THE ECOLOGY OF THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: TOWARD DESIGNING FOR 'GENIUS LOCI'
Modern architectural ideology, particularly in the design of mass housing, assumed a universal applicability of design prototypes. Architecture as a result lost its "genius loci" or its identity with "place." Designing for local conditions is of importance for socio-cultural and ecological reasons. No clear model exists for understanding the interrelationship between man, nature, and architecture. It is argued that these factors, if properly considered, are among those that yield a feeling of "genius loci." An ecological model relating these factors is developed in this dissertation.
The model explores the conceptual parameters of housing and settlement formation at the urban design level. These parameters consist of three main inter-acting parts: (a) the non-physical environment consisting of socio-cultural factors (societal attitudes toward nature and the built environment); (b) the physical environment consisting of both the natural (climate, topography, material) and the built environment (houses and settlements); and (c) man, as both a biological being, subject to the stress of environmental forces, and a social being who values highly the delineation of cognitive domains of public and private spaces in his housing environment.
Societal attitudes toward nature, the major attribute of the proposed model, help us to understand the criticality of man's intervention in changing the nature of his habitat. These attitudes are: (a) perception of nature as dominating man; (b) perception of nature as dominated by man; and (c) perception of nature as part of man. All these have an effect on the form of housing and settlements. The basic premise here is that the third factor yields a feeling of genius loci and this is exemplified by the vernacular settlements.
The model provides a frame of reference for the analysis of existing environments and for developing mass housing designs in turn with their ecosystems. In order to understand this, two case studies are analyzed. The first is vernacular housing settlement of the hot-arid zone of Turkey. The second is a new town project designed near the Persian Gulf, by the Mandala architects and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.