Interview with Dennis Moet, author of Autarkische Wonen (Autonomous Living)

Dennis Moet is author of “Autarkische Wonen” and a number of other works dedicated to framing contemporary views on sustainability within urbanism and architecture. He currently works as a senior advisor on water, climate, and sustainability at ARCADIS ( I was recently able to ask him some questions about sustainability and urbanism in the context of the scenarios we were developing in Lab01 of the Rijksbouwmeester’s Research Labs.

A picture is worth more than a thousand words in this case, and our discussion focused on a schema Dennis recently completed in order to explain precisely his thinking on sustainability.

As a starting point in the discussion about sustainability it is crucial to communicate that it is not an add-on at the end of the design process, and is also not simply about reducing energy consumption, or using eco-friendly materials. It’s a systematic design approach that is conceptual rather than formal – a different way of thinking. It’s about flows, and connecting to them. All kinds of flows or cycles on a variety of levels and processes.

People are the living inhabitants of cities – now imagine the city as a living organism as well. Because you need food and energy inputs, so does the city. The essence of the whole vision is here, in capturing the life of the city in ways we haven’t imagined before. In Dennis’ system there are clear inputs and outputs that relate to the technosphere and the biosphere. On that level we pretty much know what we need to do- it’s about energy, material resources, and food, essentially (this is exactly why I’ve chosen to work within landscape architecture).

This is not as straightforward as the human dimension. We animate the urban system with our myriad networks and relationships, from economics to therapeutics. What is the link between the resilience and structure of our social systems and their impact on a global scale? I’m not a systems scientist, but it would seem that urban social interdependencies heavily determine the material flow and this opens up a new territory to explore.