The Importance of Criticalthinking

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Howto Create a Technique

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Power, Climate and the Green New Deal

At Scenario Journal, we are hard at work finalizing content for our next issue, on the politics of energy and the power of power. In the United States, this kind of power has been in the news a lot lately: who gets to keep theirs, and who gets theirs turned off? We’re referring here to the recent electrical outages in California as electrical utility PSE&G shut down parts of its grid for up to a million people in order to avoid setting off another conflagration like last year’s devastating Camp Fire—and the impacts are not felt equally. In other power news, a growing number of states attempts to do something to regulate their contributions to climate change—most recently big gas and coal-user Pennsylvania, which announced that it will join its neighboring Northeastern states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The RGGI expansion represents a significant move on emissions, but doesn’t come anywhere near dressing the magnitude of the climate problem.

We’ve been thinking about the need to tell climate stories that are local and grounded in our own communities, but also the need to connect to powerful, global solidarity movement. The Global Climate Strike was a great moment to put these perspectives together and to remember to elevate the voices of youth, of people of color, of front line communities around the world and in our home towns.

If you need some motivation, or are struggling to bring emotions and power to climate conversations, it might be time to rewatch the powerful, Greta Thunberg at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in September.

 

Design and the Green New Deal

What would it look like to actually take our global climate emergency seriously? In the United States, the only policy that actually rises to the scale of the climate emergency is the Green New Deal, (or GND). The GND proposes to achieve drastic cuts in carbon emissions within ten years through a massive WWII-style mobilization, while guaranteeing good green jobs to millions. (Here is the Green New Deal explained in 7.5 minutes in a Vox explainer video).

Despite the hype surrounding the unveiling of the Green New Deal resolution in the U.S. Congress, there remains some confusion about what exactly a GND might eventually look like. So on September 13, 2019 the University of Pennsylvania’s Ian McHarg Center hosted an full-day event called Designing the Green New Deal, to start fleshing out the suite of concerns that will be central to an eventual Green New Deal policy package, including grappling with the role that designers and spatial planners will have to play in the radical decarbonization of the economy. The event brought together thought leaders from the think tanks and organizations most heavily involved in the crafting of the GND vision, and put them in conversation with historians, designers, and some incredible environmental justice activists and labor organizers, to discuss what is at stake in the fight for a Green New Deal.

If you weren’t able to attend the event at Penn, don’t worry—the whole ten and a half hours are recorded and available online: https://vimeo.com/359778899

 

Green New Deal Reading List

Not ready to watch all 10.5 hours of the event recording, here is a list of readings from the event’s list of presenters, compiled courtesy of the Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology at UPenn, that start to give a flavor of the wise of concerns that are at the heart of the GND:

Happy reading, stay tuned for Scenario 7: POWER, and please let us know if there are other GND-related texts that you’ve found useful!

The Scenario Journal team

 

Call For Submissions: SCENARIO 7 Power

We are happy to announce the open Call for Submissions for the next issue of Scenario Journal. This upcoming issue will explore the power dynamics of energy transitions, in the context of tackling climate change; it will look at the ways in which power and issues of equity course through our social, political and technological systems. We’re looking for pieces that take on the topic of power and energy, using authentic voices to present these layered topics from a variety of perspectives, looking back to history or imagining a radically new future. We’re interested in socially provocative, architecturally strange, infrastructurally driven projects. We’re looking for well-researched, vividly illustrated writing that helps us see landscapes and communities in a new light. Please submit your provocations.

If you haven’t had a chance to dig into our last issue: SCENARIO 6: Migration, we think you’ll enjoy it. Content, as always, is open-access and free of charge.

Submissions Due: May 24, 2019

Addressing climate change will require a wholesale reimagining of society and economy. It is a design challenge of unparalleled scale and scope, demanding that we rethink how we produce energy, build cities, grow food, manage land, and transform labor. This, of course, is not just a conversation about energy infrastructure or carbon pricing.

Infrastructure is always political, and energy transitions have always been contested, pitting established players against upstart technologies and new coalitions. The effects on communities are similarly uneven, resulting in unequal access to economic opportunity, to decision-making, and to environmental harm. How can a radical reimagining of energy infrastructure create opportunities for an inclusive and participatory conversation about climate change and social justice? Who has the power to talk about infrastructure, and who gets left out? Can designers play a meaningful role in amplifying diverse voices and generating nuanced proposals for a more socially and environmentally just future?

