Eco-paradoxes of low-tech

Kolakowski, Marcin Mateusz (2011) Eco-paradoxes of low-tech. In: International Economy Conference, 6-8 July 2011, Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff, Wales, UK.


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The highlight of the German ecovillage Sieben Linden is a comfortable house of 100m2 which cost €6000 (sic!) to build. Builders used no electrical devices and only used local and recycled materials. What would be the face of architecture and economy, if such an approach was adopted globally? What if everyone minimized their demands, gave up their hated jobs and built their dream-houses themselves? How would this affect taxes, pensions and employment? Is this a vision of paradise or a cataclysm? These are some of the questions that arise from studying low-tech architecture – a movement born together with high-tech and global economy, but rebelling against all their paradigms.

Low-tech (also called adhocism, vernacular or neo vernacular architecture) questions the meaning of comfort and the separation of economy from social issues. Hassan Fathy, the ‘grand-father’ of low-tech, promoted mud architecture not merely because of the material itself, but because of its potential to decrease unemployment. Low tech practitioners have employed various strategies in trying to be faithful to their ideals in the capitalist world: some decided to escape the western world altogether, others set up educational centres or building enterprises. Not all of the experiments have been successful. Ironically, a significant drawback of low-tech is not the technology itself, but the fact that it is too cheap and too accessible to make big business on. Despite difficulties, some low tech techniques like earth and straw-bale construction keep moving into the mainstream.

Today’s economical and ecological problems make the ‘low-tech economy’ particularly interesting as a case study. Margaritt Kennedy came to the conclusion that ‘in the present monetary system, we have a choice between ecological and economic collapse’ , which means that it is impossible to solve ecological issues in architecture without considering the financial relationships between all the players involved. Her concepts of Interest and Inflation-Free Money correspond to low-tech ideas as much as to the recently established Slow-Money Movement or the ‘Democratic Bank Project’ , due to be
launched in 2012. Whether or not these ideas might reshape the future of architecture and economy is the subject of this paper.

Keywords:Sustainable architecture, Economic Theory, Economic values, Ecology
Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K100 Architecture
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K990 Architecture, Building and Planning not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Architecture)
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ID Code:18001
Deposited On:25 Jul 2015 18:13

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