Towards a new understanding of nature: material ecology in architecture

özdemir, berrin
Nature has changed and updated throughout history as a definition that human species describes the environment in which they live, by attributing meaning to materials, forms and behaviors outside than human activity. Until the Renaissance, nature was believed to be the creation of a transcendental power with an absolute plan containing occult messages about its ideal state to be puzzled, but later it began to be considered as a chaotic environment that should be ordered by human. With the cooperation of the humanistic tradition inherited from the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution's ability to allocate resources to the masses, nature has turned into a domesticated built environment that is the design of human, and this transformation has increasingly been included in the field of culture, which is interpreted as ‘not nature’. In this case, nature has been updated as a term that corresponds to ‘wildlife’ and material resource waiting to be formed in accordance with the programming of social life. However, nature, organized and formed according to human needs, has become a geologic layer called the Anthropocene, and has caused an ecological crisis. Many academic argue that the cause of this crisis lies in our anthropocentric relationship with the concept of nature. Materialism, which is a discourse that uses matter as a post-human and heterogeneous ontological ground in understanding nature, is currently debated with post-human issues under the title of 'new materialism'. There are many undercurrents included in this school of thought, however, the study is positioned in the discourse of performative matter, which evaluates nature as the different combinations of matter-energy. According to this understanding, form is considered as the behavior of matter as a response to both internal forces of a self-organization and external forces of its environment and it is a continuous process. This epistemological approach, which can expand from inanimate substances to biological bodies, has also entered the field of architecture as a current debate. In this context, architecture, which is a discipline on matter and form relations, is shifting from a formalist to a performative approach that takes form through communication with external influences. This study focuses the post-human relationalities as the root of ecological problem. On the architectural scene, the ecological potential of matter is currently studied under ‘material ecology’. This approach that asserts its ecological argument by the unconventional use of biological agents as architectural materials and informing matter with the help of digital technologies, has been chosen as a case for bringing forth the debated ecological performative matter potentials in the architectural process. However, the cases had been issued as initial architectural research indicating the performative matter and architecture in formation process rather than an architectural orientation of practice. Within the scope of the study, the ecological problem is associated with human’s nature understandings. In the first part of the framework, the correlation between the idealist nature understanding and applied formalist architecture was examined historically, and the ecological rift it produced was evaluated. In the second part of the framework, an ecologic and performative nature understanding, which is in a formation process is discussed with its historical and philosophical aspects through the discourses of ecology and performative new materialism. A corresponding performative architectural proposal was exemplified through 'material ecology' studies and its ecological potentials were evaluated.


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Citation Formats
b. özdemir, “Towards a new understanding of nature: material ecology in architecture,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2021.