Book Presentation and Talk / Lydia Kallipoliti: Histories of Ecological Design, an Unfinished Cyclopedia

In the talk, Lydia Kallipoliti* – #architect #educator #researcher #thinker – presents her newly published book Histories of Ecological Design: An Unfinished Cyclopedia, followed by a Q&A where we talk about the intentions of writing the book, about how the “waste speaks of the incomplete perception of the World”, the psychological profile of ecological designers and thinkers, the idea that architecture produces nature and other futures.

Kallipoliti divides Histories into three main periods: >Naturalism (1866 when Ernst Haeckel coins Ecology), >Synthetic Naturalism (c. 1966 with the view of the Whole Earth) and >Dark Naturalism (2000–, unravelling of the Anthropocene), each having six chapters where she presents series of narratives which form a matrix of threads that can be accessed in a non-linear way, producing wayfinding of environmental world views. Besides presenting parallel histories, Kallipoliti’s objection to writing the book is decolonizing the notions of environmentalism where she does not lean on indigenous histories rather she offers “reassesing the values that are entrenched in the various perceptions of ecological design as an ideological instrument and a didactic structure”.

“All of these marginal stories harken back to small narratives that become pertinent as a subjective. Numerous projects exhibited in the book speak of the idealisation of the loss of what once was and the idea of nature. In many ways the architecture is tasked to produce nature, to sustain nature, artificially. And that is extremely problematic in many ways.”

“The term Ecological Design was coined quite recently in 1996 by American architects Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan, who argued that ecological design was a seamless integration of human activities with natural processes to minimize destructive environmental impact.”

However, Kallipoliti argues to the contrary that:

“Instead of the call to fit harmoniously with the natural world, ecological design might also be understood as a form of synthetic naturalism where the laws of nature and metabolism are displaced from the domain of wilderness and transposed to the domain of cities, buildings and objects.”

Naturalism, searching for “Roots”

“Ecology is far from the innocent discipline of being interconnected with nature, rather as a historian Libby Robin has argued, it can be seen as a sign of empire.”

Excerpts from Naturalism Chapters

Synthetic Naturalism, in the search of “Systems”

“After WW2 as awareness of planetary disruptions increased, ecological design came to signify not just the natural world but the reproduction of the natural world in design principles and tools through technological mediation.”

Excerpts from Synthetic Naturalism Chapters

Dark Naturalism, searching for “Data”

“… is discernable in the eradication of what was earlier regarded as natural and the naturalisation of an ongoing climate crisis.”

Severe environmental degradation is

“naturalised as a default mechanism of the evolution of technological and cultural advancements. This distortion of the problem “is the reason why critical discourses in ecological design are vital to reform and rebuild renewed alliances and hierarchies.”

Excerpts from Dark Naturalism Chapters

Ecological designer is capable to displace their ego and produce ideas that are simple and exemplify other things beyond. “I am drawn to these humble figures that have been marginalised from [architecture] history in many ways and forms because they denied the tools of the discipline […] and were really trying to invent something at the fringes. When a design becomes a living experiment, it goes through necessary ugliness. It cannot be the shiny brilliant object which is finished.”

*Lydia Kallipoliti is an award-winning architect, engineer, scholar, curator and an Associate Professor at the Cooper Union in New York.

Her work circulates about themes of closing or looping and back-feeding the systems and opening them up. Closing the systems refers to metabolic and cyclical resource processing and reorganisation, the much-needed “self-encapsulation” in the Anthropocene, yet addresses the absurdity of confinement to the specific boundary of home, or office in parallel. Opening those allows (or would allow) them to germinate, eat and converge excrement, becoming living machines. Lydia Kallipoliti is also the principal of the ANAcycle, a design and writing think tank. Her practice includes prototype exhibitions, hybrid and hologram installations, and writings on ecological design, theory and politics, among other related mediums through which she can transverse with spear-headed visions.

Besides exhibiting at Venice Biennal, the Istanbul Biennial, the Oslo Architectural Triennale, she received numerous recognitions and awards. Her book The Architecture of Closed Worlds, Or, What Is the Power of Shit?, was published in 2018 with Lars Müller Publishers. The book we present here, Histories of Ecological Design: An Unfinished Cyclopedia, was published this year (2024) with Actar Publishers.

Published on June 17, 2024

Products by Streetlife