Measuring the Added Value of Regenerative Architecture through the Problematic Example of the Aesthetic Dimension
Andrea Wheeler (Iowa State University)
Regenerative architecture seeks to impact positively on an environment. Raymond Cole writes that regenerative architecture promotes a responsibility to produce buildings that ‘reduce the degenerative consequences of human activity on the health and integrity of ecological systems’ (Cole 2015, 1). This positioning of regenerative design as "greater than" is key to its enthusiastic uptake, but it also raises concerns. Chrisna du Plessis states that the paradigm that underlies the regenerative approach is one that calls for radical changes to structures of society; to the dominant world view that ‘sees nature as machine, understood and managed by reducing it to its parts’ (du Plessis, 8); and thus at the core of regenerative design is the challenge to understand and evaluate its positive potential, reconciling, as Cole writes, ‘widely different interpretations of value and value-adding that exist within the sustainability movement’ (Cole 2015, 2). What is the real condition against which ‘adding value’ is measured? How can it be measured in the context of transformation of cultural values? Aesthetics is one of the domains that the tools of regenerative designers suggest can add positively to the environment. Designers promote biophilic, biomimetic design tendencies but theoretical underpinnings can elevate – with seemingly good intention - the environmental, over the social and neglect the cultural. Finding new ways to live, is a common statement amongst theorists of sustainable design. Few examine what this might mean to explore life through the field of aesthetics. In this paper I will thus examine: firstly, the conversation in sustainable design diverts attention away from aesthetics, especially in the field of architecture; secondly, how an ecological aesthetic might be understood within the aspirational discourse of regenerative architecture and thirdly section, I will suggest regenerative design as mode of critical and aesthetic inquiry.