Nature and Technology an Odd Couple

Syllabus – Spring 2020

Dunwoody Architecture 2204-01

 Environmental Systems

Nature and Technology an Odd Couple

Are we at one with nature or do we tend to isolate ourselves from nature with technology? What kinds of building technologies can we use to help us sustain our civilization? How close to nature should we be? Is it possible that technology can help us be comfortable without losing our relationship to nature? We have to protect ourselves from nature on one hand but build with nature in mind in order to survive. How do we build to defy nature and how do we embrace it. What is your relationship to nature?

The first third of this class will be spent researching past cultures, specifically Native American Architecture. We will learn about their “primitive” building materials and methods and how they interacted with nature. The second third of this class will be spent researching current building materials and method and how our relationship to nature has changed and how can we improve that relationship. The last third of the semester will be designing for future settlements on Mars. This is an extreme environment where we can learn from ancient civilizations but are required to use the most advanced technologies in order to survive.

Past: Native American Architecture

Inuit outside an Igloo

The students will develop one board per group explaining their research and they will be asked to create a physical model demonstrating the principals of their research.

The Native American traditional building materials, tools and art will be broken down into 9 groups.

Northeast and Great Lakes- Wigwam and Longhouse

Southeast- Mound, Town and Chickee

Great Plains- Earthlodge, Grass House and Tipi

Plateau- Pit House and Extended Tipi

Arctic- Winter House, Iglu and Tent

Northwest Coast- Plank House

California- Wood, Earth and Fiber

Southwest I- Hogan, Ki and Ramada

Southwest II- Pueblo

Present: Modern Architecture

Halley VI: The World’s First Modular Research Station in Antarctica Can Climb Through Snow

 The students will research new technologies appropriate to the climate zone chosen from the Native American precedent and develop one board per group.

Future: Mars

The last third of the course will be spent studying how to create a built environment on the planet Mars. Using the principals of the first half semester research, the students will be asked to brainstorm how to build on Mars. We will look into and perhaps enter NASA’s Centennial Challenges: 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The multi-phase challenge is designed to advance the construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond. The competition offers a $3.15 million total prize purse. The students will be asked to develop two boards explaining their designs for Mars.


Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition, Diamond, Jared

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature – Janine M Benyus

Native American Architecture – Peter Nabokov and Robert Easton

Anasazi Ruins of the Southwest – William M. Ferguson and Arthur H. Rohn

Building Skins Concepts, Layers and Materials- Christian Schittich

Emergent Timber Technologies – Rainer Hascher

The New Wood Architecture – Naomi Strungo

Mass to Membrane – Nic Goldsmith

Transparent Plastics – Simone Jeska

The Martian- Andy Weir

How We’ll Live on Mars- Stephen Petranek

Collapse – Jared Diamond

Technology – Defiant, strong, ascendant, separating itself from nature

Parthenon – Athens, Greece
The Seagram Building (1954-8)
New York City. One of America’s
most iconic skyscrapers.

Mies Van Der Rohe.

Nature – Personal, harmony, human

The Shaking Tent –
Native American Architecture for Shamans
Wigwam- Yokut
Yokut Village California late 1920’s

Is this where we are headed?

3D Printed Habitat for Mars- AI Space Factory


Native American Architecture

History- Native Americans 40,000 years ago travelled across the Bearing Straight. 10,000 years ago they regionalized and moved into different areas. Their written language was in graphic symbols and the oral learning and tradition pass through myth story telling by elders. Nomadic tribes historically survived on hunting and gathering while agrarian tribes survived by farming. “Lacking iron tools and draft animals the prehistoric Indian farmer on the Great Plains primarily cleared and cultivated wooded land along rivers, especially the lighter soils on elevated river terraces which periodically flooded, renewing their fertility.” – wikipedia

“It is impossible to single out why any Indian dwelling looked and worked the way it did. To be sure, Indians were responding to the climate around them and making the most of natural materials at hand. But the evolution of a particular habitation also was affected by social organizations, patterns of gathering food, religious life, and history.” – Native American Architecture – Nabokov and Easton

The Native American traditional building materials, tools and art will be broken down into 9 groups

