Architecture + Nature

What does it mean to be human? This seemingly obvious question was postulated on a recent article by Peter Buchanan writing in the Architectural Review (Nov 2014). More specifically the question was trying to get at what does it mean to be a citizen of planet earth? Inherent in this question is the assumption that had we evolved in a different planet we would be the product of a vastly different environment, whereas Earth, as the name implies is characterised by its abundant and fertile natural environment – Nature. To define ourselves as earthlings is to have, on a fundamental level, a relationship with Nature. This is where architecture comes in. Think of architecture as an umbrella – a man made environment modifier – it protects us from the rain, also from the sun and can be used to shield against the wind. It also defines, when open over our heads, the boundaries of personal space which we may choose to share by holding an umbrella over someone else. The elements of DSC00826architecture are all there – shelter and protection, personal boundaries, possibility for community, multifunctionality. Architecture is what we create to mediate between ourselves and nature. And at its best, architecture sets up a multiplicity of relationships – open but sheltering; changeable with the seasons; tuning us to the variability of climate and also making use of what nature offers us – body affirming warmth, cool breezes on a warm night, light and shade and shadow, starry skies and painted sunsets. Architecture is the means by which we affirm and define our relationship with nature, making the slight but crucial distinction that we are a part of nature, not apart from nature.