MA Studies > Interior design > Interior design alumnus > Xeni-Margarita Armao

Xeni-Margarita Armao

Preserving the natural environment by decreasing the negative impact of tourism   
In order to analyze the natural environment, it is important to define it first. ‘Natural environment is the sum of all living and non-living things that surround an organism, or group of organisms’.1 From the very beginning of human race’s existence, mankind lived and developed close to the nature. At the beginning they lived in caves in order to protect themselves from the cold and later they build their first house structures using natural materials like stone and wood. The importance of these natural materials (stone etc.) in the development of mankind can be proved by the fact that scientists gave names of these natural materials in specific periods of prehistoric eras. For example Stone Age is the broad prehistoric period during which stone was widely used in the manufacture of implements with a sharp edge, a point, or a percussion surface.2With the evolution of human kind and especially after the 18th century with the industrial revolution, materials like metal and steel replaced the natural materials of built. The result was a “concrete-metal city” without any identification with the nature. As a consequence, the environment has been destructed and overburdened with identical constructions lacking in proper architectural design. Building constructions and nature started to be two completely different concepts.

Nowadays, the need of people to come again close to the nature is a fact. People are seeking for opportunities to escape from the concrete reality of the cities and attempt to enjoy the nature in their free time (vacations). Toward this direction tourists choose places close to the nature, in order to live something different from their daily life.

The impact of tourism can be categorized in economic, social and environmental. Tourism is primary a main source of income for many countries. It is also a source of peace and understanding between the worlds and can contribute to the culture heritage. However tourism can potentially have negative impacts. Hotels and resorts dilute or destroy the local ecology and lead to the over consumption, pollution and lack of resources. Furthermore, tourism can create “architectural” or “aesthetic pollution”, through the construction of resorts that ruin the natural landscape.3 
Researching the integration between nature and building and the decrease of the negative impact of tourism on the environment, many questions arise. How can we decrease in the most effective way the negative impact of a construction in the natural environment? How the building can take advantage of the natural environment? How the building can potentially harmonized and integrated in the human and natural environment?
  In the Sustainable Architecture Module the author support that ‘During a building’s existence, it affects the local and the global environments via a series of interconnected human activities and natural processes. (…) site development and construction influence indigenous ecological characteristics’.4From this state arises the question how we can decrease in the most effective way the impact of a construction in the natural environment. In the book cradle to cradle: remaking the way we make things, the architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart focus on ways that we can use the nature itself as a model of manufacturing. So ‘our products and processes can be most deeply effective when they resonate with the living world.’5 If we consider the cradle to cradle theory the design can reflect a new way of thinking, which is expressed with the support of natural system.
  One more notion of cradle to cradle theory is that ‘natural systems take from the environment but they also give something back. The cherry tree drops its blossoms and leaves while it cycles water and makes oxygen ’5. In design process this notion can be translated as the relationship between tourist and building. How the building would take advantage of the natural environment and how will use it in order to create a unique relation with humans. If we adopt the nature’s example in design process, the results would be a creation of very inspiring engagement with nature. It is important to find the right patterns and to follow the right way in order to create the proper interaction between nature, building and people. It is significant to create buildings that inspire their inhabitants by taking advantage of natural site, sunlight spaces, fresh air, views on the nature and cultural delight.5

Using the nature as reference or material for a project means that the landscape becomes a ‘body-transformer’ that facilitates new experiences and different perspectives. In order to integrate the surrounding landscape with a building, the most important thing is to analyze the different shape of landscape. It is significant to explore the unique elements and inflections in order to understand as much as you can the nature and its environment. In the book Earth Moves: the furnishing of territories, Cache states ‘When faced with a surface of variable curvature, we necessarily focus on its extrinsic singularities. All we see are high and lows. Among geographical documents only orographical map lead our eye toward inflection for the contour lines are concentrated or dispersed about them. (…) Or, under another definition the point of inflection becomes a point of a plateau from which the contour lines diverge. These are the facts that language betrays but that orographic maps display.’ 6
  Human by his nature is used to live close to the natural environment, instead of “concrete, chaotic cities”. The main aim of my research is to find the ways that tourism infrastructure can conserve and enhance the natural beauty. Another aim of my research is the minimization of the negative impact of tourism such as the distraction of the local ecology caused by the over consumption, pollution and ruin of natural resources.3 Additionally it is important to understand and to analyze the different elements of the landscape in order to use the nature and to create something very unique. I anticipate, with my future research around the issues of natural landscape to discover the answers of my research questions.
Xeni Margarita Armao
December 2011

1. Ecological problems
2. International World History Project (2007). The Stone Age 
3. Terry Davies, Sarah Cahill (2000). Environmental Implications of theTourism Industry. Resources for the Future
4. Jong-Jin Kim, (1998). Sustainable Architecture Module: Introduction to sustainable design. National Pollution Prevention Center for Higher Education
5. William McDonough, Michael Braungart (2002). Cradle to Cradle: remaking the way we make things. North Point Press
6. Cache, B. (1995), Earth Moves: The Furnishing of Territories, ed. M. Speaks, trans.
A. Boyman, Cambridge: MIT Press.