Program of topic
Department(s) or unit(s)
- Department of Design and Environmental Analysis
Jack (John) Elliot
Associate Professor, Design and Environmental Analysis
The construction, operation, and decommissioning of the built environment consumes about 50% of the world’s energy and resources, and is responsible for many significant negative environmental impacts. Global warming is an alarming development but is only one of a host of inter-related environmental challenges that we as a species face. Population, desertification, toxification, non-person habitat loss, dwindling fresh water supplies, all contribute to the recent environmental crisis. Many of these can be addressed by thoughtful, aware approaches to creating the built environment.
I am interested in creating a greater awareness about environmental responsibility in the built environment through my scholarship, where I am researching the idea of “Nature inside” both in a theoretical sense and in a practical sense. In the theoretical domain, I am interested in those aspects of material culture of the built environment that express a society’s set of values as they pertain to the natural world, especially regarding environmental ethics and aesthetics. I am currently working on a book on this subject, entitled “Opus Natura: A global history of thought about nature and the built environment”. In the practical domain, I use the design project to “pull” technology in a real world context to produce meaningful works. The project prototype is used as a stimulant for design discourse, a conductor for technological developments, and an exemplar for commercial enterprise. I have been producing a collection of studio furniture works designed to heighten awareness of various environmental issues associated with their manufacture. Most recently, my “Arbortecture” pieces are exploring the intimate relations between people, trees, and buildings. They have been exhibited at the Johnson Museum and one work has been installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Concurrently, in a more technical vein, I have been developing a new renewable material-based structural system called “Triakonta”, designed for disassembly and carbon-sequestration. A quarter-scale version had been prototyped for furniture production. Most recently, a bamboo-based version is under development for field testing in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.