Walter Gropius' Bauhaus manifesto in 1919 elevated the complete edifice to the ultimate goal of all arts. By reuniting the craft with architecture, art should play a fundamental role in the development of society.
The year 1919 also marks an interesting demographic dividing line, with the number of people living in rural areas overtaken by the urban dwellers of Germany, Western Europe and the United States. Today, a hundred years later, this trend is a global reality, with the expectation that up to 9 out of 10 of the planet's residents will live in cities by 2119. At the same time, the global population has quadrupled in the period since the manifesto was published. The period thus expresses a fantastically successful urbanization project.
The manifesto was accompanied in 1919 by Lyonel Feininger's thoughtful wooden print of a cathedral of the future. A fractious vision of a soaring tower structure that peaks towards the sky in light lice and is permeating the powerful beams of world salt. Back then, a hopeful vision that today stands in stark contrast to Greta Thunberg's dismantling of hope: 'I don't want your hope. I want you to panic, as if our house is on fire. Because it is.'
As you know, it was not art, but industry and capital that became the driving force behind urban development. And as the hand lost its relation to the machine, the urbanization process completely lost its connection to the ecological basis. The cities were founded insensitively on top of life-critical ecosystems at a very high resource and climatic cost.
It is now clear that the success of the ongoing urbanisation is based on a basis that is hopeless for mankind, where construction, buildings and infrastructure together represent the greatest impact on the planet.
The last time there was so much CO2 in the atmosphere is several million years ago and normal water levels were 15-25 meters higher than it is today. And there is no immediate prospect of any rapid deflection of the accelerating emissions. The bitcoin system alone uses more power than the planet's all solar cells generate, the California wildfires emit more CO2 annually than all of America's electricity consumption, and construction activity in China alone has used more cement in the last 3 years than the United States in the entire 20th century. In addition, cities are expected to continue to grow incessantly at unprecedented rates towards the 22nd century.
The message from the researchers is clear. Either we keep the planet's temperature rise below one and a half degrees, or we have to prepare for a man-made climate morass and geosocial ragnarok that we have irreparable implications for the life we can expect to live on the planet. Never before have we, as an isolated species, had such a clear basis to reassemble, such an obvious purpose to work for and such great potential to lift the global community into a new era. And never before have the paradoxes been more clearly painted up. How do we avoid being paralysed by reality and where should architects start?
with the radical idea of one involving narrative, architecture and urban planning are presented with a purpose description that has not been clearer since the project of modernism;
One take could be the elegant positivism of geologist Minik Rosing, which I take with me from Third Nature's symposium Mind The Gap. In a conversation between the scientist, the artist and the politician, was there a discussion about how we could bring society to the transition, when now neither blind optimism nor dystopian pessimism mobilizes any real collective conversion movement? 'An engaging narrative', was Minik's simple answer.
And it is precisely there, with the radical idea of one involving narrative, that architecture and urban planning are presented with a purpose description that has not been clearer since the project of modernism. If the narrative of architecture manages to recreate an engaging and thought-provoking relationship with the circuit on which we as a species depend, then a new stepping stone has been laid in the Anthropocene paradise we call the city.
There is therefore a need for a climate design pragmatics in the architects, where both behavior, discharge and adaptation are sought addressed in one and the same movement. Where each architecture project ultimately presents a transparent and involving narrative that connects us to the ecological and behavioral contexts. And in doing so lifts us all into a exposed field between creation and destruction.
Just as bauhaus's project sought to reunite artistic disciplines in one ultimate artistic and existential errand, the architecture practices of the next hundred years must necessarily seek to formulate a both frivolous and edifying balance between the planet's regeneration power and the development of human activities.