Parabola | Architecture + Design

Kevin and Carrie Burke recently gave a lecture on the philosophies of their design, which were profound because they emphasized working intelligently at an incredible range of scales from the city down to the parts per million. They stated that a major source of inspiration was Bill McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle (2003) which emphasized a rethinking of intelligent ecological design.

Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart, 2003

In it, he asks not how to minimize our impact upon the planet, but how to make a positive effect upon it. The Burkes went on to speak about biological and technical nutrients – one cycle for the ecosystem and one cycle for the machine – and the importance that the technical nutrients do not contaminate the biological ones. They also mentioned increased optimization. One optimization point is built up on another in order to minimize diminishing returns.

How do you make green design inspiring? 

Perhaps their most interesting  topic was how to relate the advances of green technology fundamentally back to the human. Parabola Studio attempts to create an interdisciplinary practice that can address not only ecological issues, but political, social, and psychological ones as well. Their goal is a humanistic one in that they attempt to create highly efficient, intelligent buildings that inspire our spirits. Technology is meant to create hope of a better future, to pave the way for future generations to learn from current ecological building practices and build upon them to inspire their own progeny. This, they believe, is one of the greatest hurdles for green architecture to overcome. It still seems too distant to many people. It feels like it belongs with the intellectuals, not the average man.

Inside the Burkes’ home during the summer solstice

As a result, the Burkes built their own home incorporating their principles. Amazingly, they did not design in plan or section; the form of the building was informed by the paths of the sun. It was, in a sense, literally formed by the conditions of the site. Although there are still many hurdles to overcome, I am inspired by the humanism of Parabola. Their goal is to create intelligent designs that inspire, that both think and have emotion. I only hope that our generation would have the fortitude and the patience to continue along this path.

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In Praise of Color

Without light we would be unable to see color. We see color because our eyes have light and color receptors that enable us to see the wavelengths of light that are reflected from an object. For instance, we see that the sky is blue because the water molecules reflect blue light. Therefore when a discussion is made on light, a discussion on color can be made as well.

The dispersion of color from white light

Because my previous post was on traditional Japanese architecture and its handling of light, this post will examine traditional Korean architecture and its own handling of light.

In very much the same way, Koreans have dealt with light like the Japanese and Chinese. Because of the form of most buildings in East Asia, with their extended eaves and conglomeration of rooms, very little light would be able to penetrate the whole structure. Yet, where the Japanese chose to embrace the shadows and create generally monochromatic spaces, the Koreans introduced splashes of color in order to animate and add richness to the spaces. This rigorous system of color is called dancheong (literally meaning “cinnabar and blue-green”).

Dancheong ceiling pattern

It is based on the colors of blue, red, yellow, white, and black and is applied to the eaves, brackets, and ceilings of the structure. Although dancheong was reserved for major public buildings such as temples and palaces, it still illustrates the unique manner in which Korea manipulated the use of light through color. The Japanese added gold in the same programmatic spaces in order to create moments of richness; the Koreans added exuberant amounts of color in order to enrich the entire space.

Dancheong applie to Gyeongbok Palace, Seoul

The science of manipulating light is important, but the art of manipulating light is just as important as well. We learned about precedents such as Steven Holl’s St. Ignatius Chapel  in Seattle and the work of James Turrell, and how both create cohesive systems in order to successfully create color. Dangcheong is an artform, but it is just as cohesive a system as well that, while not manipulating light directly like Holl or Turrell, creates just as layered and poetic a space.

In Praise of Shadow

In In Praise of Shadows, Junichiro Tanazaki describes many characteristics of the use of light in traditional Japanese architecture. Compared to the West and its emphasis on a bright, sterile atmosphere, the Japanese have appreciated the use of shadow, of creating very subtle variations in light through the extensive use of shadow. It was initially very difficult for me to understand why the Japanese are so interested in shadow. Yet, Tanazaki states,

“The quality that we call beauty, however, must always grow from the realities of life, and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows towards beauty’s ends” (18).

A range of subtly in the shadows of Katsura Imperial Villa, creating a focus on nature and on mediation

Their appreciation of shadow is a result of their architecture. Similar to China and Korea, Japanese traditional buildings had low pitch roofs and wide eaves in order to protect their wooden structures from the rain and provide adequate shade. Rooms were relatively dark as a result. However, the Japanese did the best with what they had and they made an artform out of it. It goes to show that all the tools we have to measure light (i.e. lumens) and to maximize it have little use in a culture that appreciates shadows.

