IAAC - Institute for advanced architecture of Catalonia - Barcelona

Self Sufficiency

The Advanced Architecture Agenda establishes the responsibility to confront the process of global urbanization from a multi-scalar and operational perspective, as well as through the development of prototypes that promote environmental, economic and social sustainability.

In the early 20th century, the concept of ‘dwelling’ was defined as a ‘machine for living’, a reference to a new way of understanding the construction of inhabitable spaces that characterized the Machine Age. Today, a century later, we face the challenge of constructing sustainable or even self-sufficient prototypes; living organisms that interact and interchange resources with their environment, and that function as entirely self-sufficient entities, as trees do in a field. In this way, each action in the territory implies a manipulation of multiple environmental forces, connected with numerous flows and networks such as energy, transport, logistics and information, generating new inhabitable and responsive nodes with the potential to use and produce resources. Territorial and urban strategies as well as building operations therefore call to be coordinated processes that extend architectural knowledge to new forms of management and planning, in which multi-scalar thinking also entails an understanding of shifting dynamics, energy and information transmission, as well as continuous adaptation.

Architecture is always facing the responsibility of responding to emergent needs, technologies and ever-changing programs.

We must ask more of architecture: we as architects should be required to design habitable organisms that are capable of developing functions and integrating the processes of the natural world that formerly took place at a distance, in other points of the surrounding territory. The models created for the metropolis of the last century are unable to accommodate new developments linked to contemporary urban lifestyles, which are ever more discontinuous in space and time. The building-over of the global landscape requires us to project at the same time the full and the empty, the natural and the artificial, in such a way as to make economic impetus compatible with sustainable development. It is necessary to generate complex knowledge linked to a multi-layered reading of realities that have traditionally been thought of as separate, such as energy manipulation, nature, urban mobility, dwellings, systems of production and fabrication, the development of software, information networks, etc. This opens up the possibility of generating new prototypes, capable of engaging with complex and changing environments. Finally, every new urban or architectural production needs to update its materiality and reinterpret construction techniques of the past centuries, which are very directly based on the transformation of locally available materials.

It is now time for interaction between disciplines and technologies to engage in a vision that embraces different fields of research.