Perspectives in History and Theory in Architecture - The Environment: Representing and Knowing the Global Sphere


Going beyond the scope of sustainable design, this course examines how new aesthetic and spatial practices helped conjure into existence the thing that we now call “the environment”. Students will examine how aesthetics, architectures, and modes of ordering the world’s plenitude helped enable the environment to become a dominant paradigm for comprehending economic, human, and non-human interactions during the latter half of the twentieth century. Given that the environment can be neither strictly delimited nor perceived in its full complexity and scope, it had to be construed through new visual modes and technologies of representation and through new terms and concepts.

Proposing that by the 1960s the environment had subsumed antecedent world-models, this course turns backward to colonial conceptions of nature, cartography, race, and natural history and proceeds into the twentieth century to see how these concepts were absorbed within and transformed by the construct of the environment. We will see the emergence of two twentieth-century environmental paradigms: on the one hand, the management of large-scale world-systems; on the other hand “environmental design” at the scale of buildings, rooms, and media that sought to instate cognitive-behavioral changes in occupants. We will examine how modes of representation are crucial to issues of environmental justice.

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