Posts filed under ‘Articles’

Computing Environmental Design

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“Computing Environmental Design,” in The Culture of Nature in the History of Design, Kjetil Fallan (ed.), (London: Routledge, 2019), 44-57.

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Abstract

In December 1964 the Boston Architectural Center organizedthe first conference on the role of computers in architecture – an issue that designers had been pondering since the 1950s. The questionat stake in such debates had been the relationship between artists and machines. Environmental design proved to be an unlikely question that emerged in the discussion, with architect and designer Serge Chermayeff noting that with computers environmental complexities could now come under the purview of architecture. Only a year earlier Chermayeff had published the seminal book Community and Privacy: Toward a New Architecture of Humanismwith Christopher Alexander, wherethe two authors had argued for a humanism that placed environmental concerns at the forefront. At the conference Chermayeff argued that computers constituted a critical tool for analyzing and comprehending environmental complexity, allowing for the integration of the built within the natural environment. “Our survival depends upon our ability to master new complexities” he argued, “with the best technology at our disposal.” This optimism with respect to how computers could help in solving environmental problems was shared among modernist designers, most notably by Richard Buckminster Fuller, but also among ecologists and biologists of the period. Computers could order both the human and natural environment using the same language, thus bringing landscape and architectural design in dialogue. Yet computers of the time were cumbersome to work with and getting access to them was not a matter of course. The architects’ musings about computers ultimately had to do with imagined futures for the design disciplinesand not so much thepractical exigencies of the time. By focusing on Serge Chermayeff’s critical response to the introduction of computers as tools for grasping and communicating complexity, this paper will interrogate the emergence ofcomplexity as an aesthetic and design problem, formative for the introduction of computing to architectural design.

 

June 10, 2019 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

Anthropocene Architecture: Design Earth’s Geostories

“Anthropocene Architecture: Design Earth’s Geostories” with Nina Edwards Anker, The Avery Review 29 (Feb. 2018).

Republished in: Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy, Geostories: Another Architecture for the Environment, (Barcelona: Actar, 2018), 206-213.

A review of the exhibition Geostories: Another Architecture for the Environment, created by Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy, which was on display at the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York, October 17, 2017–December 2, 2017.

February 8, 2018 at 10:21 am Leave a comment

Untangling Intentions: Teaching the History of Climate Politics

51lw736myrl-_sx331_bo1204203200_“Untangling Intentions: Teaching the History of Climate Politics,” in Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities, Stephen Siperstein, Shane Hall and Stephanie LeMenager (eds.), (New York: Routledge, 2016), 272-278

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September 29, 2016 at 8:49 am Leave a comment

Ouroboros Architecture

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“Ouroboros Architecture,” in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture, Charissa N. Terranova and Meredith Tromble (eds.), (New York: Routledge, 2016), 112-135.

This article explores how and why imagined and real environments in space came to serve as models for ecological design of earthly landscapes and buildings in the 1970s. It claims that life in space came to represent the peaceful, rational, and environmentally friendly alternative to the destructive, irrational, ecological crisis down on Earth. Spaceship management aimed narrowly at the biological survival of astronauts, an ethic which also came to dominate ecological design proposals on board Spaceship Earth. The result was a design programme which was at the expense of a wider aesthetic and social understanding of the human condition. The article reviews the work of leading ecological designers of the period, such as Ian L. McHarg, John Todd and the New Alchemists, Alexander Pike and John Frazer, Brenda and Robert Vale, Ken Yeang, Phil Hawes, and others. It situates their projects in the perspective of ecological research methods of the period and puts forward an understanding of their thinking in the context of space exploration. Today’s challenge is to escape the intellectual space capsule that ecologists have created for environmentally concerned architects.

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September 19, 2016 at 3:17 pm 1 comment

Art in the Anthropocene

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“Art in the Anthropocene,” in Jan Freuchen: Columna Translantica, (Oslo: Press, 2015), 112-121.

Global warming is now at the forefront of public debate, along with a host of related environmental concerns. Indeed, humans are changing the face of the earth so dramatically that geologists use the word “anthropocene” to describe a new planetary epoch formed by human impact. Artists have increasingly begun reflecting on how to engage in the climate debates about the degradation of our shared environment. Jan Freuchen’s Columna Transatlantica may belong within this new school of environmental art.

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Download article in English here or Norwegian here.

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April 6, 2016 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

A pioneer country? A history of Norwegian climate politics

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A pioneer country? A history of Norwegian climate politicsClimatic Change, (Online March 2016), 1-13. Journal edition 151:1 (2018), 29-41.

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The shift away from ecology towards climatology in Norwegian environmental policy in the late 1980s and 1990s was not accidental. A main mover was the Labor Party politician Gro Harlem Brundtland who did not want to deal with unruly and highly vocal Deep Ecologists. Better then to start afresh with a different set of environmental scholars appealing to the technocratic tradition within the Labor Party. Instead of changing the ethical and social ways of dealing with environmental problems as the Deep Ecologists were advocating, she was looking for technological and economic solutions. And she mobilized an international regime of carbon capture storage (CCS), tradable carbon emissions quota (TEQs), and clean development mechanisms (CDMs), all of which eventually were approved in Kyoto in 1997. This move towards technocracy and cost-benefit economics reflects a post-Cold War turn towards utilitarian capitalism, but also a longing to showcase Norway as an environmental pioneer country to the world. The underlying question was how to reconcile the nation’s booming petroleum industry with reduction in climate gas emissions. Should the oil and gas stay underground and the country strive towards the ecologically informed zerogrowth society the Deep Ecologists were envisioning? Or could growth in the petroleum industry take place without harming the environment as the Labor Party environmentalists argued?

April 4, 2016 at 3:43 pm Leave a comment

From Bauhaus to Ecohouse: A Short History of Ecological Design

From Bauhaus to Ecohouse: A Short History of EFront triennalecological Design,” in Behind the Green Door: Architecture and the Desire for Sustainability, Helle Benedicte Berg (ed.), (Oslo: Oslo Architecture Triennale, 2013), 129-139.

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October 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm Leave a comment

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