Of course, the design community has its own issues with power, inclusivity, and equity. Can designers hope to participate in this conversation if we don’t address our own problematic relationship to power?

SCENARIO 7 welcomes the submission of critical essays, provocations, and design projects that explore the relationship between climate action, energy infrastructure, and social justice.

Submission Requirements:

  • Design projects and photo essays should have a clear and focused text no longer than 1000 words, accompanied by 10-15 images.
  • Article-based submissions should be no longer than 2500 words.
  • We prefer to receive submissions as Microsoft Word documents with images embedded with the text. All sources and citations should be clearly indicated and included as footnotes or endnotes according to the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Send submissions to mail@scenariojournal.com, with ‘Submission′ in the subject line. Submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
  • Please alert us if work has been previously published or if it has been submitted simultaneously to another publication.

This issue of Scenario Journal is being made possible by the support of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Newest Issue Explores Migration and Across Scales and Geographies

We are pleased to announce the launch of the latest issue of Scenario Journal — SCENARIO 6: Migration.

This issue, long in the making, tackles this pressing and loaded topic through a range of disciplinary perspectives, reflecting on a diverse suite of fascinating stories of migration: of people, of animals, of plants, of materials, of habitats and climate zones, of coastlines and entire urban regions.

Migration is a fundamental process that sustains communities, but it also represents some of our greatest social anxieties. As such, it has become difficult to speak of migration of any sort without entering a semantic minefield. This issue dives headlong into the contentious vocabulary of migration, investigating it at a variety of scales and in a variety of places.

SCENARIO 6: Migration brings together critical essays, projective design proposals, rich photo pieces, historical research, and speculative fiction. Contributors include Steven Handel, Karl Kullmann, Ian Caine and Derek Hoeferlin, Traumnovelle, Wim Wambecq and Bruno De Meulder, Roland Kays, Alex Klatskin, Fadi Masoud, Maria Gabriella Trovato, Tami Banh and Antonia Rudnay, Mike Yengling, Audrey Burns Leites, and Eduardo Rega.

The full issue of SCENARIO 6: Migration is available online, free of charge. As always, Scenario Journal is committed to creating open access content for diverse audiences on topics central to our global urban condition. We hope you enjoy reading it and pass it on to your friends and colleagues.

Stephanie Carlisle and Nicholas Pevzner
Editors-in-Chief // Scenario Journal

SCENARIO 6: MIGRATION – Coming Soon

  
At long last, we are getting ready to release SCENARIO 6: MIGRATION later this month. Since we put out the call for submissions just over a year ago, a cascade of current events around the world has prompted us to reassess the theme and reinforced for us the timeliness and urgency of this topic. From the U.S. election to a profoundly changed political climate in Europe, to increasingly visible changes in natural systems facing the early effects of climate change, migration is all around us. The topic is a complicated one, and there were some elements and perspectives on Migration that we were keen to include in the issue. We felt we needed more time to properly address the breadth and urgency of the topic of migration. We are excited to be putting the finishing touches on this issue as we speak and think you will enjoy it. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, let us share with you some of the stories from around the internet that we are reading, watching, and listening to, all of them reverberating in one way or another around the many facets of the topic of migration–of people, of animals, of materials, of landscapes. Enjoy!

 
What we’re reading:

This stunning and brutal account of human trafficking and Nigerian girls risking everything to make their way across the deserts of Libya to reach Europe. Fleeing Boko Haram. Probably not what architects mean when they talk about adaptive reuse. Photographer Richard Mosse talks about repurposing a camera made for long-range battle surveillance to show humanity in refugee camps. Forensic anthropologists document the human tragedy of immigration through the remains of 550 bodies found in a single county in South Texas. Trump’s wall may also impact thousands of plant and animal species. Saltwater migration is already killing coastal forests at the leading edge of climate change.

The planning and construction of detention centers in rural areas effectively robs detainees of their right to an attorney. How Washington blew its best chance to fix immigration years ago. On those days when America seems heartless, know that this small town welcomes 1,500 refugees a year. While Americans envy the generosity of kinder Presidents, some Canadians doubt the #WelcomeToCanada campaign. Trump’s Paris climate agreement speech, annotated by an expert in energy and foreign policy. Why scientists are bad at explaining climate change.

