Ecourbanism requires thinking at macro, meso and micro scales at the same time. It is also necessary to think outside the current conventions that determine our way of planning and designing settlements. This can be inconvenient and difficult, but it is essential in our quest to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate, and in addressing the various issues that may arise as the world faces finite resource challenges in obtaining food, water, minerals, and energy.
Studio Engleback’s approach is driven by the concept of ecourbanism. The Spanish architect planner Miguel Ruano has described ecourbanism as an approach that “addresses the development of multidimensional sustainable communities designed to be harmonious and balanced environments”. It is a new discipline which is emerging to articulate the complex variables involved in a systemic approach to urban design as opposed to the compartmentalisation of conventional planning.
Ecourbanism is about whole system thinking. It requires simultaneous consideration of the project at macro, meso and micro scales. It is also necessary to think outside the current conventions that determine our way of planning and designing settlements, even as these move with the times. This can be inconvenient and difficult, but it is essential in our quest to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions that affect our climate and all that implies, and in addressing the various issues that may arise as the rapidly changing demography of the world faces new challenges in obtaining food, water and energy.
It is only recently that climatologists have started to use the emerging detailed data from ice, sea bed and lake sediment cores , along with timber samples that show past climate shifts to inform their work. It seems that comparatively small and temporary shifts in climate have led to the rise and fall of civilisations. The key to survival has been flexibility. The problem today is that there is less space for ‘flexibility’ available to mankind than hitherto because we have reached, and in some cases greatly exceeded, our environmental capacity. This means we must design in a multi-functional manner, and do more with less.
Ecology and technology, seemingly at opposite poles, do not have to work in opposition. Strategies for sustainable development, or rather, sustainable retreat, need an understanding and integration of both. Cities and Towns can be regarded vast and complex ecosystems whose impacts have escalated in the past 200 years. Now, at the start of the 21st century we must recognise the effects of urban areas on the wider environment and take steps to manage our life support systems.
Ecotechnology and intelligent systems provide a route to a more rational use of both renewable and nonrenewable resources - recycling and alternative energy sources, whilst a better understanding of natural processes can reduce energy inputs and be a force for environmental repair.
Following on from the much admired Stern Report on The Economics of Climate Change, a comprehensive study of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity that was set in train by the Potsdam G8+ summit in 2009, and it will change the way we value our Environment.
Multi functional environmental design informed by natural systems and ecology, seeks to embody the benefits of environmental interventions that meet the aspirations of architects and clients to add true value to a scheme. In this way, a street tree may be part of the urban design aesthetic whilst also filtering air, reducing urban heating, assisting in reducing energy use in buildings, and acting as a wildlife resource. Applied to a masterplan or an urban strategy, this approach seeks to interpret and inform the total environment and how people use it, and initiates the thinking that needs to be taken down to the micro level so that surfaces and structures are invested with a porosity and opportunity for wildlife that cumulatively adds up to a significant resource supporting the whole site and wider community. It is for this reason that we prefer to term this work Environmental Infrastructure rather than landscape, because it is essential and not merely decorative, and forms the basis of a resilient plan.
In embracing ecourbanism, the team seeks to create a strategy greater than the sum of its parts which addresses diverse, but interconnected, issues of our own and the environment’s well being. Idealistic in tone, the vision is practical and achievable and deliverable with the level of green innovation increasing over time.
Our vision about landscape starts from a careful study by asking the right questions to get the answers that planners and project managers need at the moment in the design process when they can be acted upon.
How should we plan to do more with less to create a more resilient future? The way we use materials and save energy and other resources affects our neighbours near and far, so it is important that design decisions don’t degrade someone else’s back yard, quality of life or local eco-systems and the services they provide. We need to combine water, waste, and energy strategies, with biodiversity informed by cultural heritage.
Ecology and technology, seemingly at opposite poles, do not have to work in opposition. Strategies for sustainable development, or rather, sustainable retreat, need an understanding and integration of both. Cities can be regarded vast and complex ecosystems.
We prefer to term this work Environmental Infrastructure rather than landscape, the etymology suggesting the term is too limiting, and as it is understood differently in other cultures.
layers & holistic approach
The design process needs consideration at different levels and scale simultaneously – the elements, the site and the wider picture.
The Studio Engleback team has considerable knowledge of natural processes, ecosystems, low energy architecture and sustainable principles. A landscape includes the elements contained within, such as built form and massing, and is not limited to the green spaces in between. By examining a place as a series of separate issues or layers, it is easier to understand the specific issues before re-assembling the parts to make the whole.
Multi functional environmental design informed by ecology, seeks to show the benefits of environmental interventions to meet the aspirations of clients, planners, architects, and now politicians to add value and a kind of ‘environmental insurance’ to a scheme.