February 7 2014
Harvard Graduate School of Design
During the last two decades, the concept of urban metabolism, has been subject to both extensive empirical research and, increasingly, critical discussion within the natural and social sciences. Aiming to grasp the continuous processes of energy, material and population exchange within and between cities and their extensive hinterlands, urban metabolism promises a systematic assessment of the complex socio-environmental interdependencies associated with the continuous human occupation of the earth.
At the same time, the design disciplines have often realized the potentials emerging from a projective understanding of urban metabolism in shaping spatial strategies. From Geddes’ Valley Section and its postwar interpretation by Team X, to Fuller’s regenerative techoscientific utopias, or the megastructures of the Japanese Metabolists, concepts, models and designs have attempted to formalize the links between socioeconomic processes and environmental attributes responding to their respective contexts.
However this task is becoming extremely challenging: On the one hand, the contemporary condition of generalized urbanization is characterized by an unprecedented complexity and planetary up-scaling of metabolic relations, which were historically confined at the regional scale. On the other hand, while more and more geographically detached and absorbed into a global logistical system of exchange, metabolic relations are still deeply interwoven with territorial transformations in land use systems, settlement typologies, operational infrastructures, and ecological regimes.
At the same time contemporary discussions on urban metabolism have been largely biased between technoscientific approaches, limited to a performative interpretation of flows and more critical attempts to interrogate the sociopolitical embeddedness of metabolic processes. Within this context, design disciplines, fascinated by a need to grasp and reorganize the fluidity of metabolic processes, have privileged notions of elasticity and adaptability ignoring the often-sclerotic nature of settlements, landscapes and infrastructures.
A Projective approach to Urban Metabolism could offer a more elaborate understanding of the relation between organizational models of processes and the formal, physical and material specificities of spatial structures across scales. Alternative and synthetic routes to design –through concepts, models, visualizations, interventions- could expand its agency while enriching the contemporary discussions on Urban Metabolism.
Conference Structure and Schedule
The goals of “Projective Views on Urban Metabolism” are, through the lens of urban metabolism, to: (Panel 1) generally reassess the planetary rescaling of contemporary urbanization processes; (Panel 2) unpack the historical transformation of spatial forms and structures and subsequently, the emergence of new operative territories for design; (Panel 3) explore the agency of design in confronting these challenges.
10.00am to 12.30pm
Panel 01: Metabolic Upscaling
Jason W. Moore
Metabolic Rift or Metabolic Shift? From Dualism to Dialectics in the Emergence of World-Ecological Modernities
Anthropocene Ecologies: Converging Existential and Conceptual Baselines
Timothy W. Luke
Urbanism as Cyborganicity: Tracking the Materialities of the Anthropocene as Metrometabolomes
Periodicities and Metabolisms
Moderator: Neil Brenner
12.30pm to 1.30pm
1.30pm to 3.30pm
Panel 02: Territorial Transformations
Territorial Metabolisms: Far Flung Urbanisms
Towards a New Metabolic System for Cities
Jane Hutton & Kiel Moe
Plotting Central Park and the Empire State Building
Moderator: Pierre Belanger
3.30pm to 4.00pm
4.00pm to 6.00pm
Panel 03: The Agency of Design
Moderator: Hashim Sarkis