ORDER! : The Spatial Ideologies of Carbon Modernity

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 11am - 6:30pm

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Abandoned Big Box Store, Houston, Texas, 2014. Image courtesy of Elisa Iturbe.

This event will be conducted in-person in the Rose Auditorium and through Zoom. 

For Zoom attendance, please register in advance here.
For In-Person attendance, please register in advance here

With the onset of the industrial revolution, a new spatial order emerged—one that is not only energy-intensive, but one that also writes the social and economic structures of an industrial and extractive society into concrete, steel, and glass. As part of the exhibition Confronting Carbon Form, this symposium gathers architects, designers, scholars, historians, and theorists to identify and study the specific spatial concepts of that order—a necessary undertaking if architecture is to address the climate crisis.

The symposium will consist of three sessions, each of which will be organized in a point-counterpoint structure: two presentations will focus on a specific characteristic of carbon modernity, while a third will discuss a specific precedent or model that might contain the seeds of a counter-project.

Elisa Iturbe will deliver the opening remarks followed by presentations and discussions including Kathi Weeks, Esra Akcan, Cameron McEwan, Ross Exo Adams, Matthew Soules, Ana María Durán, Catherine Ingraham, Gary Fields, and David Wengrow.

11:00 AM | OPENING REMARKS, Elisa Iturbe

11:15–1:00 | SESSION 1: Temporal & Typological Order

This session looks at the imposition of new temporal and spatial orders as central to the project of industrialization. Talks will focus on the formation of the working class, which increased the separation between production and social reproduction, as well as the emergence of new architectural typologies. Both dramatically affected the spatial organization of social relations. 

11:15–11:45 — Kathi Weeks 
11:45–12:15 — Esra Akcan 
12:15–12:45 — Cameron McEwan 
12:45–1:00 — Discussion 

1:00–2:00 | LUNCH

2:00–3:30 | SESSION 2: Expansion vs. Atomization

This session looks at the contradictory tendencies of development under fossil fuels: on one hand, the tendency for infrastructural integration in the service of totalizing expansion; on the other, the atomization and individuation brought about by the extreme commodification of space and an advanced real estate market. 

2:15–2:45 — Ross Exo Adams 
2:45–3:15 — Matthew Soules 
3:15–3:45 — Ana María Durán 
3:45–4:00 — Discussion

4:00–4:15 | BREAK

4:15–6:00 | SESSION 3: Abstraction & Land Hunger

The final session focuses on the role abstraction has played throughout carbon modernity, not only as an aesthetic concept, but also as a way of perceiving land and resources. Together, these presentations will emphasize how spatial concepts become ideological, imbricating aesthetic expression with the political unfolding of human relations.

4:15–4:45 — Catherine Ingraham 
4:45–5:15 — Gary Fields 
5:15–5:45 — David Wengrow 
5:45–6:00 — Discussion


Free and open to the general public. 

Located in the Frederick P. Rose Auditorium, at 41 Cooper Square (on Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets)

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.