Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mission galactic household: The resurgence of cosmological imagination in the architecture of the 1960s and 1970s
by Kallipoliti, Lydia, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2013, 711; 3560318
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation traces a resurgent cosmological imagination in the architecture of the 1960s and 1970s. It documents how the exploration of outer space fueled a radical ecological architectural debate that addressed the reinvention of the household and domestic economy, as both a scientific and an ontological project. I am arguing that in the anticipation of a cosmic view and the search for our coordinates in the universe, there was a disciplinary inflation of previous perceptions of habitation, amplifying the household to an interplanetary organism that can capture the immensity of the cosmos and the obscure density of living systems.

Reflecting the spectacle of a finite “spaceship-earth,” previous concepts of nature’s flawless preservation, as separated from the urban milieu, engendered a novel naturalism of artificial ecology, where the functions and operations of nature were copied as precise analogues in man-made systems. At this time, the space program played a fundamental role in the reformation of the building industry, effectively adopting, rationalizing and simulating nature’s operations in the cautious cycling of provisions. The potential for conversion of all waste materials into useful ones became eminently important, as a means of survival within the enclosed space of the spacecraft. However, NASA’s experiments were not only evoking unearthly fictions; they were a catalyst for re-thinking transformed social and technical relationships as architectural problems, particularly in the domestic sphere. The space program, as a paradigm of reinventing habitation in extreme physiological conditions and instrumentalizing human agency in terms of input and output invoked an ecological sense of inhabiting the world, as seen in houses equipped with digesters, hydroponic systems, composting devices, solar components and wind generators. The projection of humanity to outer space gestated a new type of a recirculatory house, a cybernetic laboratory that can reproduce the ecosystem in its totality in smaller closed systems.

In light of this lineage, my study explores the critical intersection between ecology, cybernetics and experimentation with materials and building processes. Bringing this discussion to face contemporary debates, it is worthwhile to observe that two major peripheral areas of the architectural discipline—computation and sustainability—that are considered in almost all cases as disjunctive or irrelevant fields stem from equivalent epistemological aspirations and converged at a time when cosmological imagination (and the idea of leaving the earth) was a core disciplinary preoccupation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Colomina, Beatriz, Papapetros, Spyridon
Commitee: Allais, Lucia, Vidler, Anthony, Wigley, Mark
School: Princeton University
Department: Architecture
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 74/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental Studies, Architecture
Keywords: 1960s, 1970s, Closed systems, Cosmological imagination, Ecology, Material experiments, Recycling, Space program
Publication Number: 3560318
ISBN: 978-1-303-06202-5
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