non-extractive architecture(s)

non-extractive architecture(s)

a directory of design without depletion

Initiated by Space Caviar, Non-Extractive Architecture is an ongoing project aimed at collectively rethinking the balance between the built and natural landscapes, the role of technology and politics in future material economies, and the responsibility of the architect as an agent of transformation. The project sets out to investigate possible alternatives to the dominant paradigm of architecture - alternative modes of practice which, each in its own way, contribute to the formation of a new understanding of what it means to shape the designed environment.

The establishment of a new paradigm faces two challenges - one internal to the profession, the other external. On the one hand, attempting to “practice differently” can be a lonely endeavor with much risk and little reward, especially for small, independent practices which make up the vast majority of the design profession. On the other, the marketplace’s expectations of the architect are often not aligned with the goals of long-term thinking or a non-extractive approach to material use.

non-extractive architecture(s) is a detailed ongoing directory that aims to address both of these challenges. Developed in close collaboration with the Practice Lab at re:arc institute, a non-profit philanthropic association working at the intersection of climate action and architecture philanthropy, the platform curates a network of support and information exchange for individuals, practitioners, communities, and institutions worldwide interested in participating in the creation and amplification of more equitable paradigms in architecture.

To contribute to the ongoing directory, contact us below.

ways of practices

  • Timeless Ways of Building

    rediscovering vernacular techniques 
    Building is what we do - it’s what defines us as a species. This filter highlights a series of approaches to building design that traverse history, bridging contemporary architecture and some of the oldest construction technologies known to humans. As the long-term drawbacks of modern “miracle materials” such as reinforced concrete become clear, the relevancy of many vernacular techniques is being rediscovered, and is leading to the emergence of new approaches and forms which are, in fact, as old as architecture itself.
  • Material Origins

    material choice and breakthroughs 
    The history of architecture and the history of materials science are deeply intertwined: the way a community builds is a function of the materials it has access to. In recent times, deep supply chains and breakthroughs in materials science have converged to offer designers unprecedented choice in terms of materials they use. This apparently unlimited choice, however, has often come at the expense of unseen costs: to the environment, to communities elsewhere, to the health of a building’s inhabitants. This section explores practices in architecture which consider the importance of material choice, and its full spectrum of implications.
  • The Politics of Construction

    architectures relationship to labor and community
    A building's "footprint" is most commonly understood in terms of its energy consumption and the emissions involved in building and running it. But architecture's impact on society goes far beyond energy use: regardless of their environmental credentials, buildings can unite or divide communities, consolidate or undermine social justice, and can reward or exploit the people who construct them. They can also bring happiness and prosperity to one place while (perhaps unwittingly) causing irreparable damage to another. This section considers architecture's relationship with labor, community, and society, investigating the work of practices who consider the conditions in which a building is produced as an integral part of its budget sheet.
  • The Long Now

    designing at planetary and millennial scales
    Buildings are expensive, and the purpose of the significant investment architecture requires is generally understood to be to make the world a better place. In practical terms, however, the act of building often translates into the depletion of finite resources. As a consequence, architects are increasingly asking themselves: is necessary or acceptable to prioritise short-term prosperity over the rights of future generations? The projects in this group consider architecture’s implications beyond the “now”, thinking of its consequences at planetary and millennial scales.
  • Building as Last Resort

    adaptive reuse and the architecture of maintenance
    Even as it has become clear that a significant proportion of the root causes of the current environmental crisis originate in the activities of the construction industry, building has not stopped. On the contrary, in many instances it has accelerated, driven by a perceived need to replace current stock with more energy efficient alternatives. This filter highlights the work of practices who disagree with this approach, choosing instead to work with existing structures and materials, restoring, maintaining, adapting and facilitating reuse.
  • Systems Architecture

    software aided systems and new technologies
    Technological acceleration is a double-edged sword: it can accelerate processes of extraction and depletion, or uplift individuals and communities and provide means of empowerment. The practices in this groups work with open systems, new technologies and software platforms to build strategic solutions: components that are widely interchangeable, new material applications, and objects that allow infinite adaption and repair.