UNCERTAINTY – Climate Change and the Scales of Environment 3 of 5

Afternoon Introduction:
Adam Sobel, Columbia University Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate

Panel 3: Uncertainty

With the advent of accelerated climate change, designers must operate within known and unknown ecological and social conditions in the design of buildings or landscapes whose useful life exceeds contemporary parameters. How does a design profession balance resilience to the known risks in the short-term and adaptation to the often unknown risks in the long-term? This question raises the propositions for how climate science will be incorporated within expanding design services and the extent to which this represents professional and moral liabilities.

Radley Horton, Columbia University and Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Adrian Lahoud, The Bartlett, University College London
Kate Orff, Columbia University GSAPP and SCAPE
Moderated by Jesse Keenan, Columbia University GSAPP

Buildings are responsible for nearly half of all energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the United States today. This startling link between climate change and urbanization should spur architects and scholars of the built environment to rethink everything about the way they practice and teach. And yet, it hasn’t.

Climate change is too often addressed in schools of architecture and design in terms of technological solutions and their implementation – from “green” building techniques to the myriad challenges of fortifying metropolitan centers against extreme weather patterns. Climate Change and the Scales of Environment is a daylong symposium that draws new frameworks for action together with thoughtful cultural debate, inviting a group of scholars, historians, scientists, architects and designers to critically rethink architecture and urbanism in light of climate change as our most urgent concern.

As the defining factor of our precarious contemporary condition, the real and lived threat of climate change, exacerbated by uncertainty and shifting cultural contexts invites us to move beyond technocratic conversations to interrogate the terms of the debate. The symposium will be arranged around questions of scale — space but also time – to articulate climate change as a necessary agent of change in architectural history, theory, discourse, and practice. Together with the question of scale – from the geographic and economic systems that are producing climate change to the human conflicts and ecological disasters that are ensuing – the symposium will open-up the term ‘environment’ to underscore its past histories and constructions and allow for the possibility of recasting the term, and our relations to it, for the future.

Building on GSAPP’s leadership around questions of global engagement and practice as they relate to architecture and the built environment, this symposium will attempt to critically reframe our thinking about the built environment and our actions in shaping it, to reflect both the specificity of local conditions and histories as well as the challenges of climate change as a shared concern across the globe.


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