Taubman College

Course List

Term Fall 2011
Class ARCH 603
Class Title Atmospheres, Environments and Ecologies
Description Air is amorphous, ubiquitous; it is a continuous medium. Architecture is bounded, enclosed; its agendas are territorial. And yet there is an explicit lineage of architects and theorists who posited architecture’s agenda as the enclosure of this primary element, utilizing atmospheres, environments and ecologies as emergent spatial paradigms. Their synthetic experimentation proffered novel typologies and technologies predicated upon the values of environmental conditioning, atmospheric exchange, and ecological regulation. The architectural periphery was rendered porous.

Is it possible to design an atmosphere? What are the constituent factors of an environment? How can we describe ecologies in spatial terms, or spaces in ecological terms? Contemporary architectural discourse frequently alludes to the nebulous spatial analogs of atmosphere, environment and ecology for inspiration, but rarely questions their appropriateness for this task nor provides an historical account of their relevance to spatial production. This seminar will address both of these issues. It will examine how each of these terms was forged in a scientific milieu, and it will consider the various historical contexts in which architectural discourse absorbed these amorphous and occasionally ineffable spatial paradigms into its rhetoric of production. Atmospheres, Environments, and Ecologies (AEE) will focus on three historical moments critical to the telling of this story: the context of nineteenth century biology in which these terms were first formulated; the context of the 1960’s in which the discipline of architecture made them its own; and the contemporary context in which architectural discourse has systematically emptied these terms of their original meanings and utilizes them as mere strategies for containment.
Not coincidentally, Robert Boyle, the seventeenth-century chemist renowned for his experiments with the evacuation of air through a vacuum pump, also was among the first to use the term ‘discipline’ in relation to a branch of instruction or education. AEE’s exploration of architectural variations on the theme of air will prod at the boundaries of our discipline, examining air’s technological enclosures, while questioning its analogical limits. Have the spatial paradigms of atmospheres, environments and ecologies contributed to the disappearance of architecture’s disciplinarity by championing the value of a porous boundary, or have they instigated an eclipse of technique in which design procedures are formalized and architectural possibilities are ever more narrowly defined?
Prereq none entered yet
Crosslist none
Required No
Elective Yes
Selective Yes
Meets Thursdays 1:00-4:00pm 2222 A&AB
Credits 3
Faculty Amy Kulper
Syllabus not available