3 / 2018 - natures, UU AA 3

The third issue of the year examines the relationship between architecture and nature. In Western thinking, nature has traditionally been regarded as an enriching element for human life. The current planetary changes, including the climate change, challenge the conception in novel ways, which has consequences also within the architectural practise.

What does nature mean in architecture now and in the future? Immaterial and material resources, beautiful scenery, production spaces? Summer cabins, saunas, data centers and reservoirs? The issue compiles viewpoints to nature and areas surrounding the urban, from infrastructures to backyard saunas and installations.

UU AA, a project exploring the new form of our publication continues with explorations on connections between architecture and media. We will report on the progress made in the project in all issues of the magazine throughout 2018.


automated waste collection station
architects Timo Kiukkola, Nikolai Rautio, Jussi Murole, Teemu Seppänen
location Hopeakaivoksentie 45, Helsinki
gross area 770 m2
completion 2017

photos Timo Kiukkola
commentary Roy Mänttäri

Whether we consider ourselves as being a part of the mesh of life or separate from it, largely depends on the words we use. Instead of “nature” it might be more meaningful to use vocabulary connoting coexistence – being and doing together. Coexistence offers an opposing view to the human- and individual-oriented worldview that has proven to be dysfunctional in so many ways. It is important to recognise the historical processes through which the Western relationship to nature has been moulded and to start creating non-human-centred vocabulary.

The notion of nature is the product of humans’ limited comprehension. The word relationship, in turn, carries the idea of an interaction between clearly defined actors – for example, in the expression “man’s relationship to nature” – even though it is evident that human beings are a part of the so called natural world and that all life forms and phenomena in the world develop symbiotically. How could we start thinking and acting through an idea of diversity, recognising and exploring the fascinating complexity of life, instead of clinging onto binary opposites?

The world cannot be reduced to taxonomic categorisations, and, indeed, the imagined boundaries within such taxonomies are rather porous. Yet, humans often approach other species with a superior and a colonialist mindset. Through representations that repeat evaluative categorisations, we frequently arrive at demeaning, exoticising or romanticising conceptions of nature. Certain forms of nature tend to evoke more empathy than others, an example being pets as opposed to livestock. The recognition of co-dependencies and making subtle processes palpable seem to be far better artistic strategies for this age.

Western thinking has been defined by the idea of selfdirecting entities, when in actual fact our world is shaped through chains of events in which things that appear separate are actually interwoven. For instance, environmental issues cannot be examined separately from the economic system, from gender segregation or from histories of colonialization. There are no distinct environmental or ecological issues. Instead, ecology is the acknowledgement of joint effects, of intricate differencies that we need to learn to respect. This kind of perspective creates a foundation for a budding ecological paradigm that contains ingredients from post-humanism and quantum physics, as well as post-fossil, feminist and post-colonialist thinking – and even from extended mind theories.

In the near future, people will have to solve more and more tangles of problems related to the livability of various ecosystems. What, for example, would a multispecies “good life” look like? The modern age has produced spaces that have been insulated from their environment to the excess, leading to the discovery that they weaken the healthy human microbiome. Due to a certain ideal, therefore, we have become alienated from the very living organisms that are responsible for our well-being. What kind of architecture and construction could help us to rediscover the lost connection?

The word “nature” suggests that things would have a pre-defined, fundamental substance. It misleads us to think along dualistic lines that all things are either natural or unnatural and should be evaluated differently. Whether we are in New York, Hong Kong or in Hyrynsalmi, Finland, all places are stratified – situations rather than mere spaces. Any new conceptions of ecosystems have to be approached without automatically evaluating them as belonging to pre-defined compartments. This is the only way in which we can begin to imagine what a world after the short-lived fossil modernity might sound, feel and smell like. ark

Jenni Nurmenniemi is a Helsinki-based curator.
Tuomas A. Laitinen works as an artist and a musician.

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