Another view inside Katsura Imperial Villa. In the West, too dark. In Japan, beautiful!

Assignment 5 | Systems & Freitag

This semester in studio we have been working on creating a cultural workshop for a Swiss retailer named Freitag. Founded by Markus and Daniel Freitag in 1993, their goal was creating a messenger bag that would be heavy duty, stylish, and waterproof. This was achieved by creating the bags out of old truck tarpaulins, seat belts, and  bicycle inner tubes, revealing their emphasis on recycling. In designing a new North American Freitag workshop in New York City, this philosophy of re-use and sustainability has been incorporated through the use of several passive systems.

SITE ANALYSIS:

The site for my workshop is located adjacent to the High Line Park on 19th Street and near 10th Avenue. The diagram above illustrates the path of the sun on the site. It is evident that the grid of New York City is not perfectly north-south but is instead oriented northwest-southwest. This means that virtually all of the buildings on this grid technically never receive true direct southern light, but it is important that the building receives some amount of southern light during the winter for the sake of heating.

In the case of wind, the major prevailing wind comes from the Hudson River in the west all year round. During the spring, this wind is supplemented by major winds from the northwest and northeast; during the summer, from the northeast and southwest; during the autumn, from the northeast; and during the winter, from the northwest. The wind diagram above illustrates the predominant winds throughout the entire year which are from the west and the northeast. It would be useful in utilizing the west and northeast winds during the summer in order to provide ample circulation of air and ventilation.

DESIGN STRATEGIES: 

The sectional diagram above illustrates the moves made in response to the conditions of the site. Unlike almost all of the surrounding buildings, one part of my design breaks from the bounds of the New York grid and orients itself directly north-south in order to take advantage of sunlight in the public spaces of the theater and the exhibition space and the private spaces of the apartments. The sheer face of the facade blocks any direct exposure to the harsh summer sun. As for the apartment at top, the hallway has a retractable screen that prevents it from becoming like a greenhouse. However, during the winter, all of the spaces are directly exposed to the warm, radiant winter sunlight in order to provide natural heating and to brighten up a drab winter day.

Wind is allowed to enter the building in order to provide natural ventilation. Through operable windows on the west and north facades, the major prevailing winds mentioned earlier are allowed to enter during the summer. Warm air is channeled through the spaces towards the south, where they are expelled by vents and operable windows. In addition, the cave-like space of the lobby is able to maintain a certain temperature throughout the year due to the thermal massing of the building.

A CLOSER LOOK | FREITAG THEATER:

Taking a closer look at one of the spaces in my workshop, the theater presents a challenge of dealing with light that enters the space, especially during the winter. Performance spaces such as these require low levels of light so that spectators are not distracted or blinded. The left half of the diagram illustrates all sources of light during the winter and summer solstices. Summer sunlight is very minimal, whereas winter sunlight reaches all the way to the seating area. It reflects off of the polished concrete of the floor and begins to provide an indirect means of lighting through the ceiling further back in the space. When a performance occurs, artificial light is used in order to provide manual control.

The right half of the diagram shows the same section but in greater detail. Two double pane windows on the facade create a solar chimney that draws warm air out from the theater. As a result of the chimney being glass, the effect of stack ventilation is enhanced because more heat enters it and pulls out more warm air from the theater through vents near the ceiling. The concrete floor also helps heat the space during the winter because, as an insulator, it retains the heat of the winter sun throughout the day. However, all natural light can be blocked out during performances with a stage curtain if needed.

Navigating the Thermal Environment, Korean Style! Part II

Previously, I gave an overview of the ondol heating system of the traditional Korean home, the hanok. To recap, ondol is a form of radiant floor heating similar to the Roman hypocaust. It utilizes the heat of a fire that passes beneath a raised stone floor in order to create a comfortable place to sit, eat, and sleep, which is especially necessary because most activities traditionally occurred on the floor.

Restored upper class home at Namsangol Hanok Village with doors open facing courtyard. 

Ondol was created because winters on the peninsula can be extreme, but summers are just as worse. High levels of humidity are notorious for making Korean summers almost unbearable. As a result, hanok were designed to allow maximum natural ventilation. Although there are regional variants, a typical floor plan was L or I-shaped with adjoining rooms commonly consisting of at least two walls with paper screen doors facing each other. Homes would be oriented with these walls facing prevailing winds in order to experience cross ventilation.

