IoA ED—symposion on time, energy & architecture
When Einstein linked matter and energy, he merged space and time as well. In the world of our experience, phenomena such as
space and time kindly remain in their Newtonian order. For some decades now, it seems that architects do not need to give
too much attention to these physical findings, just as they - with a few brave exceptions - happily ignored geometry beyond
Euclid until it was put right into their hands by way of their drawing and modelling software.
In the late 1960s, Reyner Banham showed how much this relation between matter and energy is true for architecture. Without
much succes, he criticized that architects were merely focussing on space and form. Instead of following a holistic design
vision, more and more aspects were left to technical experts. Instead of developing a concept for the habitat-like nature
of buildings, architecture became just another expertise in a technical and bureaucratic design process. By denying to be
responsible not just for matter, but for both matter AND energy, monsters with walls as thick as ancient fortifications, yet
made of not much else than insulation material, became what we consider a normal building standard today.
With the energy crisis, which is as much a political crisis as it is an environmental crisis, a new challenge has landed on
the desktops of the architectural practices. This time it is less friendly than the new possibilities of non-Euclidean geometry
– that could still be ignored. It came in the form of energy performance directives, laws and guidelines.
Little attention though has been given to the fact that energy in the built environment can be experienced as a flow, thus
forcing time into the architectural game. The strategy to dam in this flow, to slow it down by ever increasing insulation
elements comes to its limits. (The role of time can be overlooked in this case, as it is just the role of deceleration.) This
draws the focus to adaption and interaction, to time-based strategies. So far, again it is left to technical experts to design
change and interaction, be it a presence-controlled lighting system or a radiation-dependent shading device.
However, if we understand our environment, be it "natural" or "man-made", as thrown into a flux of ongoing changes, if we
understand it as the extension of a habitat that we call "our world" (one more monadic fold), will time then become to architecture,
what space is already? Is the recognition of an equal meaning of time in the architectural design process the precondition
for successfully answering future challenges?