Living Dialogs

Can the buildings that we live in come alive? Could such living buildings help us to create a healthier, more sustainable future? Could they become adaptive, resilient structures that care for the planet while empathizing, comforting and inspiring us? The Living Dialogs series brings together scholars and thinkers to collectively reflect on living architecture and its implications for our changing world.

In each episode, guests and listeners are invited to reflect on prompts designed to encourage thoughtful, in-depth discussion. You are invited to contribute your own thoughts and questions, which may be taken up at the Living Dialogs Webinar with the same guests a couple of weeks following each episode’s release (webinar info in sidebar).

This extended format is born of our belief that knowledge creation is also a collaborative and living endeavour – that meaning is not simply created through the exchange of information but that ideas are formed through open and emergent conversations.  For more on the format, feel free to listen to the podcast listening guide.

192.51 MB

Podcast S1E3: Biology, Computation, and Care in the Anthropocene – Part 2

With Rachel Armstrong, Dehlia Hannah, and Mette Ramsgaard Thomson

35:02 —

October 21, 2021

Join Rachel Armstrong, Mette Ramsgaard Thomson, and Dehlia Hannah as they continue their discussion about the relationship between computation and biology, and the implications for Living Architecture as we conceive of a built environment that is more caring, inclusive, and sustainable.


Supported by the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, Michigan State University Center for Interdisciplinarity and the University of Waterloo.

  • Toolbox Dialogue Initiative
  • Michigan State University Center for Interdisciplinarity
  • University of Waterloo

Your Thoughts

In each Living Dialogs episode, guests and listeners are offered a number of prompts for reflection.  In this episode, the prompts considered by the guests are listed below. We encourage you to spend some time considering them, and leave us your thoughts or questions on the prompts or on living architecture more generally.  Then, join us a couple of weeks following the episode release for the Living Dialogs Webinar (information in sidebar) with the same guests, during which some of your thoughts and questions may be taken up for further discussion.  The webinar will also include a live Q&A portion.

In this episode, the prompts considered by the guests are listed below:

  • People cannot connect to living architecture unless it’s vulnerable.
  • Living architecture is only useful if it functions at the ecosystem scale.

Note: comments are moderated, so there may be some delay on submission.

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Wonderfully thought-provoking podcast. Thanks for sharing this.

I’m fascinated with the moment when Philip Beesley and Jenny Sabin recoil at the word, engineering.

I loved how Philip called it ‘premature’ in the context of living architecture. There’s a sense for me too that many 20th Century interventions would have done well to go just a little slower, a little more thoughtful. Less racing, more spacing.

As much as I do appreciate all the concerns raised, the reaction to the word, ’engineering’ felt almost delusive. Is this generational guilt? An aesthetic judgement, more about the connotations of words than what they mean in the statement? If not through engineering, then how? I was pleased to see the conversation move to the question of fostering an attitude of activist resolve. Hopeful there can be a sensitive approach to geo-engineering.

But also – let’s look at the object of the statement. Sustainability has come to mean so many things that it feels empty, maybe even dangerously misleading. Sustainable living of who? Us presumably, along with whatever of nature is needed to sustain us. So why not say it like it is? “The primary goal of living architecture should be for humans to live constantly.” That is after all, Sustain-ability. But it doesn’t feel so true to the discipline anymore.

So, how about subbing ‘sustainable living’ out of the statement?

As a provocation: “The primary goal of living architecture should be decay.” Decomposition seems like the underrated, underemphasized aspect of living in living architecture, at least in this conversation. And the design of endings still seems generally neglected by those disciplines who build the built environment.

Or — as a suggestion:

A primary goal of living architecture should be the continuous conditioning of homeostasis.

Along with aesthetics and utility, I think there is also a feeling, a feeling that I associate with architecture or cities that seem living (or rather, ALIVE) to me. The feeling has to do with vigor, co-existence, diversity, and joy. Thanks for a great conversation!