Trans-Scalar Lecture: Design-Earth
Monday, February 27, 2023
6:00 pm -
How do we make sense of the Earth at a moment in which it is presented in crisis? In this talk, El Hadi Jazairy engages the speculative project—as expounded through drawings, models, and material artifacts—as one possible medium to reassemble publics around representations of the Earth. The project here becomes a medium that critically synthesizes spatial knowledge across scales to speculate on how to live with the many forms of environmental externalities, including oil extraction, deep-sea mining, ocean acidification, air pollution, space debris, and a host of other social-ecological issues. The talk is an exploration of media devices to exhibit the Earth — terrarium, aquarium, planetarium through three projects from Geostories: Another Architecture for the Environment.
El Hadi Jazairy is Associate Professor of Architecture and the Director of the Master of Urban Design at the University of Michigan. He is founding partner with Rania Ghosn of the studio DESIGN EARTH. His research investigates aesthetic forms of environmental engagement to visualize how urban systems transform the Earth. The work of DESIGN EARTH is in the permanent collection the Museum of Modern Art in New York and has been exhibited internationally at venues such as the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Bauhaus Museum in Dessau, the Times Museum in Guangzhou, SFMOMA and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Jazairy is co-author of Geostories: Another Architecture for the Environment (3rd ed. 2022; 2018), The Planet After Geoengineering (New York: Actar 2021), and Geographies of Trash (New York: Actar, 2015). He is founding editor of New Geographies and editor-in-chief of NG 4: Scales of the Earth (Harvard GSD, 2010). Jazairy holds a Doctorate of Design from Harvard University, a Master of Architecture from Cornell University, and a Bachelor of Architecture from La Cambre in Brussels. Jazairy is recipient of the United States Artist Fellowship, Architectural League of New York’s Prize for Young Architects + Designers and ACSA Faculty Design Awards (2014, 2017) for outstanding work in environmental design fields as a critical endeavor.
Historically, design disciplines have been attached to specific scale spectrums -the scales of Industrial Design, Interior Architecture, Architecture, Urbanism, or Territory- However, the objects we design are not inert assemblies of material forms. In every design decision we make, we mobilize, increase pressure, and transform the Earth’s system, including within human and non-human life forms. Every design decision can provoke ecological tension, inequality, and disruptions that lead the planet to amplified natural catastrophes for which no one can quite be blamed. Design is trans-scalar if we realize simple equations: every pile produces a whole, and every material form has its equivalent negative somewhere else.
How do we think and practice design ethically when acknowledging the objects we design are not innocent, but the intractability washes the responsibilities of natural catastrophe? The way of displaying the complex reality of design is by disclosing its trans-scalar powers. Objects of design are assemblages of many layers -the ecological, political, social, formal, material, technological, and environmental-combined in ethical and aesthetic forms. When these layers come together in exemplary works, they disseminate knowledge by becoming paradigms.
In this new era of ecological consciousness, design becomes an embassy, a cross-section, of all these layers representing the myriads of scales in which every design decision operates from the molecular to the cosmic scales. This program series posits the question of trans-scalar design via the social, cultural, historical, and environmental realms and how designers respond to the responsibilities of trans-scalar materiality.
- UH College of Architecture and Design Theater