Teaching and lecturing so far this year has been dominated by the word “Landscape”. Whether the catalyst for this has been driven by us, by those we speak to or by a broader movement I don’t know but it has allowed us to explore new exciting directions in our teaching & lecturing.
Normally our teaching at Universities, Schools of Architecture & agricultural colleges concentrates firstly on processual “how” type questions and occasionally diverges into “why”. Timber properties, processing & products leading to questions about reconnecting our forests to our timber use. This year however, we have spent much time considering the broader context of our forests, our timber and the landscape effects both. It brings to mind objectivity v. subjectivity; processualism v. post-processualism; whether we can carry on being Anyone in our pretty how town or if climate and technology force us to ask deeper questions about the type of town we want to live in. It has allowed us to connect better with those we “teach” through discussion and opinion from both sides of the table.
First stop on our autumn tour was with the Architectural Association and a seminar with the Inter 3 unit who are considering the theme of “The New Forest and its Digital Creatures.” We talked about the forest changes that may come as a result of changing climate and the effects on material supply. We debated where the power lies in material provision, whether the architect/user should dictate what material is grown or whether the ground is shifting towards the forester that has to consider the long-term health of the forest above the material needs of the user. At the same time we have to accept that high-volume, monocultural, agro-industrial provision of timber will always be needed as the global demand for timber grows. Or do we?
Much the same themes were brought up at the Cass Research Seminar which went further into the implications of the rise and rise of cross-laminated-timber. We asked whether more engineered solutions that actually used less-timber were a more ethical approach than high-volume use. Carbon storage in buildings v. protecting a potentially diminishing growing resource? At Exeter University we spoke to geography students about how the need for increasing volumes of timber will affect the rural landscape in land-use and aesthetic terms.
We managed to break free of the classroom and get into the landscape with Arts University Bournemouth M.Arch students. Mixing up forest & sawmill visits with an in depth look at changing vernacular architecture in a protected landscape. Amongst the questions, we asked if vernacular should be about localness of material not localness of aesthetic? Is material vernacular better able to respond to demands of landscape in a changing climate and demands for a lower carbon form of architecture? We were able to explore issues of future timber growing, timber properties and design through visiting experts in their own setting, seeing design, both new and old in its landscape context.
In early 2020 we’ll be back in the classroom with AUB retuning to those how questions of timber properties, processing and products. It will draw together the field trip by asking if understanding the microscopic properties of timber alters how we design and ultimately how our forests will look in the future. Vernacular, landscape and material primacy will come up again at Intbau as we take a demand led look at the future supply of timber. At Harper Adams we will be with forestry MSC students understanding how, as timber suppliers, we must understand the needs to timber users to grow more sustainable forests and discussing the same thing with Forestry Commission staff in May. We hope to be at the Birmingham City School of Architecture Earth Summit bringing these questions to a wider audience and will be focussing on local audiences asking what the future of forestry means for reforestation in Devon.
For more information on our teaching and lecturing see our website or give us a call on 07779 844610.