View through a hanok illustrating its openness to allow cross ventilation and views. 

However, in The Green Studio Handbook by Alison Kwok and Walter Grondzik, it is noted that cross ventilation is dependent upon 1) differences in temperatures indoors and outdoors and 2) outdoor airflow rate, a.k.a wind. From my experience in Korea this summer, I know that summer breezes are weak. The air was generally stagnant, muggy, and very uncomfortable due to the humidity. So how do hanoks optimize cross ventilation and the comfort of those inside them? Paper screen doors open directly to the outdoors in order to allow air movement at the occupant level and increase human comfort. Some key rooms are also raised off of the ground, thus creating a Venturi Effect, where the decrease in pressure at the lower level aids in increasing air movement in the room above because of pressure differences and a wooden floor with visibly open joints. In other words, the air being pushed beneath the floor sucks in air from the room above through the floor and moves it by creating differences in pressure.

Raised portion of a hanok at Changdeokgung, one of the five palaces in Seoul, allowing maximum ventilation.

The hanok is a structure that responds to the climatic extremes of the Korean peninsula. It is designed to increase the efficiency of moving air by creating a very porous structure in the summer. It is also designed to effectively distribute heat through the radiant heat of ondol in the winter. With these lessons in hand, Korea has the tools to incorporate more sustainable methods in its architecture. Looking to tradition will prove to be invaluable for a nation struggling to create continuity between the past and the future.

Assignment 4 | Independent Research | California Academy of Sciences

INTRODUCTION:

The California Academy of Sciences stands as a leading scientific institution not only in terms of its research of the natural world, but also for implementing aspects those investigations into its architecture.  Designed by Renzo Piano, it is remarkable because of its extensive network of sustainable systems. These include natural ventilation, radiant floor heating, heat recovery systems capturing and using heat produced by HVAC equipment, high performance glass, and reverse osmosis humidification systems. As a result of these intensive but discreet systems, the building was awarded the highest possible LEED rating, LEED Platinum, making it the largest such public building in the world.

But the most pronounced element that has shaped the image of the institution is its massive undulating green roof. There are over 2.5 acres of flora atop the building, the densest concentration of native wildflowers in San Francisco. It creates its own ecosystem by attracting native birds and insects. It enables natural light to penetrate 90% of the public spaces. It draws in cool air into the open piazza. Yet, how do these seemingly random elements work together in order to create a cohesive system? This assignment will focus on the green roof of the CAS and how its range of elements creates a dynamic system different from other similar roofs.

The roof of the CAS is both remarkable and unique because it is “living” in the sense that:

1. It creates an extension of the San Francisco ecosystem above and

2. Its gargantuan scale and shape create a dynamic climate system beneath.

Both above the roof and below it interact in order to create an exceptionally integrated system.

ABOVE:

A view of the green roof.

What defines the topside of the academy’s roof and roots it specifically in this region is its incorporation of local flora. It establishes itself as a base for the development of a unique rooftop ecosystem that is not to be disturbed except for maintenance. Therefore, despite being artificially constructed, this green roof has the potential to give a glimpse of a diverse and abundant northern Californian ecosystem. The following methods that established this plant life are the reason for potential biodiversity.

There are two main types of green roofs, intensive and extensive. Intensive roofs are traditional roof gardens that are labor-intensive in terms of maintenance. Extensive roofs are more spread out in surface area, with shallower soil and substrate, requiring less maintenance and almost no irrigation, and appearing more functional rather than aesthetic compared to intensive roofs. The CAS has an extensive living roof. However, due to its undulating topography causing potential soil erosion, traditional means of simply overlaying the plant system on top was not possible.  Each species of flora was therefore planted in a modular system of biodegradable trays made of coconut fibers harvested and assembled in the Philippines. There are about 50,000 of these 17” by 17” trays on the roof assembled on 2.5 acres in a puzzle-like fashion on six inches of soil. As the roots of the plants grow through the porous trays and interlock with one another and the layer of soil underneath, one large patchwork of vegetation is created.

The biodegradable coconut fiber trays.

