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Sustainability can be defined in many ways. In constructing his interpretation, Illinois Architecture Professor Mark Taylor draws on the idea of “considering connection through time.” By adopting this perspective, he unveils clues to how our built environments can be more in tune with natural cycles and foster greater connections with the natural world.
Anyone driving through central Illinois can’t help but notice the overwhelming prevalence of agricultural land, dominated extensively by the cultivation of corn and soybeans. But when Taylor looks out over acres of Midwestern cropland, he’s primarily interested in what happens after the harvest is complete.
“There’s an abundance of agricultural fiber produced as a byproduct of crop cultivation,“ he said. “The combine harvesters come by and take out the corn, and everything else gets sent out the back as waste. In some cases, this material is gathered in windrows and taken for animal bedding, but I think there’s also an opportunity to take some of this material and put it to higher value uses.”
Working out of the Fresh Press Studio, Taylor collaborates with Art + Design Professor Eric Benson to explore and experiment with “how agricultural fibers can be used in three dimensions.” These uses occupy a spectrum of scales, from microscopic fiber analyses — to develop strong and long-lasting paper — up to the architectural scale on which Taylor is currently focused: the construction of monolithic walls.