Climate, architecture and philosophy
The climate is driving a new dialogue between architecture and the human sciences
Even when certain architects practise it unknowingly, all architectural works are part of a more general intellectual debate that takes place in conjunction with other disciplines: philosophy, sociology, anthropology, economics and politics. The exchange is two-way. The human sciences influence architecture as much as it influences them. At certain enlightened moments in history, the links between architecture and other disciplines become more fruitful and closer, generating a veritable revolution of ideas that engenders a new style, a new stage in the history of architecture. This was the case in the 1960s when architects such as Manfredo Tafuri integrated the critical thinking of Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault into the architectural debate against modernity, ending with Post-Modernism. It was the case when Peter Eisenman and Bernard Tschumi engaged in conversation with the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, together inventing Deconstructivist Architecture. Today, a new stage in the intellectual debate between architecture and philosophy has begun, driven by the problems of climate change. The pioneers are certainly the American anthropologist Jared Diamond and the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. The former, with his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, published in 1997, reintroduced the physical
world, climate and viruses as essential parameters explaining the course of human history, previously studied only via social, political and economic issues. The latter with his Spheres trilogy, written between 1998 and 2004, introduced the atmosphere and its design as one of the major issues of humanity. The French anthropologist Bruno Latour played a crucial role in 2004 with his article Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?, re-evaluating the notion of scientific objectivity and truth versus conspiracy theories coming from the critical thinking that cast doubt on the reality of the global warming phenomenon. Today, philosophers such as Maurizio Ferraris, with his 2012 Manifesto of New Realism, participate in the growth of a new trend in the discipline, sometimes called Post-Critical Realism, New or Neo Materialism (The Rise of Realism 2017 by Manuel Delanda) or the Nonhuman Turn (Richard Grusin, 2015) that increase the role of the nonhuman world (geology, climate, animal, virus) in the course of human history. Gillen D’Arcy Wood explaining how the explosion of a volcano in 1815 influenced the urban planning of the 19th century and Emanuele Coccia in his 2016 book La vie des plantes, describing how humans have neglected plants, are reconnecting the human and physical sciences. The dialogue between architecture and these new human sciences should be fruitful in the coming years in a movement defining the manners of existence and construction in the Anthropocene epoch while together we find solutions for the future.
These pages: the covers of the books mentioned by Philippe Rahm. Top, from left: Bubbles by Peter Sloterdijk (Semiotexte); La vie des plants by Emanuele Coccia (Payot&Rivages, soon to be published in English by Polity Press); Les délices du feu by Olivier Jandot (Éditions Champ Vallon); The Rise of Realism by Manuel Delanda and Graham Harman (Polity Press). Opposite page, from left: The Year Without Summer: 1816 by William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman (St. Martin’s Press); Facing Gaia by Bruno Latour (Polity Press); Introduction to new realism by Maurizio Ferraris (Bloomsbury)
Philippe Rahm (Pully, 1967) is a Swiss architect based in Paris. His most recent project is the Central Park in Taichung, Taiwan, that will open to the public in August 2018.