In 1986, New York academic Langdon Winner quoted that, ‘what matters not is technology itself, but the social or economic system in which it is embedded’. For in understanding and conceding that technology can provoke, challenge and necessitate a better quality of life, it can also contribute to a ‘persistent and troubling presence’ (Winner, 1986). We have the capacity to explore and experiment with, the recurrent emergence of innovative technologies, extending and adjudging their success and failure in experimental and unprecedented contexts; in doing so, we can begin to ‘consciously take responsibility for the Earth’s system, acknowledging that nature is not just what created us, it is also something we create, and that we can help sustain’ (Harris, 2012).
And in 2016, we can observe conscious environmental and sustainable responsibility being integrated with fervor in a multitude of domains, equally exaggerated and subtly understated. From urban planning and city living, to the agricultural field and architectural design, there has been a shift in the way emerging technologies are interposed.
Greenhost’s inner courtyard.
Yogyakarta’s Greenhost Boutique Hotel in Indonesia is one such example, with the hotel and architectural industries by large being significant undertakers and integrators of environmental redesigns. In an interview conducted face to face in February 2016 with hotel manager Albert Yonas Kusuma (2016, pers.comm., 26th February) I was able to discern how the Greenhost group have designed a ‘responsible hotel that meets Greenhost’s obligation to minimise its ecological impact towards the environment’ (A.Y.Kusuma, 2016, pers.comm., 26th February). Kusuma’s expression is a purposive one, that reflects on the notion that ‘the human population can resonate and identify within themselves on how they are the major natural force shaping planetary development’ (Harris, 2012). Furthering the discussion, Kusuma (2016, pers.comm., 26th February) elaborated on the holistic nature of the hotel. Materials are sourced second hand and up-cycled, the hotel kitchen sells surplus crops to other retailers and restaurants, details were given regarding the frugality of the hotel in reference to its energy usage, and there is the development of Greenhost’s own Social Corporate Value program, which empowers the local Yogya community through the transference of knowledge on city farming, ‘supplying them with the information they need to become more independent’ (A.Y.Kusuma, 2016, pers.comm., 26th February).
That Greenhost is focusing on the communal education of city farming and reducing food waste is important. For ‘as much as half of all food grown is lost or wasted before and after it reaches the consumer’ (Lundqvist et al, 2008), with this set to increase due to the proliferation of individuals living in high density, urban environments. Statistics forecast this to reach 70% of the world’s population by the year 2050 (United Nations, 2008), and with this rapid onset urban inhabitation comes the escalating concern for ‘avoiding food waste in all parts of the food chain…which is crucial for the food security agenda’ (Global Food Security, 2012).
Greenhost’s hydroponics on its rooftop garden farm.
The increasing social awareness with which the importance of self-reliance and self- sufficiency in food production is realized, is an appreciation that Greenhost has considered in its structural, aesthetic and holistic integrity, with the most visual example being the hydroponic set-up running through the inner courtyard, for which pickings are harvested and taken straight to the restaurant. A follow up interview with Kusuma led to additional information being shed on Greenhost’s architect and designer, Paulus Mintarga, who interestingly is also a co-owner of the hotel. Mintarga’s body of work is increasingly peppered with sustainable projects, however he is quoted as saying that he ‘does not want to by trapped by the concept of eco-sustainability’ (Galatio, 2014), elaborating that he perceives Indonesians to now hold ‘a forced awareness’ (Galatio, 2014) on the subject. In summation however, Mintarga’s integration of environmental technologies such as the hydroponic scheme and turning it into a core part of the hotel’s framework, is a clear example of the changing composition of global food distribution (and further the changing realm of architecture), whereby it becomes increasingly localised and a reflection of small social movements that align themselves with the justification and rationale that ‘humanity and the environment can learn to live in harmony’ (Harris, 2012).
Thus we come full circle, returning to Winner’s (1986) quote that ‘what matters not is technology itself, but the social or economic system in which it is embedded’.
View from the top. Looking down from the rooftop garden.
Galatio, M. 2014. Holistic Design with Paulus Mintargus. Whiteboard Journal. Viewed 08/04/2016, available at: http://www.whiteboardjournal.com/interview/15867/holistic-design-with-paulus-mintarga/
Global Food Security. 2012, The smart way to reduce food waste, United Kingdom, viewed 25th October 2015 <http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/research/impact/reduce-food-waste.html>
Harris, S. 2012, Pushing the Boundaries: The Earth System in the Anthropocene, The Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems, Bristol, United Kingdom
Ihde, Don 1993, ‘Technology,’ Philosophy of Technology: An introduction, New York: Paragon House, pp.47-64
Lundqvist J., de Fraiture C., Molden D, 2008, Saving water: from field to fork—curbing losses and wastage in the food chain, SIWI Policy Brief, Stockholm, Sweden
United Nations. 2008,World Urbanization Prospects. The 2007 Revision Population Database, viewed 25/08/2015, available at :<http://esa.un.org/unup/>
Winner, L. 1986, “Do Artifacts have Politics?” in The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, pp. 19-39.
* All photographs used in this blog post are the author’s own.