b-z @ Atmos Symposium

ATMOS/5: Ecology & Design
In a radio interview recorded in 1971, Edwin Newman asked Marshall McLuhan about the relation between his work and the notion of ecology. McLuhan's reply was in form of a question: 'Do you know the origin of the word ecology?' As the interviewer quickly provided his definition, the Canadian media theorist pointed out that the etymology of the word was still uncertain. McLuhan maintained that its origin also stemmed from Greek mythology in which Echo was a tantalising nymph whose voice would repeat anything she had heard. What he implied was that ecology was not simply identifying an area of studies preoccupied with living organisms and their organisation, but also, and perhaps more importantly, a type of connection between things. Similar to sound which is generated in a specific place and propagates to affect and be affected by the surrounding, living organisms also follow complex patterns based on interactions, feedback loops and echoes. (Bottazzi, Roberto. 2012. "Ecological Urbanism." The Town Planning Review 83 (1): 124-126.)
How do we teach and practice ecology in design disciplines today? How can we or how do we make ecology relevant in our design practice and scholarship? How and when do issues of ecology challenge our existing modes of scholarship and practice, in design disciplines? What are the emerging opportunities and dilemmas in design practice and pedagogy when dealing with ecology? As long as design, through perception and production, engages the environment, the issue of ecology is extremely critical to all design disciplines today, in pedagogy and in practice. An attempt to construct a singular belief or establish a coherent design method in relation to ecology would only be futile. Such an attempt may even undermine the organic, dynamic and evolving nature that is imperative in understanding ecological phenomena. However, since everything is related in ecology, a large amount of our design practice and education has lost its rigour and focus when faced with contextualizing the ‘Ecology’ in ‘Design’: ’the challenge of putting understanding into the context of design teaching and practice. What are the ways that design can play an active and critical role in ecological context? Many papers have been written and many provocative theories have been (re)constructed around the issues of ecology, stimulating and challenging designers and educators. How are we then putting them into practice, in pedagogy and production? Which threads of Ecology are relevant to Design thinking and practice? How can we construct such relevancy through design? The symposium invites critical thoughts and works from scholars, educators, practitioners and students that reflect the nature of Ecology and Design – their relationship. The forum will chart diverse paths at work to inform and inspire new directions in practice and education of Ecology and Design. 

The University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada hosts an annual symposium – ATMOSPHERE (ATMOS). Each year the ATMOSPHERE symposia explore issues that are intangible and overlooked in design, planning and architecture, those difficult to pin down, document, or record with conventional instruments and methodologies. 

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