Workshop Community and the Natural City
Palazzo Michiel, Venice, November 3rd, 2023
Ideal Spaces Foundation and ECC

We want to focus on new concepts for building communities, with the help of
new architectures based on ecological, but also on cultural needs.
Background: The aspect of community had been grossly neglected in modern
architecture. The recent discourse focuses on ecology/technology, neglecting cultural
heritage and the fact that humans are both natural and cultural animals.
As an answer to climate crises, ecological needs have been considered in recent
architectures; their focus has been mainly technological, in emphasizing the technical
optimization of the built space – such as making buildings more energy-efficient, using
new materials, inserting plants into the urban fabric, and so on. These attempts
culminated in the ideal of the so-called green city. The key idea behind such attempts
is the wish for a ‘natural’ city. It is a wish that is deeply embedded in our (occidental)
cultural heritage, with relations to utopia and the myth of paradise.
Content of the workshop: A natural city for humans means to consider not just the
aspect of ecology, but also of culture. To bring culture into the discussion again and
not to focus solely on a technologically perfected ‘green’ architecture is a main aspect
of our workshop: We want to widen the perspective, to see the whole picture, not just
the eco-technological part of it which is so strongly favoured today.
It is not enough to build technologically perfected eco-houses – what we do with our
cultural heritage? Taking the fact that humans are both cultural and communal
animals, not just technologically perfected, eco-adapted solitaires.
Next to ecology, our workshop wants to address the recent social and economic
ecology: What does it take for a new architecture that inherits these aspects, and
considers the community-aspect of architecture?

  • The framework  (architect Jateen Lad, Manchester): it is not enough to build ‘green’, also not to include cultural issues; instead, local communities are to be considered. Case study of Sharanam, Southern India.
  • Recent concepts of ‘natural’ cities, overview from practice (architect Claire Weisz, NY/USA, founder and principal of wxy studios): how is a ‘natural’ city conceived today, and why so? Presentation of a case study of refurbishing an urban area.
  • Cultural heritage and community (Yibing, HUST University, Wuhan/China.) Case study of preserving a historic city and its area. key assumptions behind these concepts
  • Community and architecture (Sam Olshin, AOS architects, Philadelphia/USA): general problems of modern US-cities, presentation of two case studies on how to incorporate places for communal use in an existing urban fabric. How to make places for communities in existing urban contexts?
  • New materials for new architectures (Hugo Lobo, Zegnea arch. Group, Portugal). Discussion topics: how to build a ‘natural’ with natural material, relation between space, architecture, and beauty. Can an ‘ecological’ architecture remain still beautiful?