Critical Environmentalism - Towards an Epistemic Framework for Architecture



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Upon identifying the multifaceted and disparate array of ever-changing environmental informants to architectural discourse, one is confronted with how to unite this dialogue in meaningful ways to current modes of thought and action. The question gains more significance as our knowledge of the greater environmental domain becomes more systemic and complexly heterogenic, while at the same time, approaches to the issues have proved to be progressively more reductivist, disconnected, overtly abstracted or theorized, and universally globalized in regard to multifaceted and content-rich human particularities in situ. This research focuses on the implications and applications of Critical Environmentalism (CE) to propose a corresponding epistemological framework to wide-ranging socio-environmental complexities occurring across architectural endeavors, primarily within urban and community developments as comprising the greatest number of intersections between human constructions and the greater environmental domain. CE addresses environmental issues reciprocally emerging across numerous disciplines and theoretical stances and fosters critical and systemically collective approaches to knowledge integration, amalgamating multiple stakeholder perspectives within an interconnective and operational goal of creative communal development and betterment of the human condition in relation to environmental concerns. Situating the environment (Umwelt) as an interconnecting catalyst between divergent points-of-views, CE promotes a multi-methodological, co-enabling framework intended to foster increased ethical and participatory dynamics, communal vitality, co-invested attention, and productive interchanges of knowledge that cultivate an overall quality of knowing and being within the intricacies of the greater domain. As such, it engages broader definitions for architecture within its social community, significantly embodied and epistemologically co-substantiating within a shared, environmental life-place. Fundamentally a hermeneutic standpoint, this investigation elucidates conceptual connections and mutual grounds, objectives, and modes-of-operation across knowledge domains, initiating an essential, socio-environmentally oriented framework for architectural endeavors. In this, it brings together common threads within critical social theory and environmentalist discourse to subsequently promote distinct interconnective components within a framework of socio-environmental thought for architecture. The research then provides case examples and recommendations toward stimulating progressive environmental initiatives and thus increased capacity to improve existing epistemic conditions for architecture, urban design, and community development within the broader scope of Critical Environmentalism.