Immigration is changing languages and people are modulating how they use the term migration. Globalization and industrial agriculture have created an unprecedented microbial migration. Pronghorn antelopes learn to use highway overpasses on the first federally designated migration corridor in North America, while the Department of Transportation wonders if grizzlies, fish, and monarch butterflies may benefit from highways. Tracing human migration through music and nocturnal bird flight through acoustic monitoring. And in Somalia where nomadic tribes migrate in search of water and pasture, climate change is acting as the catalyst of conflict and displacement.

 

What we’re listening to:

The language of human migration is ever-shifting and political: migrant, immigrant, asylum-seeker, and refugee. The journey of an unaccompanied minor from Honduras to the United States. 99% Invisible’s excellent two-part series on the history of Sanctuary Cities.

 

Happy exploring,

Stephanie Carlisle and Nicholas Pevzner
Editors-in-Chief // Scenario Journal

 

Image credit:  An aerial view of Za’atri refugee camp, Jordan. Photo by United Nations Photo.

Reporting From the Front: Venice Architecture Biennale

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Curator Alejandro Aravena at entrance to Arsenale exhibitions, with leftover metal studs from last year’s Art Biennale hanging above. Photo by Laila Seewang

 

This year’s Venice Biennale took the theme of “The Front” as its curatorial premise. Curator Alejandro Aravena, in his introduction, highlighted the many fronts necessary to tackle in the battle to improve the quality of the built environment: “segregation, inequalities, peripheries, access to sanitation, natural disasters, housing shortage, migration, informality, crime, traffic, waste, pollution and participation of communities,” a set of concerns reflected in his choice of exhibitors on display at the Arsenale. The first room displays the leftover metal studs from the 2015 Art Biennale as a way of introducing us — as designers, but also as clients and users — to all-too-common wasted material that often underlies artistic and architectural expression.  Although the theme is developed across scales and disciplines — from planning, infrastructure, architecture to furniture — many of the exhibitors foreground the benefits of ground-up design that result when social, environmental, and political lessons trump economic factors. In the national pavilions ‘fronts’ were interpreted more liberally, three of which are worth concentrating on in more detail.

 

FRONT 1: Technology (meets beauty)

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Christian Kerez, Incidental Space, Installation View, Swiss Pavilion at the 15th Architecture Exhibition. Photo by Oliver Dubuis

Craftsmanship has come to be expected from Swiss architecture, usually in white concrete. While this year’s Swiss pavilion confirms these material expectations, the form it takes is unexpected. Inside the simple modern pavilion curator Sandra Oehy has placed an enormous white lump that pushes uncomfortably up against the pitched clerestory roof, and it is a delightful surprise.

It is possible to enter the lump. And inside is a world that resembles what one imagines the innards of a Louise Bourgeois sculpture to be, but with the same peacefulness one would expect from more elegant Swiss architecture. The result is quietly extra-human — more crafted nature than architecture. The experience is unequivocally beautiful.

Schweizer Pavillon von Christian Kerez am 23. Mai 2016 in Venedig fotografiert. (KEYSTONE/Gaetan Bally)

Christian Kerez, Incidental Space, Installation View, Swiss Pavilion at the 15th Architecture Exhibition. Photo by Keystone/Gaëtan Bally

The front that architect and exhibitor Christian Kerez refers to is that of the architectural design process itself: specifically, the technological front by which space is conceived and produced. For the pavilion, titled “Incidental Space,” he and his students first created material compositions out of wax, sand, or nails in wood, and digitally assembled their casts into a singular form. The resulting piece was 3D printed to form a solid around which the final piece, only 2cm thick, was cast. It is hard to say whether the result is beautiful because of this tortured process or in spite of it, but against any of the descriptions the curatorial team have offered, I would say that the theme they are approaching with this project is not (only) one of design process, it is that of beauty. I asked Kerez how he chose iteration 180 out of 300: was it intuitive, or was he looking for beauty, and he was slow to answer. Architects don’t often speak about wanting to make beauty today — the risk of aiming for beauty as opposed to complexity is that it will always fail, as one person’s beauty will be another’s banality, especially if experienced amid a crowd filled with expectations after reading an entire ARCH+ issue dedicated to the pavilion’s design. Kerez smiled, and replied that he was looking for something illegible and complex.

