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FUTURE VISIONS: Anthropocene & the Environmental Crisis

CBE dialogues on building environments — terrestrial / planetary / global / cosmic

FUTURE VISIONS: Anthropocene & the Environmental Crisis CBE dialogues on building environments — terrestrial / planetary / global / cosmic FUTURE VISIONS discusses the ways in which the environmental challenges attributed to the Anthropocene (climate change, pandemics, resource inequality, etc) change our perspectives on temporality and, particularly in the realm of design thinking, ‘futurity’.

In 2020, The New York Times featured a photo of the Space Needle furnished with a flag stating “# We got this Seattle.” After being declared “America’s Coronavirus Capital,” Seattle was now “well ahead of the rest of the nation in the cycle of denial, panic, action”, living, as the author stated, “your Corona Virus Future.” Only a few months later, Seattle’s iconic landmark again hit the news, blurred by smoke emitted by the wildfires of the West Coast. This was a significant shift from the view it offered ten years earlier. In 2011, Matt Sparke used the view from the Space Needle to describe the city’s global geography of inequality as characterized by three regimes of dependency: as “competitive city” of corporate business (Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks), as “collaborative city” of anti-globalization movements, and as “curative city’ of philanthropic investments in the global health industry. In 2022, it was 60 years since Seattle’s icon was to celebrate the future of the 21st Century. By then, it offered a view onto a significantly changed geography. The current events were not only termed apocalyptic. They were attributed to the effects of globalization, climate change, resource inequality, and the increasing encroachment of humans on natural habitats, intensifying calls for new epistemic perspectives on what we call ‘environment’: as terrestrial interspecies relationships, as entanglement between global human geopolitics and planetary non-human geographies, and as intertwining of local, global, and cosmic constellations.

These perspectives, however, radically differ in their framings of futurity. Whereas advocates of the terrestrial argue against temporalities of ‘the future’ or foresee an avenir, the ‘to-come’, of the unforeseeable, those of global / planetary concepts of the environment focus on the intersections between human and geological deep time, and patrons of trans-scalar constellations see temporality as nonlinear, as shot through with parallel realities of possibility, optativity, and desire.

FUTURE VISIONS expands the manifold perspectives on environments and their heterotemporal futurities: as an interdisciplinary forum connecting the realms of history and theory, critical practices and pedagogies, it interweaves our techniques and technologies of seeing / envisioning, imaging / imagining, modeling / preempting, collaging / assembling, resisting / subverting, speculating / dreaming, hoping / desiring, etc. This forum continues the conference series Critical Practice in a Globalizing World (translocal displacement, 2006; transborder networks, 2009) to discuss temporalities of criticality.

FUTURE VISIONS contributes to implementing CBE’s STRATEGIC PLAN by addressing the environmental crises attributed to the Anthropocene through transdisciplinary dialogues. These dialogues on building environments (terrestrial / planetary / global / cosmic) are 1) to advance CBE’s goals of fostering imaginaries of just and beautiful worldmaking, 2) to further the College’s understanding about the systems and relationships between ecological, built, and social environments, 3) to intensify interdisciplinary collaboration, teaching, and research, 4) to encourage notable partnerships with other UW Colleges, as well as professional, community, and non-profit groups, and 5) to cultivate bold thought leadership and expertise in design thinking across the disciplines of the built environment. In the Department of Architecture, it might also assist in the NAAB accreditation process.