New Geographies: Shaping Context by Design

The participants in the seminar will be presented with the following proposal: The Geographic is a dominant but latent paradigm in design today which we need to articulate over the course of the semester.Increasingly designers are being compelled to address and transform larger contexts and to give these contexts more legible and expressive form. New problems are being placed on the tables of designers (e.g.: infrastructure, urban systems, regional questions). Problems that had been confined to the domains of engineering, ecology, or regional planning are now looking for articulation by design. This situation has opened up a range of technical and formal repertoires that had been out of reach for designers. The need to address these \’geographic\’ aspects has also encouraged designers to re-examine their tools and to develop means to link together attributes that had been understood to be either separate from each other or external to their disciplines. (For example, in the past decade, different versions of landscape urbanism have emerged in response to similar challenges). Yet engaging the geographic does not only mean a shift in scale. This has also come to affect the formal repertoire of architecture, even at a smaller scale, with more architects becoming interested in forms that reflect the geographic connectedness of architecture, whether by its ability to bridge between the very large and the very small (networks and frameworks) or by its propensity to provide forms that embody geographic references (e.g.: continuous surfaces, environmentally integrated buildings). Curiously, while most of the research around these different attributes has tended to be quite intense, the parallel tracks of inquiry have remained disconnected. For example, the discussion about continuous surfaces in architecture ignores the importance of continuity of ground in landscape ecology. The seminar does not propose that a common cause is driving these different geographic tendencies but it does insist that a synthesis is possible, even necessary, in order to expand on the formal possibilities of architecture and its social role. This makes the need to articulate the geographic paradigm all the more urgent because the role of synthesis that geography aspired to play between the physical, the economic, and the social is now being increasingly delegated to design.The aim of the seminar is to expose the workings of this latent paradigm and to help articulate and direct them towards a more productive synthesis.