On Atmospheres and Design

What is atmosphere? Is it air and weather? Or is it the in-between—effect, matter, immaterial, space, ephemera? How is atmosphere(s) designed when it seems to start where design stops? Within these questions lay implicit issues of time and material presence, scientific inquiry and description, space, phenomena and the body. The seminar will be examining definitions and investigations of atmosphere in the context of history, philosophy, art, film and photography, science, design, and the cultural imagination. Also, it will investigate built works that inform conditions of atmosphere. Our experiences are shaped in spaces that are not only of a visible and measurable reality, but also of the immaterial and ephemeral conditions that affect what we see, register, and experience. What is memorable that affects our imaginative experiences of the places we visit and live ? What are the immersive qualities we collect when moving through the in-between? Many travelers have registered their impressions of landscapes and buildings based on the rhythm of natural phenomena and spatial experiences induced by the atmospheric conditions of light and humidity, reflection and sound, wind and temperature. These are the atmospheres—its conditions, agents, and sources—that we will be examining in the seminar, treated as matter for inquiry in the built environment while projecting further ways of manipulation and imagining the discipline of design.

The seminar will be structured through discussions of selected writings and philosophical investigations as a means to position concepts of the atmosphere, its conditions and agents in design. Also, there will be an analysis of sensory media—installation, photography, and film—and design projects that explore concepts of atmosphere. Guest speakers will be invited to discuss their work and to engage in the conversation within the context of the seminar.