environments (JAE)

environments. Journal of Architectural Education, Ed. Doug Jackson, Vol. 71 No. 2. London: Taylor and Francis (October 2017).

The Anthropocene—a term proposed to signify the era of humanity’s radical transformation of the planet—is a long-overdue acknowledgement that the environment is inseparably conflated with the world constructed by humanity. This recognizes that not only has the scope of human activity reached a point at which it has the capacity to fundamentally alter the geophysical processes of the planet, but also that the environment itself is a human construction rather than an a priori condition. With etymological roots in the acts of surrounding and enclosing, the environment is both a space and a representation: it situates humans within a world, and defines the manner in which that world is understood, experienced, and engaged. This makes the environment a fundamentally architectural issue. Rather than simply the context within which architecture performs, the environment is actually defined by architecture—and, like architecture, it has been and continues to be manifested in various incarnations with multiple meanings and implications. These various environments are revealed at all of the scales at which architecture operates, such as a room, a building, a façade, a city, and an infrastructure.

Since technology plays a significant role in framing the “nature” of the environment, it is not surprising that it has been invoked as both the source of environmental degradation as well as the hope for its rectification. Having been almost universally described in terms of quantifiable biophysical phenomena—such as global warming, desertification, deforestation, pollution, and resource exploitation—the environment has been primarily framed as a mere collection of resources to be quantified and technologically sustained for human use. The architectural discipline has mirrored this narrow understanding—having emphasized the development and incorporation of green technologies and materials, as well as the quantification of resources through LEED evaluation and certification. Is resource quantification, however, the only way to understand environmental performance? Are there qualitative forms of performance that might sponsor new and potentially valuable environments? Is there another way to understand technology’s relationship to environments other than simply as a deus ex machina capable of preserving humanity’s unsustainable tendencies through a perceived mitigation of their negative effects? Can humanity’s relationship to its environments be fundamentally transformed rather than simply sustained? Are there other scales at which this relationship can be interrogated?

The Journal of Architectural Education Issue 71:2 seeks Scholarship of Design, Design as Scholarship, and Micro-Narratives that critically examine architecture’s prevailing approaches toward environments, and which speculate on possible alternatives. This may include work that engages environmental philosophy, the history and future of environmental technology, interrogates the limits of human perception and measurement, examines the means and scope of human control over natural variation, explores the chronic nature of technological accidents and crises that arise from the limitations of such control, examines new approaches to architectural pedagogy that extend the scope of architecture’s engagement with environments, and manifest new areas of human engagement with the natural world that transform our relationship and understanding of environments.