As a response to the present climate of interest in the building of a new imaginary, a highly productive scenario due to the speed with which the world is changing, and in accordance with a certain centralisation of the debate and a sense of anguish at the decadence of Western civilisation, I’d like to propose a catharsis of the constituent elements, disciplines and domains in a dialectic that may predict, if not the end of the world, at least the beginning of a new phase in the history of architecture. My thoughts on the apocalypse are structured as three thematically associated archaeological dimensions: matter (water, fire, air, earth), knowledge (technology, ecology, economy, sociology) and territory (urban, rural, peripheral, extra-terrestrial).
For most people, the measure of humanism lies precisely in the belief in progress. However, one of the main consequences of the success of Mankind’s evolution has been the destruction of the natural world. The evolution of our species goes hand in hand with ecological devastation, and few still remain impervious to hopes of a balanced relationship with the Earth and its elements. But like all the other animals, humans too have the capacity to adapt to the limitations imposed by the environment. If we’re still in time to be revolutionaries, we’ll also be in time to stir up a frenzied obsession with changing the way we interact with natural elements in the future. Perhaps new scientific discoveries and human knowledge will flourish and prove highly inventive, allowing us to activate a distant stratosphere of resources that will aid our development. Perhaps that will be the only way to mould our existence in a future far removed from the inevitable. This exercise in catharsis requires hypotheses and behaviour that will galvanise inventiveness, transform global ecosystems, and take into consideration the specialisation of our knowledge of matter and its elements – water, fire, air and earth.
In a society that constantly feels as if it’s on a cliff edge, where the role of the city is reinforced to accommodate the ecology of fear, catastrophes don’t just happen: they’re also communicated via a new time gauge – information – to millions of spectators, all eagerly hoping to be the first to witness the living museum of destruction that technological progress seems to be creating. We need to observe climate changes and consider their impact on the fight against poverty, inequality and human rights violations. In the face of the more than likely growth of nationalist, racist and xenophobic movements, we need to call for active responses to the risk of discontentment. We need to see how all these issues form part of a transdisciplinary understanding of architecture. This catharsis calls for scenarios in which the disciplines that define the world as we know it – technology, ecology, economy and sociology – evolve.
Regardless of the scale of progress, the resulting scenarios may well not be too dissimilar to those envisaged in science-fiction – highly technological and yet fully assimilated in barren suburban outskirts. It’s important to find new architectural and urban features, to be able to describe the new architectural forms in these scenarios. There’s an inevitable need to pursue new notions of rural happiness, geographic disaggregation, borders, spatial organization, abstraction, artificial communities, physical land-shaping, claustrophobic atmospheres, wild modelling, archetype reversal, redundant postmodernity, non-places, humanity without time or space. This catharsis calls for describers of contemporary landscapes in their urban, rural, peripheral and extra-terrestrial dimensions.
So let’s be optimistic. Otherwise, not even our curiosity will distinguish us from robots.