Third International Conference on Harmonisation between Architecture and Nature 


12 - 14 April 2010
A Coruña, Spain


Eco-Architecture CoverThe third International Conference on Harmonisation between Architecture and Nature (Eco-Architecture 2010) was held in A Coruña, Spain, organised by Wessex Institute of Technology in collaboration with the local university and the Free University of Brussels.

The conference chairmen were Professor Santiago Hernandez, from the University of A Coruña; Professor Carlos A Brebbia from the Wessex Institute of Technology and Professor Patrick de Wilde from the Free University of Brussels.

Eco-Architecture implies a new approach to the design process intended to harmonise its products with nature.  This includes ideas such as minimum use of energy at each stage of the building process, taking into account the amount required during the extraction and transportation of materials, their fabrication, assembly, building, erection, maintenance and eventual future recycling.

Another important issue is the adaptation of the architectural design to the natural environment, learning from nature and time honoured examples of traditional construction.

Presentations at the conference were related to topics including building techniques, design by passive systems, design with nature, ecological and cultural sensitivity, life cycle assessment, quantifying sustainability in architecture, reuse and rehabilitation, and topics from education, research and practice.  Case studies from different places around the world were also presented.

Eco-Architecture is very multi-disciplinary by definition, attracting in addition to architects, many other professionals.  In this regard the conference participants were also engineers, planners, psychologists, sociologists and economists, providing an opportunity to share information and ideas with colleagues from different regions around the world.

 Opening Addresses

Prof BrebbiaThe conference was opened by Professor Brebbia who explained the aims of the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT) and its commitment to act as a forum for interchange of knowledge between many different fields.  WIT is also focused on research and applications in industry.  Professor Brebbia explained the academic links between WIT and other institutions.

Professor Hernandez welcomed the delegates to A Coruña and pointed out the programmes at his University in Architecture as well as sites of interest in the town.

Prof De WildeThe technical sessions were opened by Professor de Wilde with a keynote address on 'A possible methodology for the assessment of environmental loads of constructions and buildings'.  Professor de Wilde explained how the research in the Architectural Engineering department of the University of Brussels focuses now on the complete history of buildings, emphasising life cycle analysis and energy and entropy increases.  Design ought to be for reuse; Design for dismantling, Design for construction and Design for adaptability and versatility.  This can be called function driven design, introducing time as a variable.  The designer accepts that not only buildings and components degrade with time but the context of the building will change.  This is a dynamic process in which engineering can have a considerable impact.

Material reuse implies biological degradation while components can be designed to be reusable.  Professor de Wilde ended his talk by describing some case studies showing how standardisation can be used for the deconstruction of practical structures.

 Invited Presentations

Other invited lectures were;
  • "A regenerate high-rise tower in Shreport, Louisiana, for Community Renewal Institution" by M Garrison, University of Texas at Austin, USA
  • "Traditional urbanism and lessons for global cities: the case of Isfahan" by BA Kazimee, Washington State University, USA
  • "Editing Eisenhower: rethinking the urban segments of the U.S. interstate highway system" by T Shelton, University of Tennessee, USA
  • "The human side of the triangle: using green standards to address social responsibility" by J Stark, University of North Texas, USA
  • "Life cycle design of building elements: selection criteria and case study application" by A Basti, University of Chieti, Italy
  • "Quantifying Eco-Architecture" by R Smith, University of Utah, USA

 Conference Sessions

The papers presented at the meeting were grouped into the following sessions;

  • Design with nature
  • Ecological and cultural sensitivity
  • Reuse and Rehabilitation
  • Building Technologies
  • Issues from Education, Research and Practice
  • Quantifying Sustainability in Architecture
  • Case Studies
  • Design by Passive Systems
  • Life-cycle Assessment

The Conference provided many opportunities for useful discussion as well as those held following the presentation of the different papers.  The delegates were offered complementary lunches during the conferences and a registration cocktail to become better acquainted with each other.

