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Role of identification in architecture
Importance of social engagement in sustainable practice
How do we approach social aspects of sustainability while designing, planning and building in an existing environment? Could we learn something from what western ideology calls informal settlements? From participatory practices?
Social integration of a new building into existing context proves to be one of the challenging aspects of nowadays architecture practice. It is often a case that a newly erected building, be it a public house or an apartment block has to undergo a long lasting and painful process of social integration. Many times architects, clients, city planning officials and contractors design and erect a building without properly negotiating existing social context. Reasons could be framed as lack of interest and/or shortage of resources. What is from the perspective of the individual citizen, inhabitant and dweller at stake?
We identify ourselves with our cities, streets, houses we live in and nearby surroundings of our daily activities. As an integral part of our activities we engage with the city and with it’s substance at different layers and as different types of users. Citizens usually develop emotional relations and sometimes attachments to specific imagery of the built environment, as related to the memories, often shared.
A newly erected building often radically reshapes this imagery, which can have both negative and positive effects, such as: fear, loss, exclusion, withdrawal, hope, fascination, inspiration and novelty.
Ranging from worst case to full integration, in our western practice many times we observe partial solutions, which to different degrees successfully tackle the issue of social integration and identification.
As an example, we experienced the rise of participatory practices, which try to integrate future users in pre-design or design process, into discussions and partial construction solutions. Great deal has been done in direction of communal housing projects, where all the future inhabitants make up a client as a body and are involved in full range of decision-making. Several examples show successful practices from the public sector, where local social context was integrated in the construction part of the process, – using locally accessible construction materials, local labor and workshops proves to solve the issue of identification at a major part. Key to success proves to be inclusion, as a crucial aspect for identification, which by itself is a measure of integration.
Practice holds the clue to the flip sides of the social integration – local surrounding and future users. Negotiating both parties considering the specific task of a project should be the aim of our future sustainable planners.