Michael Salka

Michael Salka

  • Scholar-elect
  • United States
  • 2021 PhD Architecture
  • Darwin College

The year 2020 marked the first time in history the anthropomass - the total amount of objects made by humans worldwide - exceeded the planetary biomass. We can no longer deny our role as primary shapers of the earth. In this context, realizing future cities which follow the principles of natural ecosystems to promote life requires the traditional practitioner’s skill sets in architecture, landscape, infrastructure, urban design and policy; along with expertise in parametric modeling and optimization, manual craftsmanship and digital manufacturing, dynamic project management, remote sensing, biology, ecology, forestry, thermodynamics, materials science, complexity science, citizen engagement, environmental justice, economics, well-being and beyond. Nature, combined with technology, graciously rewards such broad study with boundless innovative potentials we can leverage in human habitats. For instance, modest pieces of wood, properly arranged, create composites stronger by weight than steel. Moreover, organic metabolisms demonstrate strategies for repurposing ‘waste’ as a resource. As a child in a remote corner of the Rocky Mountains, I grew up shaping, and being shaped by, non-human nature. My career as a maker began with humble forts of pine, mud, and snow, then proceeded to harness environmental forces through the construction of communal rainwater catchment pavilions in Rwanda, solar and geo-thermal powered neighborhoods in Colorado, and prototypical engineered timber homes in Spain. My research synthesizes the values of these initiatives to envision cities holistically integrated with their ecologies in order to function as urban organisms. During my doctorate, I’ll continue to collaborate across borders and disciplines investigating how geospatial data can inform locally appropriate, nature-based value chains for development which catalyze the sustainable regional economies we’ll need to meet the projected demand for a doubling of global floor area by 2060 - while mitigating climate change. I'm honored to have been offered this privileged opportunity by the Gates Cambridge Trust and the University of Cambridge, as well as to be counted among such a diversely accomplished cohort, and extend my profound gratitude to everyone who has empowered my achievements to date.

Previous Education

Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia Advanced Ecological Buildings 2019
University of Colorado at Boulder Env. Design: Architecture 2014