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The Anthropocene and architecture. Undergraduate Thesis.

bennysmall

I'd be stoked if you'd check out my developing Thesis for my undergraduate degree and let me know what you think.

https://ds.lclark.edu/bensmall/senior-capstone/

I think some of my best thinking is in my posts establishing the concept of the anthropocene as a salient problem space for architecture.

Also, your ideas about the aesthetics/presentation of my work would be handy as I plan on submitting this along with my portfolio for a March.

Happy to answer questions, engage in constructive dialogue, and heed your advice.

I welcome honest criticism.

Here's the quick and dirty:

The anthropocene (a new geological epoch describing the planet as fundamentally altered by human activity)  poses unique challenges for architecture by challenging established notions of dwelling (see Heidegger, Building Dwelling Thinking). How to dwell in the anthropocene?

My thesis establishes the anthropocene as fundamentally a conversation about us (humans and our actions) as well as a salient problem space for architectural production. My argument is that dwelling in the antrhopocene requires a fundamental understanding of each individual's connectedness to global systems (economic, i.e. neoliberalism; chemical, i.e. the carbon cycle; etc.) as well as the highly complicated relationships between these systems themselves.  Furthermore, I seek to understand what kinds of connections need to be understood. Are they directional? Dependent? How can we describe these connections? And which are important?

I believe architecture, as a way of producing object-environments, can respond to this challenge by incorporating systems-thinking into the design process. That is, by incorporating specific design features that reflect the hybridity of space (as defined by converging and entangled socio-economic-ecological-political-etc. systems) into the built environment users can understand their "place" (read: location, or position) in global systems. 

I'm also interested in notions of impermanence and nomadism in architecture and how embracing these concepts as design principles could inform architectural production in the context of the anthropocene. 

Anyways, that's all I have for now. Thanks for looking!

 
Nov 13, 14 4:08 pm
curtkram

i think you should include 'Eschatology' as a sub-theme when discussing the anthropocene era.

if it's all over anyway, build to destroy.  neoliberalism starts making sense then.

Nov 13, 14 4:15 pm  · 
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that's interesting. I'll definitely read about it. But on first pass it seems a bit theological/tangential. Building to destroy seems a bit radical, and almost too active. Why not just descend into a putrid state of nihilistic decay instead?

Slavoj Zizek's book "Living in the end times" is at home collecting dust on my bookshelf. Maybe it's time to dig in. 

Nov 13, 14 4:20 pm  · 
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midlander

It might be stretching beyond the scope you want to focus on, but I think it would be informative to study cultural expectations of the future man made environment.

The idea that people would build worlds or cities with engineered ecologies has been a theme in science fiction for decades, and both movies and books could provide evidence of the aspirations and fears modern society has for this anthropocene age.

Some books (many more out there)
Ringworld, Larry Niven
Red Mars Series, Kim Stanley Robinson
also Freeman Dyson's speculative ideas for manipulating the solar system to create habitable planets.

Ultimately this depends on where you want your thesis to fall on the scale from pragmatic to fantastic. These obviously would lean more towards fantastic, but as Buckminster Fulley or Archigram demonstrate, fantasy is a valid approach to architectural speculation.

Nov 13, 14 10:34 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Benny, my own M.Arch thesis followed a similar line without the Anthropocene idea. Perhaps the scope of your thesis allows you to make a bold claim and run with it but I would be weary about making such a simple statement as "human actions have changed the world".  The world is fine and has lived through worse than humans many times over... The same cannot be said about us however but that's beside the point.

Pick an angle. Are you looking at urban settlements, disaster relief housing, mass migration, independence... etc? Is there a design solution to your position or are you just writing theory? You don't want to wax poetically about self-sustaining nomadic culture change that so happens to be created by convertible urban furniture. I've seen worse.

Midlander's last paragraph is exactly what I was going to write.  You need to decide if this is pure fiction, dystopian or utopian, or a work of reductio ad absurdum. I'd recommend reading Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer for good post apocalyptic environmental scenarios.

Nov 13, 14 10:59 pm  · 
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ReddishEgret

Framing the Anthropocene as a problem implies that there is a solution that is not the Anthropocene. Consider the Anthropocene as a condition rather than a problem.

Nov 14, 14 11:49 pm  · 
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ReddishEgret

Also, consider the false dichotomy exposed by the Anthropocene (nature vs. culture) and explore unitary ways of approaching design that reference the interconnectedness amongst systems.

Don't get hung up on global systems. While the connections between the global systems that you reference are very important, it becomes incredibly easy to lose sight of the trees for the forest as you increase in scale. More often than not, decentralization and regionalism where emphasis placed on local quirks is better design than globalization where one size fits all.

You also mentioned impermanence and nomadism. Check out some yurts. 

Nov 15, 14 12:16 am  · 
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awaiting_deletion

That's a good article, Olaf.

Dec 31, 14 8:52 am  · 
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awaiting_deletion

It blew my mind Donna and I believe it is related to this anthropocene topic. We like Deer it appears.

Dec 31, 14 9:18 am  · 
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lukeggg

New Zealand on the other hand does not like mammals. 

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/22/big-kill

Dec 31, 14 2:38 pm  · 
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awaiting_deletion

Benny you should check out Howard T. Odum, specifically for systems and environment. Find his book if you can.

Dec 31, 14 2:44 pm  · 
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awaiting_deletion

Great article Lukeggg.....I say we 1080 the entire one floor peanut butter Sprawl.

Dec 31, 14 6:08 pm  · 
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