Island of Enchantment: Atmospheric Grounds

What we believed to be the reliable and predictable nature of the atmosphere made tangible through the phenomena of weather no longer holds true … perhaps it never really did. The extreme global weather events of our recent past and the havoc they have wrought attest to this.

Air, the Earth’s atmosphere, is the invisible and indivisible matter upon which life depends. It holds the world together, yet simultaneously remains indifferent to our human notions of earthbound borders, to create a range of encounters across a host of scales that continuously signal and reframe the world in which we live.

The studio will explore design responses to climate change in Puerto Rico through the reciprocal relationships of ground and air. The aspiration is to frame the design problem as one that is intensely local and simultaneously territorial and shift away from traditional singular goal-based outcomes to rethink the nature of a design project and its effect on the world.

This is a speculative design enquiry exploring new material practices through the conceptual framework of Territories of Air in Puerto Rico. How might we analyse and visualise the multi-scalar, dynamic, and elusory matter of air and utilise it as a measure in and of the constructed landscape environment? How might we explore and speculate on our capacity to inform its continual becoming and its reciprocal effect as a part of an ecology upon which humans and more-than-humans survive? How might this approach create different forms of valuing, assessing, and designing the urban landscape?

The aspiration is to reimagine the ecological/urban corridor of the Rio Piedras River in the capital city of San Juan in the face of climate change. Comprised of a range of communities, institutions, and facilities that are traditionally relegated to the ‘poorer’ quality real estate of this area, the river is both ‘polluted and biodiverse, near and inaccessible, beautiful and dangerous’. The US Army Corps of Engineers proposes to channelise the river transforming it into a concrete, high-velocity channel. The studio will explore alternative futures for the river and its urban floodplain that seek to resonate beyond the singular problem-solving goal of flood mitigation so that it might support and activate the larger ecological systems, the local community that it supports, and the City.


TThe first day of GSD classes, Tuesday, September 5th, is held as a MONDAY schedule at the GSD. As this course meets on Tuesday, the first meeting of this course will be on Thursday, September 7th. It will meet regularly thereafter.