncontrolled proliferation of markers since places that seem to be real are in fact totally conditioned by signs J. Baudrillard, Impossible Exchage, trans. Chris Turner, London: Verso, 2001, p. 5. 2 autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 83 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 83 13-10-30 14:41
  • 83. Scenes from the theatrical play End.less, directed by Erici Montorsi, Academy of Fine Arts Urbino, all photos in the article: N. Bruschi and symbols which are no longer comprehensible: every day someone devalues our economy, and lends or withdraws credibility to a given company without a sensible justification. Motivations given today will be different tomorrow so it is impossible to distinguish between cause and effect, or to understand if it is really the end of the world as we have known it, or perhaps another worn-out forecast of the same, forever postponed, apocalypse. The starting point for Erica Montorsi’s theatrical play is the condition of young people to whom all opportunities seem to be inaccessible even before they could try: with no work, no prospects, they are blamed for ‘a lack of experience’ and reminded that crisis entails forced prolongation of youth, and hence it is an endless and pointless wait. ‘An attempt to give words my bit of meaning’, says Erica Montorsi, ‘proved unquestionably, at least to me, how important it was to follow the ambiguous nature of the »text«. Writing can gravitate towards description or copying, a tendency I have opposed in an attempt to avoid an abyss of the ending and a static meaning. Generally speaking, I struggled with a very human impulse to start from conclusions and to seek places where I should only eventually get; I forced myself to do so in order to abandon any ways or choices that would lead to a straightforward and definite end, choices that appealed to me with an aura of very reassuring solidity – and yet left me unsatisfied. Very soon the exercise brought me relief which I found inexplicable. It seemed fundamental to keep asking questions and to retain the state of »ambiguity«, which permeated the whole process and seemed to be the very essence of pursuit’. School usually finishes here: it passes on knowledge, and checks whether skills have been acquired and targets accomplished. The Academy of Fine Arts is unique in that the process does not end there; in the school of stage design all assignments (models, drawings and video screenings) must be realized on stage. Chaos in the world should be put in order in the theatre: all details, including scale drawings of scenes, objects and video screenings, must be assessed and realized on stage. ‘The play tells a story of death. The deceased appears on stage in a strange coffin. Poor Enrico Rimasto (literally, the One Left),’ Francesco Calcagnini, senior lecturer in stage design, comments on the staging of Senza fin.e, ‘faces the bureaucracy of the end. It is a comic tragedy where the wrongly deceased is bombarded with questions by three suspicious individuals who, as we learn from the brochure, are examiners. The first examiner is a young woman in a red coat. She has two black holes for eyes; perhaps she is blind as she moves hesitantly, like a sightless person. She welcomes poor Rimasto cordially, stroking him almost like a lover, before she heaps on him a set of formalities that are allegedly indispensable to certify the »deadness« that he acquired through his demise. Amid explanations, certificates with stamp duty paid and other documents, the spectator realizes that a cat must have precipitated or even caused the tragedy but the dynamics of the event do not seem to be of importance. A silent, giant plush he-cat appears on stage, as an enormous caricature of the unexpected procedure. If the first examiner spoke in the language of official forms, the second scene is saturated with all sorts of TV buzzwords whose meaning is hybridized. In this way a whole series of replete, nauseating double meanings emerges’. The third scene features a wheelchair-bound disabled man with tattoos all over his body; he claims to care at all for Enrico Rimasto’s fate, thus sentencing him to an eternal present and an endless wait. Spatial design in the play features the theatre auditorium divided into two sections with a long, narrow platform resembling a catwalk, fully covered with old, dirty and dusty school blackboards. The curtains that reveal and conceal the stage space are two transparent sheets of foil, like specters. A notable aspect is that the project is realised at practically zero cost. Due to cooperation between the Academy of Fine Arts and the Rossini Opera Festival, the school of stage design carefully preserves and utilizes all leftover, discarded materials used to stage operas for the international Gioacchino Rossini festival. The cooperation was sanctioned with a convention based on which Academy students created stage design for the operas Demetrio e Polibio in the 2010 season and Il signor Bruschino in 2012. ‘The formula has never been applied automatically’, says Francesco Calcagnini, ‘but based on the principle of healthy alternation. It makes me think that our contribution is not determined by the autoportret 3 [42] 2013 | 84 ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 84 13-10-30 14:41
  • 84. face was realized with materials recycled in the school workroom, materials that were processed, repainted and radically transformed on school desks and tables. The eventual production in the school auditorium closes with the sounds of Leonard Cohen’s The Future, thus characterizing the generation for whom the idea of sustainable development is not a choice but a necessity. There are no grounds for despair but one should realize that creativity does not result from quality or an abundance of means and instruments; it results from an ability to constantly rethink the world, to restore its form and order which, ultimately, exist only in our eyes. English translation by Anna Mirosławska-Olszewska Translated from Italian into Polish by Emiliano Ranocchi All photos in the article: n. bruschi fixed dates in the festival calendar but that we are always intentionally invited to participate in given projects. Stage production for the Rossini festival certainly contributes to teaching because students perceive an increasingly close relationship between the world of education and the world of work’. It should be added here that the art of recycling is not only a noble ecological practice but, first and foremost, a genuine challenge for imagination and creativity, which, contrary to popular belief, should not be regarded as a sort of godsend or talent acquired by peculiar recombination of genetic codes; creativity stems from daily practice and continuous work on the project. It is not accidental that a play narrating tragicomic challenges that the not-fully-deceased has to ROWNOWAGA_1_UK_cs4-3.indd 85 13-10-30 14:41
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