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The impact of ecological thought on architectural theory.

Lewis, Penny


Penny Lewis


Christopher Thorpe

Richard Laing


This thesis looks at the idea of ecology and its relationship to, and influence on, architectural thought. Ecological thinking emerged as a subset of biology in the second half of the nineteenth century and developed as a philosophical idea and a political outlook. As an idea that stands in the hinterland between science and society, it has not been particularly stable; sometimes it is fashionable, at other times it has disappeared from consciousness. This thesis looks at the long history of ecology, paying particular attention to the periods when it was a popular idea and it had an impact on the imagination and outlook of architects. The first of these periods is in the decades from Darwin's publication of his theory of evolution through to the run-up to the First World War, prior to the emergence of the Modern Movement. The second period is brief, from the late ‘60s through to the early '70s, and is popularly referred to as the Age of Ecology. Finally, there is the period from 2000 to the present. The final section of the study looks at the impact of ecological thought on architectural ideas and buildings today, when there is a high level of concern about the environment. Through historical interpretation, the study identifies some of the core themes of ecological thought and looks at their relationship to the design of the built environment. It traces the recurring themes of naturalism, vitalism and materialism, which are emerging as significant influences on today's architecture. The thesis includes research interviews with some of the leading architectural thinkers and historians of our time in order to situate the discussion of ecology in the broader discourse on the purpose and nature of architecture and the future of the discipline and the profession.


LEWIS, P. 2019. The impact of ecological thought on architectural theory. Robert Gordon University [online], PhD thesis. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 27, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 27, 2020
Keywords Architecture and design; Architectural theory; Design theory; Ecology; Ecological concerns; Environmentalism; Architectural history
Public URL
Award Date Sep 30, 2019


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