Future development of New York

Gunnar Ploner @ MIT, Camebridge, USA


What is the relationship between a building and the larger systems of the environment – constructed and natural—in which it sits? This workshop examines issues of site, sustainability, and the relationship between scales of environmental processes from the urban and infrastructural to the architectural.
The physical infrastructures of the twentieth century – those of roads, rail, air, data, sewage, water, amongst others – have tended to operate as singular and independent systems. The infrastructures of the twenty-first century, if they are to respond to impending urgencies with respect to resources and climate change as well as emerging social conditions and cultural desires, will need to become integrated with each other and most importantly, integrated with the qualities of space and environment they help engender. This requires reexamining the conventional relationship between infrastructure and landscape, infrastructure and public amenities, infrastructure and architecture. In turn, the discrete architectural project should be understood as being incorporated within a network of relationships – from economies and ecologies to politics and culture – a network that it potentially transforms.
The workshop posits that rather than understand architecture as hermetically sealed from its environment, architecture is integrated into the environmental networks that envelop it. What is the role and place of architecture—as a discipline typically invested in stasis and timelessness—within such a milieu? How can temporality and the temporary be engaged and challenged? How does architecture operate with and through time, even as a static point within a fluctuating field?

The workshop attributes new roles to the architect – not simply problem solver, but cultural, environmental and spatial detective, bringing to light the forces (economic, cultural and environmental) at work within a given geography, and the physical networks at the service of these forces. The workshop asks what the role of the architect today is, with the imminent need to mount urgent responses to significant infrastructural and environmental challenges. Design is perhaps the field where technical, political and environmental forces can be best given a figure. We are not so much interested in solving the problems as developing projective, speculative experiments that reframe the problems through architecture. To this end, we will use Manhattan as a site of architectural/ infrastructural/ ecological investigation.


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