Circular Strategies is a teaching and research area at the Department of Structural Engineering established by Prof. Karin Raith and Lukas Allner in 2020. It addresses sustainable building issues with a focus on circular economy / circular design concepts. This area includes the organization of a series of annual symposia with contributions from international experts in various fields and a seminar led by Lukas Allner.
The climate crisis and resource scarcity are forcing us to reduce the ecological footprint of architecture and not only to challenge conventional linear practices but to find and invent entirely new strategies for constructing the built environment. At the Department of Building Construction, we focus on material applications and building systems. In this context, the concept of circular economy encompasses two areas: one is concerned with the (re)use of what is already there, and the other is concerned with the design of new structures that are capable of change.
In addition to training students to engage with both domains and understanding the issues and implications involved as well as forming a general sensibility, this seminar focuses on exploring how the use of resource-based practices opens up new possibilities for cultural expression. Can we view circular approaches not only as an obligation, an obstacle to be overcome on the path to ideal designs, but can we turn the perceived disadvantage into a potential for a future-oriented/living architecture (and aesthetics)?
The seminar will focus on building systems, connection principles, and realization concepts as a complementary specialization course to the work in the design studios.
At the beginning of the semester, students start from a given precondition, such as a specific material to work with or an existing building structure. The properties, potentials, and limitations of these conditions are first analyzed. From this, students develop concepts for prototype building systems that are based on this premise. In this first phase, students practice techniques of reuse in a bottom-up method without a specific design goal.
Toward the end of the semester, students further develop their concepts by translating them into adaptable design systems that allow for flexible use scenarios and/or have the ability to be disassembled and reconfigured. The linear process of reuse is translated into a cyclical model, designed for change.
The main part of the course is the development of individual projects based on a specific task, with weekly meetings for consultation, input lectures, and workshops to provide general and specific support for each task.