Antony Nelson is a Chartered Landscape Architect from London with over 15 years experience of working on successful mixed-use projects with well respected architectural practices in the U.K. and abroad. As well as working on larger commercial projects, Antony makes sure he finds time to work on small community-led projects in inner city London where small interventions can have a big impact.
The New Context
I have been asked by Archivoice to provide some thoughts on what my methodology might be when it comes to design.
I would like to take the opportunity to share some ideas with you along with a call to fellow designers and especially to architectural students and emerging architects.
My advice is a topic that was drummed into me time and time again whilst I was at University (University of Greenwich in London), and that advice was to always, always make your designs contextual.
In other words, your emerging designs should be borne out of great research and be a sensitive response to its place, setting and its future.
Context is not just its geographical and immediate setting, context is also human geography, climate, geology, flora and fauna, history, religion, culture, natural resources, materiality and economics.
Now you as architects might say, but hang on, great architecture of the past was quite the opposite of being context sensitive, what about modernist architecture and the international style?
By modernist, I mean the theory of being able to take a building with predetermined characteristics and drop it into any place in the world from New Delhi to New York and from the deserts of Palm Springs to the jungles of Brazil.
Well there is no doubt that that era of architecture theory brought us many great things in style, livability, cost and ease of construction and pushed us into a new age that we still benefit from.
But that theory is a hundred years old, and that was the context then.
A new criteria of context behoves us as designers to strive to make our work as sustainable as possible.
Like context, sustainability is not one single notion, but an interwoven approach with multiple strands of ideas, that creates something stronger and longer-lasting.
It has many components and should not just be an afterthought of tacking onto a building solar panels, using cement free concrete and suggesting green roofs. Although that’s a great start.
I believe sustainability should be implicit to begin with in the brief that you set yourselves to respond to at the very inception of a project.
It is not just a consideration of the environment, it is about society and economy and living well within our means, so that future generations can live within theirs.
And dare I say it, if you don’t already, try and engage other consultants such as sustainability consultants and landscape architects early in your ideas. Collaboration with other specialists is so important in the early stages of work and your designs will be enriched by them.
I have no doubt that the architects of the early 20th century struggled to convince clients and governments that modernism was the new approach to design. But through persistence, attrition and replication en masse, it became accepted and normal.
In conclusion, it is now down to you as trusted pioneers to thrust the burning torch of sustainability (or a solar powered alternative) high into the air and march forward dragging the unconvinced with you until they simply grow tired of the constant resistance and it also becomes accepted as the new normal.