Universal Design and other Design Dilemmas

Ohms, Environments: Architecture, Environment, ResistanceIn 1959 UC Berkeley placed its school of architecture under the authority of \”environment.\” Berkeley\’s new College of Environmental Design signaled shifts in curricula, identities, and priorities at architecture schools throughout the country. Yet, the emergence of Environmental Design is only the most obvious and institutionally identified symptom of a broader postwar engagement with environment. Already freighted with theories of evolution, adaptation, and survival, environment soon expanded to encompass issues of electronic transmission, interconnectivity, and theories of spatial perception and social interaction. In short, if architecture\’s \”environment\” of this period can be characterized by an expansion of boundaries and disciplinary limits, it is related to a more general inflation of the term \”environment\” in the postwar.The seminar will approach this inflation of environment and its circulation through analyses of specific articulations of environment in architecture, in theories of perception, and in new technologies of communication, production, and reception. Among issues we will consider are environment\’s promise of a liberatory expansiveness – say, Timothy Leary\’s famous injunction to \”tune in and turn on\” as a \”hinge\” of evolutionary development – and its miscommunications, infelicities, and failures, from urban violence to ecological disaster.Paradoxically, despite its wide application, and its expansive self-definition, the concept, form, and identification of environment within and around architecture remained unstable and often intangible. A primary goal of this seminar will be to return to these earlier and multiple formulations of environmental thought to develop our own theorization of architecture\’s postwar engagement with environment. In the process we will test environment\’s challenge to conventions of formal description, techniques of organization, and to architecture\’s disciplinary identity. The seminar will also examine the extent to which contemporary architecture has tuned in to or resisted postwar environmental strategies and preoccupations.