Energies and Boundaries

A new issue of AD was recently published titled ENERGIES: New Material Boundaries, edited by Sean Lally of WEATHERS. This edition focuses on the rich, yet overlooked, territory of design that foregrounds the effects of material energies on boundaries of environments. Boundaries are taken to mean atmospheric thresholds that are the result of material decisions. This refers to the transition in air quality, illumination, temperature, olfactory concentrations, acoustics, among others, that permeates interior environments. Serving as an upgrading of Banham's Well-Tempered Environment, ENERGIES consists of essays and projects that position the design of these often nearly invisible yet sensed conditions at the center of a contemporary debate between sustainability and atmospherics.

With so many technologies developed that are at the service of modulating our interior environments, it is little wonder that designers have marginalized their role to a perfunctory performance-based criteria - a "best practices" model. Or as Lally writes in his introduction:

... [W]hen it comes to one of the most prevalent and ubiquitous materials to influence architecture and its adjacent disciplines in the last thirty years – energy – we’ve made only stunted attempts to explore its design possibilities.

Sean and An Te Liu had invited me to write a text on Liu's recent work embodied by the climate-controlling megastructure "Cloud" found in the 2008 Venice Biennale in Architecture. The idea of boundaries in Liu's work is about invisibility. It explores the boundary of clean air from dirty, and varying degrees of processed air, and the psychological effects of that invisibility.

I recommend picking up a copy of the issue if you are interested in topics of modified environments, atmospherics, and the future of interior environments. Texts by Penelope Dean on green-washing and Michelle Addington on the illusive hermetic seal of building envelope round out a fantastic and thorough issue.

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