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Deploying Martin Heidegger’s thinking on technology, this paper attempts to show an internal contradiction inherent in our technologically oriented approach to sustainable design. Heidegger’s thinking on technology, which has had an influence both on the ecological movement and on architecture, situates the problematic shift toward modern technology at the beginning of the enlightenment with the emergence of new understandings of both the subject and the object. Each of these revolutionary understandings contribute to the reframing of nature as knowable and (therefore) controllable. Nature thus moves from a position of mystery and wonder to that of a disenchanted, predictable system, allowing the appearance of a technological orientation in which nature is framed in advance as something simply manipulable for our benefit. Unlike the Classical Realist account of nature that emerged from the enlightenment separation of subject and object, Heidegger’s formulation of the real, of nature, does not allow the same confidence in causality and control. However, design, as the engine of technological innovation in modernity, appears inseparable from the modern technological understanding of causality and control and the framing of nature as a mere resource. This problematises the possibility that design, as it is currently conceived, can contribute to achieving an ecological sustainable relation to nature.
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