The Architecture of Place: Design by Radical Indigenism, with Julia Watson
Perhaps now more than ever before, we are all aware of the built environment that surrounds us, and of the impacts it has on the health of individuals, communities, and the planet. The Architecture of Place series brings together the established and emerging voices working to create a better built future. You can find more information on the full series here.
Three hundred years ago, intellectuals of the European Enlightenment constructed a mythology of technology. Influenced by a confluence of humanism, colonialism, and racism, this mythology ignored local wisdom and indigenous innovation, deeming it primitive. Today, we have slowly come to realize that the legacy of this mythology is haunting us.
Designers understand the urgency of reducing humanity’s negative environmental impact, yet perpetuate the same mythology of technology that relies on exploiting nature. Responding to climate change by building hard infrastructures and favoring high-tech homogenous design, we are ignoring millennia old knowledge of how to live in symbiosis with nature. Without implementing soft systems that use biodiversity as a building block, designs remains inherently unsustainable.
Lo—TEK, derived from Traditional Ecological Knowledge, is a cumulative body of multigenerational knowledge, practices, and beliefs, countering the idea that indigenous innovation is primitive and exists isolated from technology. It is sophisticated and designed to sustainably work with complex ecosystems.
In this talk hosted on December 15, 2020, Julia Watson discussed her research into thousands of years of human wisdom and ingenuity from places like Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania, Kenya, Iran, Iraq, India, and Indonesia. She spoke on how we can rediscover an ancient mythology in a contemporary context, radicalizing the spirit of human nature.