From ancient ruins to modern metropolises, the most apparent marks humans leave on the planet are visible in the ways we modify and construct our surroundings. Fittingly, our current geological epoch has been dubbed the Anthropocene, a reflection of the fact that there is virtually no biophysical region on the planet which remains untouched by lasting human impact. I’m interested in current attempts to design “sustainable” buildings and am particularly curious about how the science and discourse surrounding our new geological epoch as fundamentally a conversation about us and our actions/impacts on earth might influence and inform architectural production. Buildings and cities are the physical manifestation of human dreams, desires, social movements, values, politics, technologies, economics, and so much more, edified in complex ecological contexts of converging and hybrid human-natural systems. With the knowledge that more individuals are impacting the planet with greater force than ever before, coupled with an increasingly and vociferously responding planetary climate, how are architects to design buildings valid for our period? Undoubtedly the buildings and cities erected today will influence the future of human life on this planet while casting the legacy of the 21st century in geological time.
My capstone project is an inquiry into human dwelling in the face of the Anthropocene; I seek to understand how architecture can help us dwell in a “new” world of our own creation, but not of our own design, defined by unpredictable and unprecedented challenges from climate change to social upheaval. As we begin to feel homeless in our own tempestuous epoch (the age of human), how can understandings of human connectedness to global systems be reflected and communicated in architecture in order to help us feel at home in the Anthropocene? By researching two “living buildings” certified by the Living Building Challenge (recognized as the most rigorous certification of sustainability in the world), and digging deep into their lives as pedagogical tools in Environmental Science programs, I hope to understand how buildings are used to teach environmental science and ethics, and convey a feeling of connectedness to global systems (defined as an understanding of the inherent relationships between individuals, between individuals and systems such as the carbon cycle, and between systems themselves, such as the carbon and water cycle) in order to help us feel at home in the Anthropocene.
Ultimately, I hope to suggest incipient answers to the questions; what are the implications of the Anthropocene for architecture? How can architecture help humanity navigate the Anthropocene? What will architecture and dwelling mean in the Anthropocene? And how can each of these concepts (architecture, dwelling, and the Anthropocene) inform our understanding of the others?