In today's climate crisis, how can architects rethink design and realign their priorities to leverage environmental change? Erik Carver, an architectural historian in the doctoral program at Columbia University GSAPP, and Janette Kim, an assistant professor at Syracuse University, principal of New York City research and design practice All of the Above, and editor and founder of ARPA Journal, analyze the political implications of the way architects design in their forthcoming book The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform (Princeton Architectural Press, 2015). As the self-described "architect’s primer to energy politics," it sifts through the conflicting agendas of U.S. economists, environmentalists, political scientists, and designers to clarify how these myriad positions can inform public action.
“What power do architects have?” Carver and Kim ask in the book’s introduction. “Architecture is often both a product of energy regimes and a ploy to overturn them. Architects reconstruct relationships between resources and publics, grappling with nostalgic images of stability, shaping the faces of authority, and organizing bureaucracies to shape standards.”
The Underdome Guide includes a collection of essays by urban designer Georgeen Theodore and architectural historians Reinhold Martin, Jonathan Massey, and Michael Osman on four major topics of debate: power, territory, lifestyle, and risk.
The book began as a website, Underdome, launched in October 2010. It invites architects to think broadly about the political and societal effects of energy consumption, using a compendium of opinions gathered through panel discussions and interviews.
The website name and book title reference “Dome Over Manhattan,” R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao’s 1960 proposal to build a 2-mile-diameter geodesic structure covering New York City that would regulate weather and reduce air pollution. Despite its lack of feasibility, Carver and Kim argue that the proposal shook architecture from its conventional boundaries between public and private, and sparked a new way of thinking about energy distribution and efficiency.