Institution: RWTH Aachen University, Faculty of Architecture – Germany


Keywords: Concept for Architecture Student Excursion, Aesthetical Awareness and Change of Perspective for Forest Condition, Sustainable and Resource-Conscious Design Procedures

Report on a 5 day student excursion (RWTH Aachen University, faculty for architecture) in cooperation with the Vallendar City Forestry Bureau.

What starts with a childhood dream of immersing into the forest to build your own treetop hut under easiest circumstances aims at sensitizing architecture students for ecological balance, sustainable and resource-conscious design procedures.

Some things can´t be learned, they have to be experienced to let theoretical become applied knowledge. The primary task of this excursion was to investigate the demands and conditions for sustainable living during a “survival camp” in the forest: Building a tree house only from materials gathered on site to sleep at night. It embodies a playful approach to the archaic origins of architecture as well as its tight connection to forestry resources; resources in the sense of material related aspects, as well as the aesthetical perception of them.

This hands-on approach was only possible through the cooperation with the forester of the City of Vallendar, sharing his knowledge and inside view into the specific situation and allowing to intervene in the scene. Only condition to this was to handle the forest in a respectful manner and that the built structures could be reassembled without maintaining harm to the forest: the intention was to learn from the forest and understand its “behaviour” as a catalyst for explorative and sustainable design strategies. The results were woven, bound and easily connected leaves, branches and smaller trunks assembled into atmospheric shelters and installations, which directly responded to the requirements. The core of the exercise lies in the perception of the environment and its influence on one’s own actions in a practical way. This was accompanied by a dialogue and discussions with foresters, hunters, visitors and wanderers on site.

Operating on a complex, active environment left traces on all participants. On one hand, participating students left a trace in the forest and on the other, the forest experience left a trace in the consciousness of the students for ecological balance in aesthetical and resource related issues. This approach was only possible with a small group of participants, but the aspiration is, that through the ongoing discussions this gained knowledge is shared in a multiple way: to understand the forest neither as a passive material resource, nor recreational place only, but to get a multifaceted perspective onto it.

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