 The Prigogine Award 2010

The highlight of the conference was the awarding of the Prigogine Medal.

The Prigogine Medal was awarded in the historic Town Centre of A Coruña, presided by the Deputy Mayor Dr Obdulia Taboadela.

HeraldsThe academic procession consisted of Professor Santiago Hernandez of the University of A Coruña, Professor Carlos A Brebbia of the Wessex Institute of Technology, Professor Patrick De Wilde of the Free University of Brussels and Professor Riccardo Pulselli of the University of Siena in addition to the awardee Professor Felix Müller of the University of Kiel.  It was presided over by the Heralds of the city, one of them carrying the ceremonial mace.

Dr Taboadela started the ceremony by referring to the importance of the event and the satisfaction of A Coruña at having been selected for this occasion.  A Coruña - she said - is committed to being a centre of learning and to sponsoring important cultural events such as the Prigogine Medal.

Professor Santiago Hernandez was the next speaker, and commented on the importance of the research reported at the conference and in particular that carried out by Professor Müller.  The conference - he explained - attracted delegates from all over the world who are committed to improving the interaction between mankind and environment to ensure sustainable development, particularly in urban centres.


The next speaker was Professor De Wilde who referred to the personality of Ilya Prigogine as follows;

"Professor Ilya Prigogine was born in Moscow in 1917 and was 12 years old when his parents eventually settled in Brussels.  He studied in Ixelles for his secondary studies and obtained a university degree in chemistry at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

"He then started quite soon with his doctoral study of what was then called 'physico-chemistry' in the group of Theophile De Donder, at the same university, on the topic of thermodynamics of irreversible processes.  From then on he progressed to build a group of nearly 100 researchers, probably the largest group of theoretical physicists in the world.

"Since 1958 he was the Director of the renowned Solvay Institutes of Physics and Chemistry.  This Institute was founded by Ernest Solvay, famous Belgian industrialist and supporter of advanced science.  Famous members so the Solvay Institute were Theophile De Donder, Albert Einstein and Marie Curie among more top notch scientists.  In 1967 he became the Director of the 'Prigogine Centre for Studies in Statistical Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Complex Systems' in Austin, Texas, where he spent three months per year in this centre.  He was a member of numerous Scientific societies and Doctor Honoris Causa in at least 23 universities.

"Probably the most characteristic breakthrough Ilya Prigogine achieved was to bring together a multidisciplinary team consisting of physicists, chemists, biologists and engineers, but also sociologists and philosophers.  His book, written with Isabelle Stengers also from Université Libre de Bruxelles, in which he describes this 'new alliance' between humanities and hard sciences, completely redefines our views on what was to be called 'complexity'.  In his 1997 book, the End of Certainty, Prigogine contends that determinism is no longer a viable scientific belief. "The more we know about our universe, the more difficult it becomes to believe in determinism". This is a major departure from the approach of Newton, Einstein and Schrödinger, all of whom expressed their theories in terms of deterministic equations.  According to Prigogine, determinism loses its explanatory power in the face of irreversibility and instability.

"Ilya was made Viscount by the late King Boudewijn of Belgium.  He died at the age of 86 in 2003."

Professor Pulselli expressed the regret of Professor EnzoTiezzi (Prigogine Medal recipient in 2005) for being unable to be at the conference due to health reasons.  He also stressed the commitment of the research group directed by Professor Tiezzi at the University of Siena to continue the work of Prigogine in the field of sustainability and ecological systems.  The University of Siena in collaboration with the Wessex Institute of Technology launched the Prigogine medal to highlight the importance of this work.

Professor Brebbia then referred to the importance of the medal and the outstanding scientific career of the previous awardees in the following terms;

"The Prigogine Medal was established in 2004 by the University of Siena and the Wessex Institute of Technology to honour the memory of Professor Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize Winner for Chemistry, who has been called 'the greatest scientist of the 20th century'.

