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Anxious Climate: Architecture at the Edge of Environment

Thursday, January 31 through Sunday, March 9

Posted 01.09.08 by MICA Media Relations

dusty relief

Three groundbreaking European architectural firms explore the relationship between nature and the built environment and take us beyond the emerging doctrines of green design in Anxious Climate: Architecture at the Edge of Environment. This exhibition, at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) from Thursday, January 31 through Sunday, March 9, challenges accepted ideas of nature and human interaction to creatively imagine what nature might be and how humans might interact with it. The exhibition includes computer renderings, photographs, 3D prints created by MICA's print lab, and diagrams to support each firm's vision. Anxious Climate will be on display in Fox Building's Meyerhoff Gallery at 1303 Mount Royal Avenue. An opening reception will take place on Thursday, January 31, 5-7 p.m.

The relationship between humans and nature is continually evolving. As architects and designers work to create innovative and sustainable designs to address this, their tactics are often limited to the ‘organic' theories of modernity (attempting to mimic natural forms) or the ‘green' theories of late-modernity (attempting to replicate natural processes). Both approaches try to achieve equilibrium between the natural and social worlds. The three architecture firms in this exhibition-R&Sie of Paris, Phillipe Rahm of Lausanne and Paris, and Amid [Cero 9] of Madrid-suggest that there is another, as yet undefined, design solution that differs from these earlier approaches.

These architects reject the idea that humans can recreate the natural world, and illustrate that attempts to restore nature are changing precisely what we wish to protect and preserve. "These architects," explains Anxious Climate curator David Gissen, "acknowledge the hybrid nature of all socio-natural entanglements and combine robust architectural forms and innovative building systems to develop environments that challenge social concepts of a stable natural order. It is unclear in many of these projects if nature precedes or is produced by, the technological systems, building forms, and planning strategies."

The resulting proposals are both exhilarating and unsettling and suggest a combination of architecture and nature yet to come.

Three projects from Anxious Climate illustrate this innovative form of practice:

In Dusty Relief (2002) the firm R&Sie developed a concept art gallery that considers the role of the "white box" gallery within the context of a polluted city (Bangkok). The gallery maintains contemporary parameters of display but surrounds the space with an electrostatic skin that attracts dust and pollution in the air, filters it, and maintains standards of health and conservation in the space within. This project reveals the corrupted environment of a city known for its high degree of environmental control and enables us to see how the experience of art and culture often occurs in an artificially "cleansed" environment within pollution-ridden cities.

The work of Amid [Cero 9] examines the capacity for architectural programs to produce new forms of nature. In their project The Magic Mountain (2002) the architects proposed harnessing the latent heat emitted from a power generator in Ames, Iowa, to create an environment for a garden of flowers that would festoon the industrial site. The goals were to reconsider the appearance of nature in the city, advance the emergence of nature in unusual contexts, and introduce natural sensations-from robust odors to color-into the urban infrastructure.

The work of Phillipe Rahm conversely works to examine how flows of nature might interact with buildings to reassemble the structure of social and cultural life. In his Archimedes House (2005), Rahm explores how the simple rise of hot air-what architects term "the chimney effect"-might reconfigure the typical organization of a single-family house into a more energy efficient one. By inverting the traditional home layout, Rahm's three-story Archimedes House becomes larger as it rises and harnesses heat more efficiently.

Simple strategies-the harnessing of dust, the encoding of flowers, and a consideration of heat-fuel innovations that reframe the socio-cultural aspects of the built environment. R&Sie, Phillipe Rahm and Amid [Cero 9] develop complex assemblages among plant, animal, and mineral matter and the social, political, economic, and material facets of architectural production. They link oxen and air-systems, heat and flowers, air and art, steam and trees, mosquitoes and light. Rather than using architecture to change nature, they invoke new forms of socio-nature through the unique capacities of architectural design and production.

All exhibitions and receptions at MICA are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from noon-5 p.m. For more information, visit www.mica.edu or call 410-225-2300.

MICA's exhibitions and public programs receive generous support from the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Special Programs Endowment; The Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education, Inc.; the Amalie Rothschild '34 Residency Program Endowment; The Rouse Company Endowment; the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive; and the generous contributors to MICA's Annual Fund.

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 52 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.