Forms of Energy: Nonmodern

Offered for the final time at the GSD, the fall 2017 Forms of Energy course focuses on Nonmodern Forms of Energy and Design. Nonmodern refers to concepts, forms and formations of energy that are not modern in their constitution. As a gush of goodwill towards more convivial political, scientific and aesthetic ends, designers today need nonmodern agendas for energy that eclipse the aberrant rationality of modern technocratic preoccupations with efficiency and optimization. In the course we will examine a disparate swath of intellectual and scientific history, ranging from the ancients to the contemporary, to construct an understanding of how people in history have attempted to dissipate forms of energy through building. We will look closely at a large range of Nonmodern buildings and landscapes to reveal how they capture and channel energy in often astonishingly effective but, importantly, inefficient ways. This Nonmodern praxis for energy begins with the full implications of the law of thermodynamics for design: the non-isolated propensities and capacities of our far-from-equilibrium world wherein form emerges to dissipate energy in the most powerful ways possible. Whether archaic or contemporary, human or nonhuman, a Nonmodern formation of energy maximizes its intake, transformation, and feedback of matter and energy by design. In contrast to prevalent understandings of energy, we look how the aggregation of small scale systems reinforce large scale systems, and vice versa, through the design and assembly of building. Using an historical and scientific but non-technocratic framework to understand these forms of energy, this course will carefully consider the intellectual, formal and energetic legacy of building paradigms that existed prior, and after, the transformations that occurred during modernization and industrialization. There will be lectures and an emphasis on readings and discussion to develop the topic. Much like The Voynich Manuscript, a semester-long project will use discursive images and objects as part of a codex on nonmodern building.