In order to choose what species would both survive on the roof and be aesthetically pleasing all-year-round, 35 native plant species were grown in on mockups near the site with same microclimate. These were monitored for two years. Eventually, four perennials (seapink, beach strawberry, selfheal, and stonecrop) and five annuals (California poppy, tidytips, miniature lupin, goldfields, and California plantain) were selected. Each was chosen with the intent of attracting different kinds of wildlife. For instance, the stonecrop attracts threatened San Bruno elfin butterflies, tidy tips attract pirate bugs that feed on pest insects, and beach strawberries attract native birds. Thus the reason why the CAS’s roof is so remarkable is because it was intentionally designed to grow and become a part of the ecosystem of San Francisco. It takes a share in this system in one instance by preventing up to 3.6 million gallons of runoff from carrying pollutants into ecosystem (about 98% of all storm water). In other words, it makes the surrounding ecosystem of Golden Gate Park a little more resilient by adding to the amount of plants that can absorb runoff.

A diagram showing elements of diverse local flora in order to attract equally diverse fauna, creating the base for a vibrant northern Californian ecosystem.

No one exactly knows how the roof will actually develop. This is significant because Piano wished to only establish a base for the system with just enough plants (1.7 million of them) and enough biodiversity to let it run on its own. The roof is meant to act as an ecological corridor that defines itself during its growth.

BELOW:

Looking from inside the central piazza.

The flows that occur on the underside of the roof are just as important as the ecosystem taking place on top of it. The sheer size and the undulating shape of the academy’s roof define the flow of air occurring inside in order to create a stable internal climate. As a result, a relationship is established on both sides of the CAS’s roof, setting it apart from many other green roofs as a multifaceted system.

Typically the purpose of a green roof is simply to act as a thermal barrier; however, Piano pushed the boundaries of the typology by making the roof “breathe.” It almost acts like a cell membrane by releasing and gathering energy for the interior. One of the major benefits of the CAS’s living roof is that it keeps the building’s interior an average of 10 degrees cooler than a standard roof due to thermal mass and natural ventilation. The mass of the roof includes layers of vegetation, anti-erosion fabric, soil, vegetation mats, water retention membrane, insulation, lightweight concrete, and an expanded metal sheet. Normal roofs would not include even half of these layers and would therefore lose more heat. The roof’s sloping geometry also creates a Venturi Effect by channeling in fresh air from windows and an open central piazza along two self-contained 90 ft. diameter spheres housing the planetarium and rainforest biome.  The cycle of ventilation is completed by operable skylights above the spheres that release hot air. This system constantly cycles air throughout the building, improving air quality and comfort with reduced energy needs.  As a result of the thermal mass of the structure, the geometry of roof, and the insulation it provides, natural ventilation becomes a viable climate-control strategy.A diagram illustrating how integral the undulating roof is in creating a stable, comfortable

Green roofs will have the greatest effect on energy consumption for buildings with relatively high roof-to-wall area ratios as is the case with the CAS. In fact, the building consumes 30-35% less energy than code in large part because of the sheer size of the living roof. Consequently, this among other effects illustrates just how potent Piano’s breathing green roof is. It is an efficient and clever system that serves multiple functions.

CONCLUSION:

The California Academy of Sciences is a noteworthy building not simply because it has a green roof, but because it morphs that typology in order to create systems that shape each other both above the roof and below it. In other words, it pushes the green roof type by attempting to make it useful in multiple systems. The roof of the academy takes part in the ecosystem of San Francisco by transplanting native species on top of it and also uses that ecosystem to inform the movement of air within the structure. Both above and below the roof interact with one another, creating a rich network of sustainable systems.

Initial sketch by Renzo Piano.

SOURCES:

Beardsley, Timothy M. “The Earth Above.” Bioscience 57.10 (2007): 811. Print.

Gregory, Rob. “ Piece by Piece.” Architectural Review Nov. 2008: 32-41. Print.

Pearson, Clifford A. “California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.” Architectural Record Jan. 2009: 58-69. Print.

Wels, Susan. California Academy of Sciences: Architecture in Harmony with Nature. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008. Print.

Yoshida, Nobuyuki. “Renzo Piano Building Workshop: California Academy of Sciences.” A+U: Architecture and Urbanism April 2009: 20-47. Print.

 


Navigating the Thermal Environment, Korean Style!

For the past several weeks we have focused on different forms of energy in constructed spaces, especially that of heat and air. Nowadays much of society relies on air conditioning in order to create comfortable thermal levels. Without the proliferation of modern air conditioning in the 1920’s, no one would have moved to cities like Miami or Las Vegas simply because they were too hot. Today’s methods, however, are both costly and detrimental to the natural environment. “Sustainable” buildings have therefore turned to incorporating passive systems. Heat, air, etc. are not forced through the building but simply flow through it.

