New York geologics: retrospective readings from the Anthropocene of late 20th century Manhattanism - Woods / Koolhaas / Tschumi
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date24/01/2024
Conventional representations of Manhattan often reinforce its reading as an urban condition resulting from neoliberal forms of capitalism. These forces have expanded the city along an orthogonal grid and continuously extrude its architectures. Stemming from a close examination of the ontological and epistemological shifts caused by the Anthropocene theory and the debates it has sparked over the last two decades, the thesis challenges some of these conventions and experiments with more nuanced understandings of Manhattan as a coalescence of island-territories sustained by conditions of relationality, reciprocity and connectivity with the geologic context in which they exist. With a focus on representation as a form of synthesis and construction of knowledge, the research investigates Manhattan as a conceptual laboratory of ideas to explore how notions of ground, scale, or frame may affect and disrupt readings of temporal and material contexts in the city. The investigation supports the development and application of design operations that unsettle representation and conventional city epistemologies. Methodologically, the study focuses on three seminal speculative architectural works – often recognised as manifestos – developed in the last three decades of the 20th century: Delirious New York (Rem Koolhaas, 1978); The Manhattan Transcripts (Bernard Tschumi, 1981); and Lower Manhattan (Lebbeus Woods, 1999). These pieces become conceptual probes to produce a series of interrelated experimentations curated as physical and virtual installations and proposed as alternative fragments of an imagined Manhattan in the exhibition space. They provide central support for critical and creative explorations that offer a retrospective contextualisation and repositioning of the architectural manifestos from the contemporary perspectives offered by the Anthropocene. The design processes in the thesis articulate an idea of practice as a way of thinking and crafting for noticing, bearing witness, and revealing alternative possibilities in the city. They aim to sustain the thesis’ theoretical contribution to the already established Anthropocene debate around supposed divisions between nature and culture, or the proposed collision between human and earth temporalities.