Forms of Energy: Nonmodern

The spring 2015 Forms of Energy focuses on Nonmodern Forms of Energy and Design. Nonmodern refers to those forms and formations of energy that are not modern in their constitution. A Nonmodern constitution for energy begins with the implications of the second law of thermodynamics: the non-isolated propensities and capacities of our far-from-equilibrium world wherein form emerges to dissipate energy in the most powerful ways possible. Whether archaic or contemporary, a Nonmodern formation of energy maximizes its intake, transformation, and feedback of matter and energy in landscape/architecture/urbanization systems by design. This involves forms of energy that reflect how the aggregation of small scale systems reinforces large scale systems, and vice versa. This eschews the parochialism of modern system boundaries and methodologies for energy and thereby imagines more totalizing and deliriously vital alternatives to the by now recidivist posture of Modern methods for energy. Students will examine a swath of intellectual history, ranging from the ancients to the contemporary, and construct a genealogy of the intellectual tools by which people in history have attempted to quantify, qualify, understand, and manipulate forms of energy. In parallel, the course will look closely at several Nonmodern exemplars to illustrate their design, behaviors, and principles. Through the course we will collectively develop a Nonmodern praxis for energy in architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanization. Readings coupled with group research projects focused on the rich articulation of a Nonmodern example (e.g., the buildings and infrastructure of medieval Persia) will together develop a discourse and an Atlas of Nonmodern Design. Using a technical but humanist framework in understanding large and small forms of energy, this course will question the current technocratic mindset of the design professions, and carefully consider the intellectual legacy of the practice of building that existed prior, and after, to the radical transformations that occurred during modernization and industrialization. M.Arch, MLA, MAUD, MLAUD, DDes, and MDes Energy & Environments, ULE, Critical Conservation, Technology, and Risk & Resilience students are well suited for this course. A mixture of these students would be welcome and ideal.