Vernacular architecture provides a wealth of precedents for those attempting to create “sustainable” buildings because, for centuries, humanity has had to construct climate-specific architecture without the aid of the air conditioner. We’ve heard a lot about Western examples in class, but very little about the East Asia, so this post will take a preliminary look at the Korean traditional house, the hanok.

A typical upper-class hanok

Upper class hanoks were constructed in methods similar throughout much of East Asia. They are characterized by a systematically organized wood frame, wooden brackets, curved tiled roofs, and a courtyard. However, the one thing that makes the traditional Korean home different from any other in Asia is an underfloor heating system called ondol. Similar to the Roman hypocaust, the ondol system utilizes an exterior fire that distributes and transfers heat beneath a raised floor. All methods of heat transfer – conduction, convection, and radiation – occur. The diagram below illustrates this process. However, what makes ondol different from the hypocaust, a system used mainly for public baths, is that the fire was also used to prepare food in the kitchen.

One might ask why this underfloor heating came into being. Traditionally, Koreans directly engaged the floor in their daily life. Because there was no concept of furniture as in the West, they ate, slept, and communed on the floor – even the king would do the same. The Korean peninsula also has four distinct seasons with winters being especially cold compared to areas in the same latitude. Heating the floor became a natural response to these conditions. Also, because a fire was not necessary inside the building itself, ondol retained heat in the room more efficiently and prevented wooden homes from bursting into flames.

A 1904 photo showing Koreans’ daily life on the floor, even for someone like the Minister of War. 

Assignment 3 | Energy Systems, from the Body to the World

The diagram above illustrates the energy flows related to my activities on a typical morning at home in Aurora, CO during vacation. It illustrates the overall flow of energy within the Denver metropolitan area, moving from a larger, statewide scale during extraction, to regional hubs transforming the resources into usable energy, and then to storing and distributing that energy throughout the city and to my home.

Colorado is among the major producers of coal and natural gas in the United States. As a result, much of its electricity comes from these sources. More specifically, for my electricity provider, Xcel Energy, coal is the dominant resource used to create electricity which, in turn, powers my alarm, my toothbrush, my refrigerator, my laptop, and other objects. Heating and cooling are not included in this diagram because my family rarely uses the air conditioner or the heater. In fact, our home is consistently put among the top for less energy use in the neighborhood because of this.

As for eating lunch, my body undergoes metabolic processes to break down the food in order to give me energy. However, this is not directly implied in the diagram because I feel that much more energy is expended through oil in order to process and transport the food. Oil also provides energy for means of transportation when I use my car.

The water I use in the diagram is included because of the energy required to use it for hydroelectric power and to also heat the water when showering and washing dishes.

Looking at my web makes it clear how reliant I am upon non-renewable resources at home. The image of the green Mile Hi City seen above is not as it seems. As a result, it is critical that I think about changing my global energy impact.

1. At the individual scale: I can make simple moves by choosing to limit the amount of connections I have to the coal-driven power grid. It is as simple as turning off the TV and the laptop, and choosing to read a book instead.

2. At the scale of habitable space: Continuing the idea of cutting dependency on non-renewable resources, I can provide better insulation to walls and pipes in order to mitigate the amount of energy lost through radiation. This would make my home would use energy more efficiently. Installing photovoltaic panels is another reasonable choice, which is made more enticing by government grants and tax breaks.

3. At the scale of the infrastructural network: The simplest way to make in impact is to choose not to drive my car and instead utilize public transportation or a bicycle. I would still be connected to non-renewable energies but I would be using more efficient means of expending them. Even though the Denver metro area is developed heavily for cars, this would not be difficult because of excellent service provided by the Regional Transportation District’s light rail and buses.

Assignment 2 | The Chesapeake System

1) For the Bay Game, I was a crop farmer on the Potomac watershed, a region that was relatively economically stable and had relatively stable levels of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff. While my region had relative stability, other regions had declining economies with decreasing levels of nutrient runoff. Why? What accounts for the relationship between the economy, nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, and, ultimately, the health of the Chesapeake Bay?