1. Northeast and Great Lakes– Wigwam, Longhouse, Subartic Tipi

Climate Zone: Temperate

Ecology: Woodlands

Raw Materials: Saplings, birch and elm bark, sinew, reed

2. Southeast- Mound, Town house and Chickee

Climate Zone: Subtropical

Ecology: Woodlands, tropical

Raw Materials: Saplings, wattle and daub, palmetto thatch

3. Great Plains- Earthlodge, Grass House and Tipi

Climate Zone: Temperate, Continental Steppe

Ecology: Prairie

Raw Materials: Timber, saplings, sod, grass, hide, canvas

4. Plateau- Pit House, Tipi and Elongated Tipi

Climate Zone: Continental Steppe, Highlands

Ecology: Forest, Prairie

Raw Materials: Timber, saplings, sod, reed, canvas

5. Arctic- Winter House, Iglu, Tent, Barabara, Kasim

Climate Zone: Arctic, subarctic

Ecology: Tundra

Raw Materials: Snow, sod, timber, seal, skin, stone

Subarctic- Wigwam, Tipi

Climate Zone: Artic, Subartic

Ecology: Mountains, tundra, forests, waterways

Raw Materials: Timber, saplings, bark, snow, hide, canvas

6. Northwest Coast- Plank House

Climate Zone: Temperate

Ecology: Forest, islands, waterways

Raw Materials: Cedar timber, split planks, bark

7. California- Plank House, Earthlodge, Wikiup, Bark Tipi

Climate Zone: Temperate, subtropical

Ecology: Forest, mountains, valley, desert

Raw Materials: Redwood Timber and split planks, earth, timber, saplings, reed

Great Basin- Wikiup, Tipi

Climate Zone: Continental Steppe, desert

Ecology: Forest, mountains, valley, desert

Raw Materials: Saplings, brush

8. Southwest I- Hogan, Wikiup, Ki and Ramada

Climate Zone : Hot Arid

Ecology: Desert, valley, rivers

Raw Materials: Adobe, timber, brush

9. Southwest II- Pueblo, Kiva

Climate Zone: Hot Arid

Ecology: Desert, valley, rivers

Raw Materials: Adobe, stone, timber, brush

Determinants of Form-

  1. Technology
  2. Climate
  3. Economics -Resources
  4. Social Organization – Families, tribes, etiquette etc.
  5. History
  6. Religion
  7. Spirit/ Intuitive Sense – Spirit world is very real, beliefs and vision quests. No difference between building and land. Universal View of the world. Buildings are living and have spirits. Organization of structures rely on Stars and all 4 cardinal directions.

Raw Materials –

“Indians had no choice but to build with raw materials from the land around them. They fashioned their dwellings from wood, bark, grass, reeds, earth, snow, skin and bones.” – Native American Architecture – Nabokov and Easton

  1. Earth – Adobe, mud and stone
  2. Organic – Timber, saplings, bark, reed, fiber (grass), brush, hide, sinew (bone)
  3. Hybrid – adobe/timber, sod (earth/fiber), wattle and daub

Structural Types –

  1. Mostly Tensile or bent frame with covering – Wigwam, wikiup, grass house, ki
  2. Compressive Shell – Iglu, tipi, hogan, pueblo, town house
  3. Post and Beam – lean to shed, pit house, earthlodge, longhouse, chickee, plank house, summer house, winter house, King Island house

Building Forms –

  1. Domical- Iglu, wigwam, wikiup, grass house, ki, cribbed- log hogan, barabara
  2. Conical- tipi, forked-pole hogan, earthlodge, pit house
  3. Rectilinear- chickee, longhouse, plank house, pueblo, summer house, winter house, King Island house

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

Artificial Intelligence – “In computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans.” -Wikipedia

Robots – Precision and Repetitiveness

Computers – Synthesizing Information

Humans – Awareness, Perception and Decision Making but it is the imperfections that make us human

The End Of The World with Josh Clark


“Craft arises between the closeness of the creator and what it is being created.”

“We are now capable of reproducing traditional crafts very easily in a mechanical form.”

“But making things by hand is the mechanism for trying out new things for making mistakes. Craft offers the doorway to a lot of innovation. So the importance in the contemporary spirit is on the process , the idea of changing the path somewhere along the way and following where those new paths lead ” – Nora Atkinson from Takumi

Omotenashi – Japanese word for finding yourself in your work. It is the materialization of your feelings to create depth in unseen ways.


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