Department of

Architecture

Research

Kevin Lair

My research and creative activity focuses on issues of ecological sustainability/resilience. I take inspiration from the directive provided in Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings (Stein, Reynolds, Grondzik, & Kwok, 2005):

What absolutely must change in the coming decades are the values and philosophy that underlie the design process. To meet the challenges of the coming decades, it is critical that designers consider and adopt values appropriate to the nature of the problems being confronted – both at the individual project scale and globally. Nothing less makes sense.

The authors note the obvious and that is little has changed and that our current unsustainable practices continue as we fail to address our values and behaviors. What I believe is called for is what Tony Fry called, a “redirective” practice. I have used similar concepts of design activism, systems-based thinking, and spatial agency but this is a critical practice addressing what leads us to produce and consume in unsustainable and unethical ways. This is a shift from merely seeking more “sustainable” production that ultimately relies on technology that ultimately continues to perpetuate growth. At times is may be a minor shift but in other ways it is a profound adjustment that is transforming my perspective and work.

I strive to integrate design practice and theory into creative place-making and community-engaged design. One of my projects has been an evolving effort at the Westbrook Artists’ Site (WAS) and working with various conservation and wildlife researchers this past year to develop an architectural approach that brings ecological diversity and habitat to the forefront. Malcolm Wells is one my key architectural inspirations to initiate this effort. My intention is to address issues of “co-habitation” among humans and non-humans in order to help establish the Wells’ value scale based on “wilderness” rather than energy consumption or resource use.

 

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