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From Architecture to Kainotecture


All the architecture that we know of is architecture of the Holocene. Architecture has had to deal with a lot of unpredictable factors, but the climate of the Holocene has always been an assumed constant. This is the case even with architectures that deals with very unpredictable conditions. For example, Glenn Murcutt has designed structures for the highly variable Australian rainfall. But he could still take a measure of local precipitation, isolate the known peak rainfall and design a gutter big enough relative to a given area of roof surface for the quantity of water that would most likely land on it. So while there have been architectures for unpredictable climates, they have been unpredictable within the general form of the Holocene. What does not yet exist is a way of building for a climate that is outside the parameters of the Holocene...

The Anthropocene is, among other things, the end of the Holocene’s climate. Globally, temperatures are rising and will not return to Holocene levels in the foreseeable future. This we know from the science of climate modeling, itself the product of an extraordinary global infrastructure. What is rather less certain is what the local effects will be; whether there will be a new relatively stable pattern or a period of prolonged unpredictability. If there is to still be architecture, it will be an architecture without certain givens and constants to ground it.

If all architecture is architecture of the Holocene, then perhaps the Anthropocene is the end of architecture as we know it. The arche in architecture means something like origin, source, beginning, command or conditions of possibility, yet in the Anthropocene one can no longer imagine a practice of building from the same conceptual foundations. Perhaps rather than arche, the conceptual root has to be something else, something without that confidence of striving upward.

Perhaps the field of study and practice becomes a kainotecture, from kainos (which is also the root of -cene in Holocene and Anthropocene), meaning a twist in the quality of time. Perhaps it becomes a xenotecture, from xenos, the stranger, who could be friend or enemy. Perhaps it becomes a tychotecture, from tyche, goddess of fortune. Perhaps it becomes a symbebekotecture, from symbebekos, the accident. Let’s call the overall problem that of a kainotecture, and think of the other tektons as what it may turn into when there’s more information to go on as to what building will be like in the time the planet is now inhabiting.

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