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Columbia Books on Architecture and the City
Fred Scharmen teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning. His work as a designer and researcher focuses on how architects imagine new spaces for speculative future worlds and who is invited into those worlds. Recent projects, with the Working Group on Adaptive Systems, include a mile-and-a-half long scale model of the solar system in downtown Baltimore (in collaboration with nine artists), and a pillow fort for the Baltimore Museum of Art based on Gottfried Semper’s Four Elements of Architecture.
An almost encyclopedic guide to 150 years of attempts to design closed environments on earth—everything from tuberculosis sanatoriums to ecological experiments like Biosphere 2. It’s a really great resource for so many stories about what can go well and what can go wrong. She’s not shy at all about bringing critical lenses to the way these projects worked or didn’t.
A great resource for thinking about how worlds or planets are conceptually constructed by the people who study them. No one’s been to Mars. No one’s seen any of the newly discovered exoplanets with anything that we could call a naked eye. So these are artifacts that are created in laboratories and research stations, in observatories—really specific places—and Messeri’s book chronicles her visits to these places and her observations and interactions and research on the way that construction takes place.
It’s a book that has a long shadow in North American culture, but I find that very few people have read it recently. I reread it as part of the research for this book, and I found it such a clear analysis of cultures of control and general systems theory—and the approach and assumptions that are behind those kinds of things. There’s a great bit about the definition of a pest. She demonstrates that the definition of what constitutes a pest has actually grown over the years, as new pesticides were invented. If you have the capacity to kill something, all of a sudden it becomes something that you want to kill, which is an amazing tendency to see laid out like that.