My diagram illustrates just this relationship by examining the effects that crop farming has in relation to the regional economy, the waterman, and the health of the bay. First and foremost, crop yield is affected by the levels of fertilizer, cover crops, and fallow land that a farmer utilizes on his land. These levels depend on the farming method the farmer follows (i.e. conventional, BMP basic, BMP advanced, and sustainable in the game). The yield influences how much a farmer can harvest and his final revenue. The revenue forms a balancing feedback loop through how much equipment a farmer can buy, which replenishes cover crops and fallow land. However, a reinforcing loops is formed through the amount of runoff from the crop yield. With more runoff a farmer constantly adds more fertilizer in order to maintain productivity, but this also decreases the productivity of the land, causing the use of more fertilizer in order to counter this decrease.

The amount of fertilizer used also ultimately affects the health of the bay by adding to nitrogen and phosphorus levels. Too much of these elements can lead to eutrophication, which influences the crab population through a feedback loop. The waterman’s revenue is then affected by the amount of crabs that can be dredged. Thus, ultimately, a waterman is affected by the amount of fertilizer that a crop farmers uses.

The economy comes into the picture because the revenue of both the waterman and the crop farmer replenish the amount of capital within a region, which influences the economy, which influences the policies made by decision-makers in order to maintain economic stability. Choices that the decision-makers select, such as the amount of taxes or incentives, influence both the revenues/profits of both the farmer and waterman, and the choices that a farmer makes in terms of farming methods.

It becomes clear that the decisions of a crop farmer have an effect not only on the health of the bay, but the livelihood of the waterman, the regional economy, the choices of decision-makers, and ultimately on themselves.

2) The Bay Game gave me new insight into how seemingly disparate systems actually all have deep, if not subtle, relationships that affect many facets of life. Personally, I learned how difficult it is for a crop farmer to navigate this system. Farming requires not only considerations of making the most money in the most efficient way possible, but also considerations of environmental impact (which affect bay health, the economy, and the farmer himself). I was especially frustrated by the lack of incentives made by policy-makers. Sustainable farming was never economically stable in the Piedmont region because there were not enough incentives to balance the costs of this mode of farming. However, I feel like I successfully made decisions that, though not completely sustainable, did lead to increased profits and decreased nitrogen and phosphorus levels by taking advantage of the incentives for cover crops and fallow land in BMP farming. It is a matter of being sensitive to what decisions are made in the region and making realistic choices relative to them.

3) Although the Bay Game was insightful of some elements that affect the health of the Chesapeake Bay, it is still only a model of what occurs in the real world, and only in the Chesapeake Watershed at that. It did, however, help to open my eyes to the relationships between both man-made and natural systems, and to ultimately maintain sensitivity of the choices we make as humans. Therefore, I believe that access to information is a key component in improving the health of the bay here and of any ecosystem elsewhere. As Donella Meadows states,

“There is a systematic tendency on the part of human beings to avoid accountability for their own decisions. That’s why there are so many missing feedback loops – and why this kind of leverage point (information flow) is so often popular with the masses, unpopular with the powers that be, and effective, if you can get the powers that be to permit it to happen (or go around them and make it happen anyway)” (157).

It is a matter of not waiting for decisions to be made by the government, but making personal, educated choices that can lead to a change in our system from the ground up.

One real-world strategy that has been made to improve the bay health through education is the UVa Learning Barge. Although it does not directly influence the health of the bay, its mobility gives many children a chance to interact with and learn about one watershed of the bay, the Elizabeth River, that they would not have otherwise. Education does take time to have any affect, but it can lead to crucial changes in behavior that gear economies to profit not at the expense of natural ecosystems, but to profit with them.

The Bay Game | Playing With An Ecosystem

Last week, I compared how Richard Forman et al. and Peter Newman & Isabella Jennings examine ecosystems. While both readings describe the same concept through different fashions – Forman through broad ecological principles and Newman through specific strategies for cities – they are similar for emphasizing that humanity must fundamentally re-examine its relationship with natural ecologies in order to create a truly “sustainable” society. Many examples are provided in both texts, most being specific, relatively modest instances of man-made interventions in the landscape. However, in the Bay Game, we did not examine any singular instance. The game took the systems-based thinking explored in both readings and applied it to the whole region of the Chesapeake Bay. In other words, the game applied everything the readings did in a BIGGER way.

The Bay Game is an interactive exploration of the Chesapeake Bay, modeling multiple types of occupations, their interactions, and their collective impact on the health of the bay and on each other. Playing the game was especially powerful because we could see how our actions made an impact not only on the bay, but in our wallets.