Architecture has recently renewed its fascination with the notion of environment, as a dynamic and an atmospherically tangible space of design. This has been driven by a number of trajectories and positions within the discipline. On the one hand, the ever-expanding discourse on sustainability has brought debates of technology-driven versus passive means of control to the fore. On the other hand, architecture has embraced responsive design anew, testing the possibility of environments that contain instruments for sensing and responding to atmospheric conditions and human occupants. Simultaneously, responsive design has sought out biological and ecological models, embracing the notion of architecture an as organism able to physically react to changing interior and exterior environmental conditions.
Mechanical ballet: ALMA’s sixty-six antennas rotate in a synchronic movement.
Reacting to the strictures of modernism, interest in ideas of environment and “soft” architecture served as a provocation to conventional models of architecture, and was part of a design counter-culture, foregrounded in architectural discourse in the 1960s through to two trajectories. Architects Buckminster Fuller and Francois Dallegret, and theorist Reyner Banham, as well as several Viennese and British architects, were advocating for architecture to reduce—if not shed entirely—the envelope of architecture, in favor of more technological means of producing controlled environments. In parallel, architects were speculating on the possibility of environments driven by informational feedback mechanisms rather than atmospherics. Recent renewed interest in the writings and work of this constellation of thinkers has influenced an evolving set of discussions and design provocations, centered around the consideration of environment and its external linkages.