points to an ecology of architecture

An summary of the items explored in this blog and the outline of a possible book. organized in descending scales.

Everything is connected to everything else, but not equally (Simon).
Systems (or communities or populations…) divide into parts and sub-systems at many different scales, with their own distinct forms or behaviors. Herbert Simon argues that sub-systems the form hierarchies, but the useful point is that parts must be considered in their own behavior and in the interactions that allow and support their autonomy.

Systems (or subsystems) prosper that reinforce their reproductive processes (Odum).
This is not the survival of the strong, but of elements or entities that support, even indirectly, the larger systems in which the operate.

The real measure of power is emergy,and power is required for everything from work to concentrations of material and space (Odum).
Emergy is the total embodied, environmental energy required for all the exchanges and transformations needed to produce a particular material or capacity. Emergy provides a useful measure of nearly everything from explicit power sources to materials, fresh water, and even currency.

All the power flowing through the ecosystem is already doing work for some existing system (Odum).
This means there is no “free” energy, but also that all processes involve a form of recycling or sharing of resources, or perhaps that every power source is simply the waste of another process. We are all living in the sun’s waste.

Systems, communities, or architecture all try to maximize their useful power, but they all also operate in multiple power economies–bioclimatic, economic, socio-political, media, etc.
Systems can maximize their power in different and multiple spheres, drawing on one to afford others. No one worries about the energy required to build and maintain a cathedral until it is no longer the center of the community. Put the other way, it is the power, or wealth, of the total community that matters in survival, though the ethical question would concern how that wealth is expended.

Architecture can be situated at many different points in the power transformation chain, leading to different types of buildings.
The cave, the tent, and the hut can each be understood as the type of dwelling suited to a particular power economy, as can the high-power buildings of the modern metropolis. Just as different roles in the the biological food-chain–plant, herbivore, carnivore, etc.–can lead to quite different strategies, body-types, and behaviors, buildings that “feed” lower on the power-chain require larger surfaces, while those at the top, carnivores require greater mobility and skill.

Buildings are made up of different parts, elements, and systems that operate at different scales, different rates of change (velocities), and provide different degrees of health (or toxicity). The challenge is to determine the right fit among those systems, suited to a particular power economy.