The term “terraforming” usually refers to transforming the ecosystems of other planets or moons to make them capable of supporting Earth-like life, but the looming ecological consequences of what is called the Anthropocene suggest that in the decades to come we will need to terraform Earth if it is to remain a viable host for Earth-like life. The next Strelka Education Programme will explore the implications of this proposition for urbanism at planetary scale, a venture that is full of risk: technical, philosophical, and biological.
The research programme will consider the past and future role of cities as a planetary network by which humans occupy the Earth’s surface. Planetarity itself comes into focus in through orbiting imagining and terrestrial modeling technologies that have made it possible to measure climate change with any confidence. We will explore a renewed Copernican turn, and how the technologically-mediated shift away from anthropocentric perspectives is crucially necessary in both theory and practice.
The implications are perhaps counterintuitive. Instead of reviving ideas of “nature,” we will reclaim “the artificial” — not as in ‘fake’ but as in ‘designed’— as a foundation by which the mitigation of anthropogenic climate change is linked to the geopolitics of automation. For this, urban-scale automation is seen as part of an expanded landscape of information, agency, labor, energy that is part of a living ecology, not a substitute for one. As such the focus of urban design research shifts toward the governance of infrastructures that operate on much longer time-scales than our cultural narratives.
The vast and quickly changing expanse of the Russian territory is our site condition. From here, we look up out into space and from there back down to the Earth to orient what planetarity should mean. The questions of geotechnology, geoeconomics, geoecology and geonomos are situated between the world as it appears to us and how we appear to world as it gazes back at us through the technologies we’ve made.
Benjamin Bratton — Programme Director of the Strelka Institute. He is Professor of Visual Arts and Director of the Center for Design at the University of California, San Diego. He is also a Professor of Digital Design at The European Graduate School and Visiting Faculty at SCI_Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture).
The lecture will be held in English, with simultaneous translation into Russian.