The beginning of something great

It’s hard to believe how much my knowledge and mindset towards sustainability issues have changed and improved in within the class course. The best part about it is that when I came to the class at the beginning of the semester I thought I already knew several things related to sustainability, specifically in the Architecture and Interior Design industry and that the class would be just a complement. Currently, I have to admit that I was wrong and my knowledge was far away from being complete. I conceptualized Sustainability as an eco-friendly and efficient way of production and life. After taking the first two weeks of class I realized there is so much more related to sustainability. I completely neglected the social aspect behind it and the power of consumers in these issues. My current definition of Sustainability has changed to a way and attitude towards life that aims to solve the environmental issues thinking about the present and the future of the society implementing eco-friendly practices with the involvement of consumer, designers, industry and governments.

The course itself has been an epiphany for me, I have learned so many different and interesting things that it is hard to focus on one. However I have to highlight some of the concepts and learning outcomes that amazed me the most. The first and favorite one without a doubt is Biomimicry. The talk and conference of Erin Leitch was very inspiring for me and I enjoyed the way she presented how she applies Biomimicry to real objects and building systems. One of the other things that inspired me the most was the fact that she is an architect. It made me open my mind even more and I have always been interested in Sustainability in Architecture, so I am really considering learning more about this field, because I think it could be the future and a really useful and innovative tool for new and sustainable construction systems in buildings.

The attachment theory and human-centered design have opened my mind and have taught me something that seemed really obvious, but at the same time designers tend to forget, even college professors tend to forget to teach. Furthermore it is a really interesting concept that has inspired me as a designer. The importance of human-centered design approach rather than design-centered was a revealing aspect mentioned in the reading Empathic design: User experience in product design. It made me realize that as an architect in Europe, sustainability is a concern and it has been regulated by several governmental codes and therefore it is an important aspect to have in mind. However, I have taken several courses in the School of Architecture at my University about construction techniques, eco-friendly and long-lasting materials and sustainable solutions and I never had in mind this deep human focus and approach related with the sustainability concept. We actually never put ourselves in the shoes of the end users, we never experienced before what they would experience living in the sustainable spaces that we as architects had designed.

Last but not least, the concept of Waste equals Food and Cradle to Cradle introduced by William McDonough, which supports that everything we use should be reused or indefinitely, was a curious and new concept to learn for me. He states that the amount we take from the nature and the amount we give back should be the same, creating a closed loop. It is interesting to see that one of the answers to our current problems is to go back to a more rural life style, where all the technologies and advances that we have nowadays weren’t available.

Overall this course has been extremely relevant and useful to me as a student but most important as a future architect. My design perspectives have certainly improved and become more unique compared to the average mindset of architects towards sustainability. Now, I know more specific concepts and theories that can be related to my field and improve my professional practice such as Industrial Ecology and Biomimicry. For example, how building skins can mimic natural systems to work as a more sustainable organism like The Singapore Art Center by Atelier 1, where they mimicked the natural mechanism of the polar bear fur that allows the sun to go through the transparent hair acting as a Trombe Wall being more energy-efficient. Something that has amazed me as well is the realization of how important are our decisions as designers and the power that we have to make an impact in the society by implementing sustainable practices. This makes me want to be one of the designers that want to be better and make an impact. There is no need to be a large company to introduce some of the changes in design and production towards sustainability. Moreover, I noticed that there are lots of ideas and concepts already out there and if you want to be part of it as a designer or even as an individual you have to stay updated about the newest revelations in the field and keep researching.

One of the other positive things that I would like to emphasize about this course is that is a practical course that applied perfectly the theoretical perspectives. After five years in College I can say I have learned a lot, but I have the feeling that I haven’t really applied my knowledge in a more practical and real case, and this class was an exception. As an exchange student in Oklahoma State University taking this course has been a challenge, not only because of the level of difficulty but only because of the cultural change. In Europe some of the eco-friendly and “green” practices are more spread and more common than here in the United States. Small things like recycling or energy usage are things that I would say need to be worked on in the United States.

All the topics and theories discussed in class amazed me and if I could I would like to keep learning about all of them, but it would be an overwhelming process. I would definitely like to focus on biomimicry and how to make an impact in the Architecture field with innovative and more sustainable practices inspired by it. As an architect I would have liked to learn more about examples and professional studios that are making a difference. Furthermore, if the course was longer (two semesters) it would be a great opportunity to go deeper into all these concepts and challenge myself to be a better designer and expert in some of the sustainability practices. I am sure this is not the end, I always knew that I wanted to work in this field, and this course has encouraged me even more, so I will broaden my knowledge in this field after graduation for sure.



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