Issues of Scarcity as Design Tactics

By Axel Becerra.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The paper begins a debate on the future of sustainable architecture in Mexico and how it can be enhanced by exploring the Issues of Scarcity. This means recognising the value of features of vernacular or neo-vernacular (informal) architecture created by the challenge of not having sufficient resources to fulfil basic needs. In other words instead considering architecture from the perspective of commodity and abundant control of resources to produce a ‘perfect’ product, the paper recognises the value of the features of production of architecture in a condition of scarcity and open to ‘imperfection’.
It is argued that the resources and priorities in the Global South are very different from those of the developed North, and yet many of the concepts of architecture and sustainability have been uncritically adapted from one context into another. The result is that issues of sustainability in the architecture of countries such as Mexico remain under-theorised.
A number of leading architects and theorists have started to look to the vernacular as providing solutions for a more sustainable future, suggesting that lessons from the vernacular could contribute to facing the challenges of the global community today. However, this paper argues that there are distinctive features in the idea of imperfection and the processes of improvisation that may specifically be used as renewed design tactics. This means to go beyond an understanding of such issues as ‘historic’ or ‘aesthetic’ approaches only, and to see them as principles that may inform a new design process. In short, this paper suggest that an approach that does not look to the perfection of the object or to prescribed processes of design may be a fruitful ground for the discussion of a sustainable architecture appropriate to the specific context of Mexico or other countries with similar characteristics.

Keywords: Design, Sustainability, Scarcity, Oportunity

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.233-250. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 969.886KB).

Axel Becerra

PhD Student, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, Southyorkshire, UK

I am reading a PhD by Design at the University of Sheffield in UK, which aims to encourage a high level of design research backed by a rigorous investigation into a theoretical and practical proposition. Previously I have been an academic and a practitioner of architecture in the faculty of Architecture of UMICH in Morelia, Mex. and in the in-house design and construction department of the same university.


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