This week is a conversation with John May and we’re discussing a book he recently wrote called ‘Signal, Image, Architecture. It’s a short book with an objective to define the playing field today for this discussion. The book makes a clear distinction between that of a drawing, a photograph and an image. And in doing so makes it clear that those first two (drawing and photograph) are not what architects and designers are likely to be producing in school or practice anymore.
Instead, we’re producing images that can look like a photograph or a drawing. The distinction is important because the argument could be made that we are not taking full advantage of the proclivities of the images and therefore not engaging the tools that might best help us understand and shape our times. There are fundamental differences to the image, and it’s best to understand them and how they are likely intertwined with how we engage many of the pressures surrounding us today.
John May is founding partner, with Zeina Koreitem, of MILLIØNS, a Los Angeles-based design practice. John May is Assistant Professor of Architecture and Director of the Master in Design Studies Program at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He previously served as a visiting professor at MIT, SCI-Arc, and UCLA, and was named 2012 National Endowment for the Humanities Visiting Professor in Architecture at Rice University. He is the author of Signal, Image, Architecture and the founding co-director and co-editor (with Zeynep Çelik Alexander) of Design Technics: Archaeologies of Architectural Practice—an exploration of the philosophical and historical dimensions of contemporary design technologies.
Today is a conversation with Holly Jean Buck and we’re discussing her book After Geoengineering: Climate Tragedy, Repair and Restoration.
I think for many of us that like to think we’re working in at least the general wheelhouse of climate change, we still don’t have a firm grasp of what geoengineering entails. For most of us, it’s a singular black box technology that will either help our current situation or make it worse. It’s often portrayed as a technology more so than as policy or even design. It’s characterized as a singular action rather than as a series of discrete, temporal actions that are rather wide ranging in approach. It’s also often assumed to be an already defined action waiting to be executed, which it is not.
In After Geoengineering, Holly Buck brings into focus the importance of asking what we as inhabitants of Earth are looking for on the back end of these climate remediation projects? What are we working towards and who has been part of these discussions? The book and the discussion here raise questions for the need of participatory design. The book highlights the upcoming struggle in preparing for infrastructure scale projects that if successful will be temporary in some cases. How do we restructure our value systems in order to work collectively at such a global scale.
Holly Jean Buck is an Assistant Professor of Environment & Sustainability at the University at Buffalo in New York. She researches how communities can be involved in the design of emerging environmental technologies, and works at the interface of geography, social science, and design. Her diverse research interests include agroecology and carbon farming, new energy technologies, artificial intelligence, and ecological restoration. She has written on climate engineering including humanitarian approaches, gender considerations, and human rights issues, and is the author of After Geoengineering: Climate Tragedy, Repair and Restoration, from Verso Books.