Riffing on Kuma:
culture-based sustainably via pattern and layering
This study is based on an architecture studio that examines culture as an integral part of architectural production, on the theory that achieving a deeper level of sustainability requires a thorough-going engagement with culture. Believing that culture encompasses and !s a society’s approach to all the pillars (ecological, social, economic) of sustainable development. Achieving this requires deeper insight into the myriad ways in which culture can shape architecture, which in turn shapes culture. While the link between culture and sustainability is increasingly accepted, what culture !s relative to architecture needs more careful analysis. We will first review how studying artifacts beyond the confines of architectural production sparked deeper understandings of how culture is both persistent and dynamic across time and circumstance. Our focus, however, will be Kengo Kuma’s theory of how pattern and layering are potent vehicles for enacting culture as sustainability--“The rediscovery of the heritage of traditional Japanese patterns and boundaries can unveil new horizons and new challenges to sustainability in world’s architecture. Through layering we can protect ourselves from natural elements, without detaching us from nature” (Liotta & Belfiore, 94). We will show how our own “riff” on this through analyses and making exercises—helped students internalize qualitative and quantitative sustainability values. Students embarked on project design ready to test how culture, as embodied in things like food growing and preparation, climatic and seasonal awareness aligned with patterns of activity, and layered spatial practices, could inform sustainable approaches. This enhanced mode of design thinking will enable them to function more meaningfully, as well as pragmatically, out in the world. This is a case study based on qualitative methods of evaluation.