Environmental Diversity and Architecture

Environmental Diversity and Architecture

Environmental Diversity and Architecture

Environmental Diversity and Architecture


This book takes the position that the dynamic of the architectural environment is a key aspect of good design, yet one which is not well anticipated or understood. Environmental variety is a design characteristic closely related to our experience of architecture - an architecture of the senses. Each chapter demonstrates how an understanding of a particular context or environmental characteristic in dynamic terms informs design. The book is an antidote to the misconceptions of 'optimum' environmental performance or fixed criteria, instead embracing the richness of environmental variety.


The inspiration for this book came from numerous buildings, books and people. Two books that have remained with us since our student days-Rasmussen's Experiencing Architecture and Heschong's Thermal Delight in Architecture-conveyed to us a sense of enjoyment of architecture that went beyond the spatial and stylistic. This was reinforced by the Cambridge Masters course in Environmental Design in Architecture, which we both attended, founded and coordinated at that time by Nick Baker and Dean Hawkes. If there is an axiom that came out of that education then it could read as 'Building science is at the service of architecture, and architecture at the service of people'.

From the mid-1990s we joined forces to run a design studio at Cambridge that specifically combined the experiential with the environmental in architectural design projects. Simultaneously, a series of our doctoral and masters students at the Department of Architecture-many of whom are authors in this book (Fisher, Merghani, Nikolopoulou, Parpairi, Potvin, Ramos and Sinou)-began to explore the links between the measurable and the perceived environmental characteristics of architecture. Along the way we came across sympathetic research and consultancy colleagues who were in a position to offer valuable perspectives that have been included in this book. A body of work started taking shape, which provided the arguments and evidence underpinning the notions of 'environmental diversity in architecture'.

In 1988, Dean Hawkes identified the following challenge for the field of environmental research: 'the need to direct studies of user requirements towards the understanding of environmental diversity, both spatial and temporal, and of the complex perceptual and operational relationships which occur in the total environment' (Hawkes 1996:105). * We hope this book goes some way to meeting that challenge.

Koen Steemers and Mary Anne Steane
July 2004

* Hawkes, D. (1996) The Environmental Tradition, London: Spon (originally published in Kroner, W.M. (ed.) (1988) 'A new frontier: environments for innovation', Proceedings of the International Symposium on Advanced Comfort System for the Work-Environment, 1-3 May, New York: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute).

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