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Benjamin

Benjamin NICHOLSON

Year of Award: 2008 Award State: Victoria Environment > General
To investigate building facade design and rooftops that transform city buildings into functioning ecosystems - U.K., Switzerland, USA, Canada, Japan, Singapore
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In his acclaimed collection of essays published in 1973, economist E.F. Schumacher made the observation that ‘Modern industry seems to be inefficient to a degree that surpasses one's ordinary powers of imagination. Its inefficiency therefore remains unnoticed” 1. In many ways, the same can be said of modern cities whose systems are so large and complex that few city dwellers ever take the time to notice how their cities operate beyond the pipes and cables leading into and out of their homes and workplaces. Just as the ant spends a lifetime crawling up and down the tree without ever comprehending the tree’s full scale or its place in the wider world, so we spend our lives in cities without ever comprehending their true size or the impacts they are having on the planet. The thing is, whether we notice them or not, the impacts are there and if we are to make our cities thrive and endure, we must find ways to transform the negative impacts into positive ones.

Imagine for a moment you are sitting on a hill, watching the tree grow that, one day, will be crawled upon by the ant mentioned above. And from this hill, imagine that you can fast-forward time as quickly as you like, so you sit and watch this tree grow from a tiny seed to a sapling to a huge, spreading lemon-scented gum in only a few short minutes. Now imagine that from the same hill you are watching your own city grow up from its earliest days of a few tents and dusty tracks into the sprawling suburbs, skyscrapers, freeways, factories and warehouses that it has become today. From this perspective, it is suddenly much easier to comprehend the amount of disruption that has occurred to all the other living things and natural systems forced to make way for the people and non-living things that make up your city today. We may never be able to bring everything back, but from the vantage of this hill we can at least start to imagine what our cities would look like when transformed into thriving eco-systems.

 

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