The sixth International Conference on Harmonisation between Architecture and Nature (Eco-Architecture/16) took place at the University of Alicante, organised by that Institution, represented by Prof Victor Echarri, and the Wessex Institute (WIT), represented by Prof Carlos A Brebbia.
This successful series of conferences started in the New Forest National Park in England, home of the Wessex Institute, in 2006, followed by the Algarve (2008), A Coruña (2010), Kos (2012) and Siena (2014).
Eco-Architecture implies a new approach to the design process intended to harmonise its products with nature. This involves 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.
Eco-Architecture is very multi-disciplinary by definition, and the meeting attracted, in addition to architects, many other professionals, such as engineers, planners, physical scientists, sociologists and economists. The Conference provided all of them an opportunity to share information and ideas with colleagues from different regions around the world.
The City of Alicante was a most appropriate location for the Conference, combining a rich history with a modern coastline and beaches. The old centre contains many historic buildings, dominated by the Castle of Santa Barbara at the top of a hill, offering excellent views of the surrounding area. The Castle provided from prehistoric times a defensive stronghold. It was developed by the Moors before being extended during the times of the Christian kings. Subjected to numerous attacks and bombardments it now stands as the symbol of Alicante.
Victor Echarri, Co-Chair of the Conference, welcomed the delegates to the meeting and hoped that they would be able to see some of the attractions of Alicante and its environments. The University – he explained – had grown considerably since its creation 30 or so years ago and is keen to increase the number of international contacts and collaborative research.
The meeting was enhanced by a series of keynote addresses:
- “Towards a methodology for values-based architecture”, by Alvyn Williams, Soft Loud House Architects, Australia.
- “The integrated renovation of high rise Hotels on the Spanish Mediterranean Coast”, by Victor Echarri, University of Alicante, Spain.
- “Resilient communities. Social infrastructure for sustainable growth of urban areas. A case study”, by Danila Longo, University of Bologna, Italy.
- “NexusHaus: UT/TUM Solar Decathlon House”, by Michael Garrison, The University of Texas at Austin, USA.
- “New self-efficient shelter solutions in already collapsed big-cities’ rental market”, by Antonio Galiano, University of Alicante, Spain.
The papers were grouped under the following topics:
- Design with nature
- Rehabilitation of existing buildings
- Energy efficiency
- Adapted reuse
- Sustainability indices in architecture
- Life cycle assessment
- Case studies
Prigogine Medal 2016
The conference was the occasion of awarding the Prigogine Medal to the 2016 candidate, Prof Brian Fath. The ceremony was presided by the Vice Rector, Prof Rafael Muñoz Guillena. The academic process included twenty or so doctors from many different countries, as well as from the University of Alicante.
The Vice Rector opened the act, inviting Prof Carlos A Brebbia to say a few words about the history and the person and personality of Prof Brian Fath. Carlos proceeded as follows:
“Ilya Prigogine was born in Moscow in 1917, and obtained his undergraduate and graduate education in chemistry at the Free University in 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.
“The Prigogine Medal was established in 2004 by the University of Siena and the Wessex Institute to honour the memory of Prof Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize Winner for Chemistry. This medal is awarded annually to a leading scientist in the field of ecological systems. All recipients have been deeply influenced by the work of Prigogine.
Previous Prigogine Laureates are:
2004 Sven Jorgensen, Denmark
2005 Enzo Tiezzi, Italy
2006 Bernard Patten, USA
2007 Robert Ulanowicz, USA
2008 Ioannis Antoniou, Greece
2009 Emilio del Giudice, Italy
2010 Felix Müller, Germany
2011 Larissa Brizhik, Ukraine
2012 Gerald Pollack, USA
2013 Vladimir Voeikov, Russia
2014 Mae-wan Ho, UK
2015 Bai-lian Larry Li, USA
Brian D. Fath is Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Towson University (Maryland, USA) and Research Scholar within the Advanced Systems Analysis Program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Laxenburg, Austria). His research is in the area of systems ecology and network analysis applied to the sustainability and resilience of socio-ecological systems. His interests range from network analysis to ecosystem theory to urban metabolism to systems thinking and environmental philosophy. Dr. Fath has taught courses on ecological networks and modelling in many different locations around the world. He holds visiting faculty appointments at the School of Environment, Beijing Normal University and at the State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences both in Beijing, China. He was also Fulbright Distinguished Chair at Parthenope University of Naples, Italy.
He has published numerous research papers, reports, and book chapters. He co-authored three books: He is Editor-in-Chief for the journal Ecological Modelling; President of the North American Chapter of International Society for Ecological Modelling and, among other appointments, he is a member and present Chair of Baltimore County Commission in Environmental Quality.
The Rector then proceeded to award the medal to Prof Brian Fath and invited him to deliver his inaugural address, which was entitled “Systems Ecology, Energy Networks and a Path to Sustainability”.
Abstract of the Prigogine Address
One of the great advances of the 20th century was the rise of a formal systems science and systems thinking. This progress influenced ecology in ways that provided new insight to the structure and function of ecosystems using tools from thermodynamics, networks, information theory, and more. This led to a better understanding of how ecosystems function in terms of using available energy to create complex structures to move away from thermodynamic equilibrium and how these self-organizing structures adapt to changing situations. Ecological goal functions can measure this orientation of ecosystem growth and development. This presentation will address how these metrics attuned for ecosystems have relevant application in socio-economic systems. In particular, Energy network science (ENS) is a new paradigm that draws from thermodynamics, information theory, and network analysis to assess the organization, patterns, and dynamics of diverse systems such as ecosystems, financial systems, and urban metabolism. ENS will be demonstrated for community resilience in terms of 10 measures of regenerative vitality. These measures can help urban and community planners improve the overall ‘metabolic’ performance of the relevant ecological, economic, or social systems.
(Note the full version of the presentation can be seen in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Design and Nature with Ecosystems, and can be freely downloaded from the digital library of the Wessex Institute at http://www.witpress.com/elibrary)
The Conference dinner took place in a well-known restaurant located in the Alicante marina. The excellent cuisine and good local wines provided an excellent environment to strengthen the links between the participants. The night was made more enjoyable by the performance of a music and dancing group which performed local pieces using typical Alicante musical instruments. The recital was excellent and well received by the delegates who had a unique opportunity to listen to regional music.
The International Scientific Advisory Committee (ISAC) met over dinner at a well-known local restaurant to discuss ways in which the conference will be improved in 2018 when it is due to be reconvened. A few more names were nominated for the ISAC and new topics added. The general consensus is that the meeting ought to be held in a location reasonably easy to reach and, if possible, in collaboration with a local research group working on Eco-Architecture.
Close of the Conference
The Conference was closed by Carlos who expressed his appreciation t to the University of Alicante for having co-organised the meeting and, in particular, making available excellent facilities on Campus. He also thanked the delegates for having participated in the meeting and looked forward to seeing them in 2018.