Socio-Environmental Responsive Design

This seminar considers the complexity of the human ecosystem and the interpenetration of natural and artificial elements that are embedded within it. People, nature, and the built environments we have constructed all influence one another in a complex system of reciprocal interaction. Human ingenuity in developing techniques to improve climatic comfort has allowed us to inhabit extreme climate zones, where artificial conditions impose over the natural ones. Adaptation strategies have evolved from the adoption of clothing and the construction of simple shelters to the complex arrangements and technologies that facilitate physical survival and large-scale settlement in cities today.

In this course we will focus on the atmospheric conditions of the contemporary city and how they affect the use of public space. As a case study, we are going to focus on Bahrain. This is a country of extremes, an archipelago with one of the harshest climates on the planet, located in the Persian Gulf.

Bahrain is a small island of 34 miles long by 11 miles wide approx, a country slightly larger than Boston Metropolitan Area. In recent years Bahrain has been considered the fastest growing economy in the Arab world and the world\’s fastest growing financial center.

In Bahrain, the imposition of artificial conditions over natural ones is particularly pronounced, becoming an excellent case study on how to renegotiate the limits between natural conditions and the built environment.

We will analyze Bahrain’s urban issues affecting the use of public space in this unique cultural and climatic region. Using the city of Muharraq within the context of Bahrain, we will explore the potential of responsive design, where nature and artifice could establish a creative dialogue, to design new environments that can improve social life.