New Geographies

The participants in the seminar will be presented with the following proposal: Geography is a dominant but latent paradigm in design today and we need to articulate it and bring it to effectively bear on the social role of design.Increasingly designers are being compelled to address and transform larger contexts and to give these contexts more legible and expressive form. New problems are being placed on the tables of designers (e.g.: infrastructure, urban systems, regional questions). Problems that were confined to the domains of engineering, ecology, or even regional planning alone are now looking for articulation by design. This has opened up a range of technical and formal repertoires that had been out of reach for designers. The need to address these \’geographic\’ aspects has also encouraged designers to re-examine their tools and to develop means to link together attributes that had been understood to be either separate from each other or external to their disciplines. (For example, in the past decade, different versions of landscape urbanism have emerged in response to similar challenges). Yet embracing the geographic does not only mean a shift in scale. This venture has also come to affect the formal repertoire of architecture, even at a smaller scale, with more architects becoming interested in forms that reach out to engage broader realities, bridging between the very large and the very small. (e.g.: continuous surfaces, elaborate frameworks, environmentally integrated buildings are all signs of this new paradigm. Curiously, most of the inquiries into these attributes have tended to be quite intense but disconnected from other parallel attributes. For example, the discussion about continuous surfaces in architecture ignores the importance of continuity of ground in landscape ecology. The seminar does not propose that a common cause is driving these different geographic tendencies but it does insist that a synthesis is possible, even necessary, in order to expand on the formal possibilities and therefore social role of design. This makes the need to articulate the geographic paradigm all the more urgent because the role of synthesis that geography aspired to play between the physical, the economic, and the social is now being increasingly delegated to design. The aim of the seminar is to expose the workings of this latent paradigm and to help articulate and direct them towards a more productive synthesis. This in brief is the general ambition of the course. Context:Within this broader ambition, the inquiry this semester will focus on the idea of shaping context. The attitude towards context, as we all know, has been changing very rapidly in design. Just over the past twenty years we have moved from a general apathy towards context, to an increasing and then increasingly overbearing appreciation of every aspect of it, to a general rejection and even opposition to context. In the past decade, the pendulum has begun swinging back towards trying to understand a new scale of context but also new contexts by ways of mapping and documenting emerging phenomena. The geographic could be understood as a further step towards the possibility of shaping context at the larger scale and in response to new phenomena. Themes: The themes of the seminar sessions involve the idea of shaping context at different scales. Global Context: Analyses and descriptions of this context relying on social and anthropological readings of the impact of these changes on space and the emergence of such seemingly opposed phenomena as nomadism and global cities. Readings from Arjun Appadurai and Ulrich Beck but also from urban geography will help inform us about these changes.Regional Context: Looking at the large scale regional interventions with a focus on the changing relationship between regional equipment, infrastructure, airports and seaports as and t