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Subtle empires: On craft and being crafty

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As architects attempt to situate their practice in relation to ecology, there are questions to be asked about what kinds of ecologies they are approaching, how and why. That these questions are being taken seriously – as witnessed by the appearance of a journal with a title like Design Ecologies (DES) – is to be commended, but we are still very much in the business of suggestive opening moves, precisely because what, broadly speaking, we can call an ecological sensibility’ raises so many questions about so many aspects of architectural practice. As Felix Robbins suggested in his contribution to the previous issue of DES, this extends even to the very idea of what engaging in an ‘architectural project’ involves. And like Robbins, I offer here a perspective on how what we might think of as ‘architecture’ could be invigorated through its contact with ecological thinking, but – and implicitly demonstrating the huge scope of the disciplinary reappraisal we are embarking on – take a very different route. This article suggests that an ‘ecological’ approach to architecture might reactivate some very old (and long-ignored) links between ‘design’ as craft and ‘design’ as implied in being crafty, and offers some thoughts about cunning as the way ecology and design meet.
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Keywords: craft; craftiness; cunning; design history; politics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Northumbria

Publication date: 10 October 2011

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  • Design Ecologies foregrounds the inextricable connection between human communication and ecological accountability in architectural design. This burgeoning field has the potential to become a far-reaching discipline, bonding a community that crosses over into and out of architecture, environment, interaction, urbanism, and performing arts and communication.
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