The Extinction of Experience: Bridging the Gap Between Humans and Nature through Concrete Aging and Architecture


Hatched by Shalom

Mar 17, 2024

3 min read


The Extinction of Experience: Bridging the Gap Between Humans and Nature through Concrete Aging and Architecture

In his memoir, The Thunder Tree, Robert M Pyle coined the term "extinction of experience" to describe the ongoing alienation of humans from nature. He argued that this loss not only deprives us of the personal benefits of the natural world but also leads to a decline in health and well-being. Without direct interaction with nature, people are less likely to perceive and value its advantages, and therefore, less motivated to protect it.

This decline in human-nature interactions can be attributed to the decrease in opportunities to directly experience nature. As our rate of interaction with the natural world decreases, our behavior towards it also changes. This has significant implications for both childhood and adulthood experiences. While much attention is focused on childhood experiences, adults also benefit from direct interactions with nature.

On the other hand, concrete aging in architecture offers a unique perspective on bridging the gap between buildings and their surrounding cityscapes. The National Theatre's concrete exterior, for example, weathers over time, developing white patches and lichen growth. This process not only integrates the building into the riverscape but also challenges ideas of permanency and solidity.

Time plays a crucial role in the power and beauty of monuments. The durability of the National Theatre's concrete structure emphasizes its role and permanency within the cultural landscape. The use of reinforced concrete as both a structural element and an ornate material serves the building's demands and aesthetic. The distinctive board-marked concrete throughout the public spaces of the building showcases the meticulous work and attention to detail.

While concrete can be perceived as monotonous and unattractive, its extensive use in the National Theatre was a practical choice due to the building's size and structural demands. Concrete's strength and ability to support large openings with fewer vertical elements made it the most suitable material for the project. Additionally, concrete helped isolate the theatre auditoriums from exterior noise.

The extensive use of concrete also aligns with the architect's intention to create a building that emphasizes its essentials. By exposing the bareness of the structural elements and showcasing the rough texture of concrete, the National Theatre rejects traditional decorative exteriors and instead embraces a minimalist approach.

The location of the National Theatre also plays a significant role in its design. Situated by the river, the building takes advantage of the panoramic view of London. The architect imagined the movement of the audience within the building to mirror the ebb and flow of the river's tides, creating a rhythm that enhances the overall experience.

In conclusion, the extinction of experience in human-nature interactions and the performative falling of concrete exteriors in architecture share common themes of time, durability, and the integration of elements into their respective environments. To bridge the gap between humans and nature, it is crucial to prioritize direct interactions with the natural world. Additionally, incorporating materials like concrete in architecture allows for unique connections between buildings and their surroundings. To foster a greater appreciation for nature and architecture, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Seek opportunities for direct interaction with nature, whether through outdoor activities, gardening, or simply taking walks in natural settings. This will help reestablish the connection between humans and the natural world.
  • 2. Embrace the aging process of built structures and appreciate the changes that occur over time. The weathering and transformation of concrete exteriors can be seen as a form of art that adds character and uniqueness to the architectural landscape.
  • 3. Engage with architecture and urban spaces by actively observing and appreciating their design and integration into the surrounding environment. Look for the ways in which buildings contribute to the overall aesthetic and functionality of a cityscape.

By incorporating these actions into our lives, we can foster a greater appreciation for both nature and architecture, bridging the gap between humans and the built environment.

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