"Ilya Prigogine was born in Moscow in 1917, and obtained his undergraduate and graduate education at the Free University of Brussels.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures.  The main theme of his scientific work was the role of time in the physical sciences and biology.  He contributed significantly to the understanding of irreversible processes, particularly in systems far from equilibrium.  The results of his work have had profound consequences for understanding biological and ecological systems.

"Prigogine's ideas established the basis for ecological systems research.  The Prigogine Medal to honour his memory is awarded annually to a leading scientist in the field of ecological systems. All recipients so far have been deeply influenced by the work of Prigogine, to the point that they could justly be called his disciples.

"The recipient of the first medal in 2004 was Professor Sven Jorgensen of the Danish University of Pharmaceutical Sciences.  He is well known for his work in ecology, particularly in systems modelling, ecological engineering, environmental sciences and environmental management of aquatic systems.

"Professor Enzo Tiezzi received the 2005 Medal at the University of Cádiz during an academic ceremony presided over by the Rector of that Institution.  Professor Tiezzi studied at the University of Florence where he developed an interest in the then novel field of magnetic resonance and worked on the first MR prototype machine built at that University.

"After teaching at Cagliari University, he won a Fulbright Scholarship to Washington University, where he continued working on MR under Professor Sam Weissman of the Physics Department and Professor Barry Commoner of the Department of Biology.  This collaboration resulted in several seminal papers on pioneering development of MR.

"Professor Tiezzi taught Physical Chemistry at Florence for several years before being appointed at the University of Siena where he is Full Professor of Physical Chemistry.  His outstanding scientific career has been matched by a strong involvement in environmental and social issues, reflecting his deepening commitment to ecology and Prigogine's ideas.  Professor Tiezzi, in addition to numerous papers, has published more than 20 books dealing with scientific topics, as well as humanities and poetry.

"Bernard Patten, recipient of the 2006 Medal, is Regent Professor of Ecology at the University of Georgia in the USA.  He is a Systems Ecologist and Ecological Modeller interested in the applications of mathematical theory to ecosystems.  He formulated a well-known environmental theory called 'environ theory and analysis' that permits the use of network mathematics to represent and analyse ecosystem networks.

"Professor Patten's publications include many papers on a variety of ecological topics especially main fresh water and wetlands ecosystems.

"Robert Ulanowicz, recipient of the 2007 Medal is Professor at the University of Maryland, at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.  He is a Chemical Engineer by training who specialised on Ecosystems Theory with outstanding results in the field of Complex Ecology.  His scientific contributions are renowned in the Network Analysis, Information Theory in Ecology, Thermodynamics in Ecology and Causality in Evolving Systems.

"Another area of interest for Profesor Ulanowicz is the dialogue between science and religion.

"Ioannis Antoniou was the recipient of the Award in 2008.  He is Professor of Analysis and Statistics and Head of the School of Mathematics at the Aristotle University of Thessalonica.

"He graduated from the Physics Department of the University of Athens.  He went to Brussels for his PhD research where Ilya Prigogine was one of his PhD advisors, and this was the beginning of a fruitful collaboration and friendship with Prigogine.

"The 2009 Prigogine Medal was awarded to Professor Emilio Del Giudice, currently a member of the International Institute of Biophysics at Neuss in Germany.  Professor Del Giudice previously worked at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Milano as well as the University of Naples, MIT, CERN and the Niels Bohr Institute.

"Professor Del Giudice's research interests are focused on Quantum Field Theory with reference to the investigation of collective processes and living organisms, as well as the structure of liquid water.  Since the 1970s, Professor Del Giudice has been working on 'the study of the emergence of collective properties of matter and particularly the living state".  His work is characterised by innovative approach and a fresh look at scientific problems beyond their description in terms of mechanistic paradigms.

Felix Muller"The recipient of the 2010 Award is Professor Felix Müller of the University of Kiel, Germany, where he is Coordinator of the Ecology Centre.

