Connective Architecture, Fragile Relationships and Resilient Edges.

As designers we are party in the process of designing the built environment. This however rarely takes place as a single act but is part of longer and wider process in the production of space and does not finish with the execution of any architectural design. Evidence of lives and events, past and present, inhabit the built fabric, often bringing with them value for those who occupy and use these spaces. Our appreciation of this is crucial in order to prevent its erasure. Likewise, our understanding of our role in the creation of future interfaces and an ongoing enrichment of the environment is vital. Connective architecture engages with these concerns, working deeply within place and across time.

An edge can be thought of as any point of interface where one entity ends and another starts. This very notion of edge implies fragility or vulnerability. In the similar way that physical edges are often prone to damage or are places where fracturing or failure of an entity begins, fringes or edges in a social, and economic sense share a similar fragility.

Alterations to such edges bring with them change not only to the edge itself but also to the entity with which it interfaces. In the example of coastal geology, alterations to defend a vulnerable cliff invariably shift fragility to a new location where there are no defences. This can be seen in aerial views of Rottingdean’s cliffs and coast. The addition of beach groynes disturb the natural movement of shingle and sand up and down the coastline, starving other of material to refresh that washed away and creating new locations for coastal vulnerability.

Contrary to apparent logic, soft edges can be seen to be actually more resilient than new hard edges. Soft edges have capacity to reconfigure, adapt, adjust, reposition themselves, responding to changing conditions over time. As such they offer much potential for coastal geologies, and share affiliations with ideas of ‘informality’ and ‘incrementality’ in the design of the built environment. These shared concerns of responsiveness and interconnectedness, allied with community engagement and site specific approaches to design are the underpinning of connective architecture.

key themes: connective architecture; body and landscape; edge conditions; natural and social ecologies; resilience; time-sensitive architectures.