 

FRONT 2: Environment (meets respect)

“Remoteness — like wilderness, is an imperial myth and a colonial lie. There is no frontier — no terra nullius, there never was. Canada, no matter how apparently remote, has live boundaries, edges, peripheries, thresholds and lived histories. Today there are only frontlines. Doctrines of (mineral) discovery latent in the ideologies of remote (resource) exploration are coming to an abrupt end on new fronts of action and resistance.”

Undermining Empire: A Landscape Manifesto for the Next Century.

The Canadians tackled the idea of the frontier itself, and appropriately enough weren’t even allowed to exhibit in their pavilion which was closed for extended renovations, but rather had to negotiate their territory for almost a year and a half with administration and neighboring pavilions in order to hold their landscape intervention outdoors in the Giardini. A wall of large sacks filled with gold ore extracted by a failed Canadian company in Sardinia barricades the way to the closed Canadian pavilion, eyed by biennale visitors on the first day as they walked through the area. At 3pm on Friday afternoon the crowd gathered around a circular quilt of beaver pelts, for the unfolding of the story.

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OPSYS / RVTR / Ryerson University Ecological Design Lab / Studio Blackwell / Hume Atelier, Extraction, Canadian Pavilion at the 15th Architecture Exhibition.
Photo by Laila Seewang

Part-exhibition, part-performance and part-protest, the story was about Extraction – specifically Canada’s roots as an extraction economy and its role in extraction practices around the world. Precisely positioned at the junction between the British and French pavilions, whose empires are also historically implicated in these same practices, the circular quilt was uncovered to reveal a large milled Corian inverted map of the world installed in the ground, with a cast solid gold survey stake at its center.

05_©2016 OPSYS

OPSYS / RVTR / Ryerson University Ecological Design Lab / Studio Blackwell / Hume Atelier, Extraction, Canadian Pavilion at the 15th Architecture Exhibition.
Photo ©2016 OPSYS

In the complex entanglement between colonial politics, land occupation, and environmental impact, the Canadian story plays out with particular reference to indigenous First Nations, represented for the opening by Eriel Tchekwie Deranger from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Treaty 8 Lands: one of many communities that have been affected by the scale of the practice that accompanied the transition from use-value to trade-value. It is in this sense that the European colonization of the territory of Canada can be seen as a starting point for the extraction story: the removal of valued resources from the places where they are found in order to fuel urbanization across the globe, and the construction of the very idea of territory to enable this forced removal.

06_©2016 OPSYS - Pedro Aparicio - Boram Lee - Altiplano

Pedro Aparicio, Boram Lee, Estudio Altiplano, Film Still from
A Walk in the Park of Empires, ©2016 OPSYS

Focusing on the land in this way simultaneously allows one to understand the forces that co-construct both urban and natural environments, and highlights the very physical nature of political and economic contestations. While the curators of this year’s Canadian pavilion chose to confront their own country’s darker relationships with extraction and the political, financial and social disenfranchisement that comes with it, this story could be told by many countries. The criticism that “the state operates like an open pit mine” is a provocation that should resonate with anyone looking at A Brief History of Empire, the video history of 800 years of mining told with 800 images in 800 seconds, viewed through the solid gold oculus inserted into the earth at the center of the Canadian intervention.

 

FRONT 3: Construction (meets fairness)

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Dominika Janicka, Martyna Janicka, and Michal Gdak, Fair Building, Polish Pavilion at the 15th Architecture Exhibition. Photo by Anne Kockelkorn

The ability to understand that these stories from the front, as presented by the national pavilions, are transferable across nations, is a commendable strength of this year’s Biennale.  This is most clear in Poland’s contribution, by curator Dominika Janicka, which focuses on the construction worker as the actor at the frontier of building practice. In a minimal presentation, five screens inside the pavilion give us the point-of-view of builders as they perform their daily work on a residential high-rise construction site. Hands turning, eyes gazing to the city beyond, or looking for firm footing, we become the builders for a moment. For design professionals, the primary visitors during the preview days, this is a rather uncommon vantage point. The Polish construction worker plays on a caricature certainly, but again the story is transferable to any large-scale project: one wall counts the number of unreported construction accidents, unpaid overtime, fast-track short cuts, and all the other unfair labor practices generated by global property development. The fact that “Fair Building,” the title of the Polish exhibition, is a frontier makes it sadly obvious that what should be theoretically simple is in fact rather far away on the horizon for most of the world’s designed environments.

