Environmental Histories of Architecture is a series of essays that, together, rethink the discipline and profession of architecture by offering different understandings of how architecture and the environment have been co-produced. While cross-disciplinary research has focused on the new realities of the Anthropocene, architecture’s complex historical relationship to nature—indeed to the very concept of the environment—has yet to be reconsidered in its political, economic, and cultural dimensions. The pragmatic, techno-utopian, or even environmentalist stances that have thus far monopolized this relationship do not equip architectural practices for the challenges ahead. The task now falls to anyone producing historical analyses and theoretical reflections to pursue a more critical, even operative, engagement with environmental relations beyond the themes of energy and climate change. Through unique methodological and conceptual framings, the eight chapters of Environmental Histories of Architecture examine the relationship between society and the environment, complicate understandings of architecture and history, and challenge assumptions of modernization and path dependency. In these ways, as highlighted in the concluding essay, the publication suggests sustainable trajectories for architectural thought and action that can overcome dominant narratives of inevitability and apocalypse.
These essays were produced as part of Architecture and/for the Environment, the third research project (2017–2019) of the Multidisciplinary Research Program, organized by the CCA with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project—developed by Kim Förster (CCA Associate Director, Research, 2016–2018) with advisors Daniel Abramson, David Gissen, and Imre Szeman—examined unresolved, and perhaps irresolvable, contradictions and ambiguities in architecture’s environmental history.
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