The Quality and Responsibility of Architecture in the Context of Emerging Ecological Challenges (Lithuanian experience)
Keywords:architecture, environment, recreation, ecological responsibility, Lithuanian school
The eco-movement, spreading across the world, requires a new evaluation of priorities for the objectives of the three architectural directions (buildings, cities (urban development) and landscape architecture) including social and environmental responsibility. The ecological direction is not new to Lithuania, but due to former political isolation the West still knows very little about that. Lithuanian (now Kaunas University of Technology) Institute of Architecture and Construction in Kaunas (LASMI) has become and still is a scientific and ecologically oriented design centre (especially for resorts, recreation and tourism areas, national parks) of this direction. Research work and practical conceptual projects started yet in 1961-1963. The results are summarized in the author’s doctoral and habilitation dissertations and books (Stauskas 1967, 1977, 1985, 2012) and in the works by other students of this school, now working in Vilnius, Klaipėda and elsewhere.
In architecture of buildings a time has come to review their architectural quality assessment. Yet in 1981, the World Congress of Architecture in Warsaw adopted a new definition of architecture itself - as the art and science of shaping the environment - suitable for all areas of architectural activities (instead of the classical definition of architecture as “the art of building”). An architect faces an increased responsibility to spatially synthesize blocks of specific needs and shapes of three influencing environments – social, natural and technogenic – thereby also striving for artistic value. This is especially important in recreational architecture, where the environmental impact to people is particularly sensitive (Stauskas 1977, 2012).
Ecological approach can mean that the artistic value of the building’s facade is no longer the most important quality category. On a scale of values, the quality of the building’s social content solution would appear in the first place. Then would go the aesthetic quality of the building’s shapes; the interaction between content and form; the building’s interaction with the environment (natural or cultural); technical and economic parameters.
In urban development, landscape architecture and land management, the author has developed and, together with his colleagues, has used the so-called landscape-ecological approach. Its main principles are as follows: 1. When drawing up planning projects for cities, resorts or larger areas, start with an analysis by isolating the areas where neither new constructions can be carried out, nor can the landscape be changed, rather than solely determining future construction zones. 2. For the remaining areas, in addition to traditional functional zoning, use the so-called eco-zoning, isolating the areas with different allowable landscape (natural or cultural) reconstruction degrees. 3. Evaluate the authenticity, “genius loci”, of nature, cultural history and society of each area. This is also important in active urban space, from which follow both urban authenticity and diversity (White, 2003). 4. Avoid egocentricity. The quality of the environment and its transformation is important not only to humans. 5. In addition to the prospects for urban development, assess the possible prospects for natural change of a natural complex.
This method was first applied and put into practice when drawing up the first integrated Master Plan of Neringa (later Curonian Spit National Park) in LASM Institute (1968), followed by Great Palanga seaside resort development (1989) and other projects.
The significance of eco-direction in architecture should also be emphasized in university programmes (Stauskas 1995). However, the term “ecological architecture” should be avoided and other, more accurate terms could be used such as “sustainable architecture”, “tolerant” or “ecologically oriented architecture”. For ecology is a branch of science (from Greek: logos, “science”). Does it follow then that “ecological architecture” is “scientific architecture” or that “ecological food” is “scientific food”? Maybe “natural food” would be more appropriate? The topic of terminology deserves special attention in separate discussions not jus there in Lithuania.