The Biennale, in Kerez’s words, is a protected space for deviance, and there are many experimental and critical fronts on display at the Biennale this year. The three fronts of technology, environment, and construction explicitly tackled the overt concerns of the design fields at large, but it is their respective implicit fronts – beauty, respect, and fairness – that offer the best suggestions for how to open up the horizon of concerns for contemporary practice. And this is what seems to underlie Aravena’s call for experiment and criticism this year: we either have to move our values away from the financial frontiers that we have our eyes fixed upon all too often, or we should own up to our complicity in making finance the only horizon we, and the people we design for, can see. Given the importance of the Biennale for the design professions, there is hope and possibility that some of this deviance will seep out of the Giardini and into our design practice.

Scenario 6: Migration – Open Call Closing Soon

Fisk 3
This has been a year of migration, in what promises to be a new normal of shifting populations and whole landscapes responding to changing climate and grinding conflict. We would like to remind our readers about our current Call for Submissions, which closes next week on May 28th. SCENARIO 6: Migration is seeking critical essays, provocations, and design projects that explore the relationship between migration patterns and our designed landscape.

 

The open call prompts us to think about the spatial, social and environmental impacts of flows, habitats, coasts, borders, and populations on the move: Is promoting connectivity always the answer, or does it make native populations more vulnerable to invasion? Which flows do we want to encourage, and which to block? Stirred into motion by the stresses of historic planetary change, how can populations on the move keep up, and what kind of assistance can design offer?

 

We hope you will consider submitting. Full submission details can be found at https://scenariojournal.com/submit/

 

Call For Submissions: SCENARIO 6 Migration

We are pleased to announce the open Call for Submissions for the next issue of Scenario Journal. This upcoming issue will explore the patterns, processes and repercussions of migration. We are looking for pieces that take on topic of populations on the move, from a variety of perspectives, regions, species. We’re interested in socially provocative, architecturally strange, ecologically driven projects. We’re looking for well-researched, vividly illustrated writing that helps us see landscapes and communities in a new light. Please submit your provocations.

If you haven’t had a chance to dig into our last issue: SCENARIO 5: Extraction, we think you’ll enjoy it. Content, as always, is open-access and free of charge.
S6_Call For Submissions

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Deadline: May 28th, 2016

Populations move. Plants disperse genes by way of seeds and pollen; wetlands accrete and erode; animals forage, mate, roam. Humans leave their homes in search of work, land, education, safety, and opportunity. Migration is a process by which organisms track resources, discover, and escape. The patterns of migration reflect spatial and temporal changes in the landscape. Species also shape the environment as they move through it.

The design of our cities can facilitate or inhibit migration. All interventions in the built environment have cascading effects across the ecosystem. Patterns of movement rely on complex networks of relationships and drivers that can easily be disturbed, or enhanced, by a dam, a highway, a border fence, a subdivision, a grove of trees, a feral cat. How do we make sense of these relationships? Is promoting connectivity always the answer, or does it make native populations more vulnerable to invasion? Which flows do we want to encourage, and which to block? Stirred into motion by the stresses of historic planetary change, how can populations on the move keep up, and what kind of assistance can design offer?

SCENARIO 6 welcomes the submission of critical essays, provocations, and design projects that explore the relationship between migration patterns and our designed landscape. As designers, planners, politicians, and ecologists shape urban and regional landscapes, what role will the ever-shifting flow of populations play?

Submission Requirements:

  • Design projects and photo essays should have a clear and focused text no longer than 1000 words, accompanied by 6-10 images.
  • Article-based submissions should range in length from 1000 to 4000 words.
  • We prefer to receive submissions as Microsoft Word documents with images embedded with the text. All sources and citations should be clearly indicated and included as footnotes or endnotes according to the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Send submissions to mail@scenariojournal.com, with ‘Submission′ in the subject line. Submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
  • Please alert us if work has been previously published or if it has been submitted simultaneously to another publication.
Image (above) by Abhijit Shylanath

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