When the question, "what's your thesis?" comes up, elaborating on the topic of atmosphere usually results in an obscure conversation about what atmosphere is exactly. How do you develop an architectural provocation based on something apparently immaterial, and for the most part, invisible? As a parallel point of departure, architecture as a discipline is struggling, and little of it, in my opinion, is due to the state of the economy. The service-oriented practice has been perpetually whittled away through value engineering, cost-cutting, and hyper-quantification of objective aspects of design. Perhaps, this is the idealist graduate student perspective coming out, but what are we studying for if not to disrupt status quo operations of the discipline?
Which brings us to atmosphere. As a clarification, 'atmosphere' and its use throughout this research is focused on architecture's responsibility for articulating the interior through moderation of temperature, humidity, and ventilation [in short, air conditioning], and is not to be confused with 'the atmosphere' as a global/environmental qualifier. Climate-control as a sub-category of architectural production is grossly overlooked, despite the power it has over the human subject in space. Let's imagine an extreme example: you walk into a museum, whose spaces are of pleasant proportions, whose walls are clad with the finest materials. If the temperature is sweltering and the humidity is enough to cause instant perspiration, the atmosphere is likely to have a more indelible effect on the memory of this place than the building's material conditions. You'll be lamenting not bringing along your handkerchief instead of absorbing, questioning, appreciating the physical environment of the space.
[above] Dome over Manhattan, by Buckminster Fuller
[below] Blur Building, by Diller Scofidio + Renfro
The research provocation is in large, a response to the historical binary of architectural conceptions of atmosphere as either hermetically sealed representational tool for understanding the Earth's environment [Bucky Fuller's Dome over Manhattan comes to mind], or an emphasis on the affective qualities of the immaterial as sensorial stimulus [Blur Building]. Though the discourse on atmosphere has shifted between and around these two positions, my research is searching for a middle ground; an urban scenario in which the spaces outside of the home [typically hermetically-sealed] adopts atmospheric manipulation as a way to provoke activity or event. In other words, If climate-control is one of the few non-negotiable aspects of articulating space, how might we use this to generate new conditions beyond the interior?
Numbered posts refer to my current thesis research at the University of Michigan entitled "The Middle: Atmospheres of Control"
This blog likely arises from an over-abundance of architectural theory courses this semester. There are far too many thoughts ruminating in the atmosphere at Taubman College to not transcribe somewhere.