Lorrimar_Shanks_whole_thesis_ex_pub_mat.pdf (67.6 MB)
Restorying ecological urbanism in Hong Kong
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 10:25 authored by Lorrimar-Shanks, J
An increasing awareness of humankind's dependence on vulnerable ecological systems and the recognition of the anthropogenic origins of ecosystem destruction have compelled designers to explore sustainable alternatives to prevailing patterns of development. The growing urbanisation of the world's population suggests research be focused on sustainable urbanism. This study is interested in the ability for ecological metaphors to offer valuable concepts to urban designers, in the context of Hong Kong, by facilitating understanding through ecological reasoning and enhancing communication with rhetorical devices. Ecological systems provide examples of how heterogeneous systems regulate and adapt their processes and growth patterns through diffuse networks, multi-scalar interactions, and feedback in order to remain compatible with changing environmental conditions. The implication of recognising the overlap of metabolic, organisational and developmental aspects of ecological systems broadens the scope of the research and causes it to cross disciplinary boundaries. Essential to understanding the value of ecological metaphor is the recognition that the interpretive nature of metaphor can produce a variety of outcomes to either contribute to, by explicating and imagining, or undermine sustainability endeavours, by misleading or obscuring. Ecological metaphor is often applied in a normative manner, with the assumption that ecologically-derived design concepts are wholly positive, which is not the case, yet it is rarely acknowledged by designers. A close study of metaphor anticipates a methodology that is attentive to language. The exploration of ecological metaphor in this study emerges through a process of participative narrative inquiry. Case narratives explore the sustainability initiatives of two case groups in Hong Kong (Transition South Lantau, and Civic Exchange) alongside ecologically-derived design concepts. The case narratives raise issues with a number of ecological design concepts that have become part of the sustainability lexicon. In this research, ecological design concepts are challenged, disregarded or extended, restorying ecological metaphor to improve its usefulness as urban design theory in Hong Kong. The ecological reasoning process, both imaginative and critical, reveals that: metaphors have at times been modelled on outdated ecological theory; explained in mechanistic or anthropomorphic terms that obscure critical aspects of ecosystems; or have misrepresented the ecological processes from which they were derived. In order to fulfil ecological metaphor's potential for urban design, this study recommends that attention is paid to the semantics of the adopted term, the accuracy of the concept in relation to its ecological source, divergence between ecosystems and cities that would make ecological concepts unsuitable, and whether ecological concepts are appropriate for the context in which they are applied. This study demonstrates the importance of adopting a critical approach to the conception and communication of ecological design concepts and does so by engaging in a participative narrative inquiry process. The chosen methodology enables a critical approach, which increases the utility of the ecological design concepts, and in-so-doing reveals the contribution of methodological decisions as well as design decisions on sustainability outcomes.
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