Humanity has moved through three energy paradigms, each of which has produced different built environments and social organizations. At each transition—from nomadic to agricultural and from agricultural to industrial—the productive capacity of human society was transformed, restructuring the existing social order and engendering a corresponding spatial and architectural paradigm. This course studies our current energy paradigm—carbon-intensive fossil fuels—as a driver of urban and architectural form. Rather than studying the technical aspects of energy, however, the course focuses on the social and spatial organizations that arise and are dependent on dense and abundant energy, identifying these as carbon form. Despite increasing awareness of environmental issues, architects continue to replicate carbon form, preventing a transition out of our current energy paradigm. Just as the modern movement proposed a new organization for the city based on the realities of industry, this moment demands new organizations that can respond to an urban system that the climate crisis has shown to be obsolete. Unlike in modernism, however, the energy transition to which we must respond has not yet occurred. And yet, architecture must still declare the death of carbon modernity and seek the means to overcome its material and cultural legacy. In this light, the course interrogates the foundations of contemporary human organization in order to lay new foundations for the oncoming transitions in energy and social form. Students study the theoretical roots of carbon form in the works of Le Corbusier, Hilberseimer, Koolhaas, and others, and speculate on new human settlement patterns by examining the relationship between the energy grid and the urban grid, i.e., between energy and urban form. Assignments include readings, reading responses, as well as drawings at the midterm and final. Limited enrollment.

All Semesters

Fall 2021
The City and Carbon Modernity
Elisa Iturbe