How does the constructed environment relate people to spaces through built forms?
In one sense, the functions of construction are visceral, arising from one of the most elemental needs of our species, the need for shelter. In another sense, they involve some of the most elaborate forms of artifice—varieties of materials, complex engineering, infrastructures of technical interconnection, relationships to nature, and an infinite variety of functions to meet the endless range of human interests and proclivities.
Broadly conceived, the aesthetic is disposition, so what of the sensibility, orientation, stance of the constructed environment —apart from or, in addition to, function?
‘Form follows function’, proclaimed the modernists of the twentieth century. However, others have said before and since that aesthetics is a distinct domain of representation, not necessarily or entirely determined by function. Even when form follows function, there is an aesthetic. Even when we might claim an aesthetic is a travesty, or that there has been no attention to aesthetic, the aesthetic nevertheless persists.
How is the built environment in dialogue with nature?
The built environment is inevitably in dialogue with nature. Nature provides its material sources. And the built environment invariably articulates with nature—whether that relationship is carefully premeditated or casually circumstantial. Construction has an impact; it creates a footprint in its environment. In our century, concerns for the relationship of humans to environment increasingly deploy the rubric of sustainability. Is a practice environmentally profligate or prudent? Articulation with the environment has become one of the fundamental concerns of our times.
How can a constructed environment be designed and made in such a way that it best serves the panoply of human needs?
As a human construction, our various design and fabrication practices shape our lives. The physical forms they leave a humanistic legacy. However, our human experiences and interests are irreducibly diverse. So how does a constructed environment affect different people differentially? How can it be sensitively appropriate to their varied needs? How can it be inclusive? How can potentially negative impacts be anticipated for some people and in some environmental contexts. How can risks be reduced and negative impacts mitigated?