"Felix is internationally renowned for his work on ecosystems theory, ecological modelling and landscape sciences.

"He studied biology, geography and chemistry at the Universities of Kiel and Regensburg, before completing his Doctoral thesis at the University of Kiel on the topic of the impact of selected environmental chemicals in the soil.

Professor Felix Müller then proceeded to deliver his Special Address on the topic of 'Thermodynamic constraints of ecosystem and landscape dynamics' which he summarises as follows;

"Ecosystems are self-organised systems. Therefore, ecosystem behaviour is constrained by the basic thermodynamic principles of dissipative self-organisation.  In this talk, an attempt is made to link the physical basis of Prigogine's dissipative structures with the topical demands of environmental systems analysis and management.

"After a short introduction to the concepts of self-organisation, the fundamental ideas of two approaches from ecological systems analysis - hierarchical theory and the gradient principle - are presented as general consequences of self-organised processes in the environment.  These two concepts are related to other essential approaches of ecological systems analysis, ending in orientor theory.  This concept proposes that throughout the undisturbed development of ecosystems certain attributes are regularly optimized.  Such attributes are used as indicators to depict ecosystem integrity, a management guideline which tries to support the ecosystem's capacity of self-organisation.

Presentation"The final part of the contribution demonstrates the potential benefits of the thermodynamics theories to understand and management human-environmental systems.  In this context the concept of ecosystem services is used as a link from ecological to social and economic evaluations.  Following a case study about urban-rural gradient dynamics, some conclusions are drawn: On the one hand, it is postulated that the concept of dissipative self-organisation is a very good starting point to understand ecosystem and landscape dynamics.  On the other, this utilization provokes the necessity of a holistic environmental management strategy.  The demands and potentials of such a strategy are discussed with reference to the actual requirement for adaptation to changing constraints, originating in climate, techniques or-socio-economy.

After Professor Müller's address, the Alcalde closed the ceremony and invited the participants for participation in  refreshments and a buffet containing some local specialities.

The event attracted the attention of the regional and national press and was widely reported, including the interest of the authorities in achieving a harmonic and organic growth of the urban areas of A Coruña and Gallicia as a whole.

 Celebratory Dinner

A CorunaThe conference dinner to mark the occasion took place in the Museo del Hombre, an inspiring building on the bay which houses important permanent as well as temporary exhibitions.  The dinner consisted of typical Gallician dishes and local wines, including the world renowned Albarino.  At the end of the meal, a group of bagpipes (Gaiteros) played a series of popular musical pieces demonstrating the versatility and melodic character of the Gallician bagpipes.  Some of the most courageous delegates took the opportunity to join in the spirit of the event by attempting to learn the rather complex Gallician dances!

 International Scientific Advisory Committee Dinner

ISAC Dinner

The International Scientific Advisory Committee (ISAC) met in a well-known restaurant to discuss how the meeting had progressed and put forward some ideas for reconvening the conference in 2012.  A series of new topic areas were put forward, as well as possible venues which will be investigated by the WIT conference division.  The field of Eco-Architecture continues to grow since the first meeting took place in 2006 and these changes are reflected in the type of papers published now.  This constant evolution is the key to the continuous success of the Eco-Architecture conferences and it is essential to preserve this in future meetings.


 Close of the conference

After the conference closed, the delegates were invited to join a guided tour of A Coruña.  The tour, which was made more enjoyable by the excellent weather, helped to cement the links between the participants.

The conference will be reconvened in 2012 at a location and date to be announced shortly.

 Publication of Papers

The proceedings of Eco-Architecture III, 624pp (Print ISBN: 978-1-84564-430-7; On-line ISSN: 1743-3541) are available from WIT Press priced at £237/US$474/€332. Orders can be placed online at or by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone: +44 (0) 238 029 3223 or fax: +44 (0) 238 029 2853.

Papers from the conference will also be hosted online at the WIT eLibrary as Volume 128 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment (ISSN: 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at