Architecture today, much as it did several thousand years ago, attempts to extend Earth’s outer shell —the surface on which we stand— by adding other shells of our own making. Materials of stone, steel, concrete, and glass —refinements of the existing geologic layer— form artificial masses, or buildings, that produce new pockets of space. As these built forms rise from Earth’s surface, they engage with the planet’s atmosphere. In fact, it would be more useful to say that we ‘live not on the summit of a solid earth, but rather at the bottom of an ocean of air’.

Built atmospheres
The concept of climate as an architectural theme has become one of the major concerns of sustainable development in response to the problem of global warming. Climate is understood, in architectural terms, as the heat management and necessary cooling in the interior of a building to guarantee an average comfort temperature. One of architecture’s crucial tasks is, of course, to provide a warm interior during the cold winter months, and inversely, to protect us from the sun and high temperatures with a cool interior during the summer. Paradoxically, it is when heating or cooling the interior climate of our buildings when fossil fuels are burnt, releasing gases which then contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Aerial cartographies
The invisible nature of air, its cultural construal as the ‘natural’ context of urban environments, and the absence of technological instruments which describe and analyse it have resulted in it being a neglected area in most cities and territories until very recently. However, recent deterioration of air quality in cities and the difficulty to find measures to improve it are leading to more social visibility. On the other hand, philosophers, sociologists and critical theorists have proposed the inclusion of the materiality of the air in the definition of ‘the social’, revealing how its absences, both physical and conceptual, can explain the contemporary world.

Inhabiting deterritorialization
Since the apparition of electric lighting, air conditioning, increasing mobility of persons and goods, the sometimes use of bio-chemicals but more importantly, since the public spread of the Internet in the mid ’90s, we have witnessed the emergence of an almost ‘geo-engineered’ and continuous milieu that triggers an experience of delocalization/ detemporalization.

Smoke signals
Should we abandon the chimeric search for carnotian performance in favour of the ulterior utilisation of current performances? Are there processes whose surpluses have sufficient entity to spur a technology of the fantastic? Can these practiceshypercontextualise an architectural proposal, contributing to its rooting in a city whose idiosyncrasy is extremely hedonistic?

Weather dissidents
In his 2009 book, Terror from the Air, the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk observes, ‘In periods of poor weather, the more demanding climate critics fly in copious numbers to regions in which they can expect an acceptable performance with sufficient probability —which is why between Christmas Eve and Epiphany, Mauritius and Morocco are awash with weather dissidents from Germany and France—.’ (Sloterdijk 2009). He uses the term ‘weather dissidents’ as a figure of speech to suggest the once-upon-a-time when nature really did rule. Our modern sun-seekers need not proclaim heresies or write samizdat literature to express dissent against the natural order of things; they simply take to the skies.

Pneumatic serendipity

“...will meteorologists be the new architects?”
Alejandro de la Sota on R. Buckminster Fuller

The term serendipity can be used to refer to the discovery of something interesting by chance, or to the ability to recognize a finding —although it may not be directly related to what was being sought—.
For the last four years, Pneumatic Serendipity has been intentionally looking for coincidence and chance, trying to establish new relationships through a research project; it is underpinned by a theoretical framework yet with an important practical side, based on the design and construction of prototypes.

¿Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda?
Given the climatological hypothesis: man, happy animal, lived in the warm garden of Eden, cradled by a constant temperature of 28Åã Celsius, busy enjoying an uneventful life, also lacking in expectations, naked (unknowingly) in the lush garden we wish tropical, with fruit (and only fruit) as food at his fingertips. This is, without going into specifics, the scene presented in the Bible; a view abruptly obliterated with the banishing of man from this comfortable paradise, from this state of animal beatitude to his insertion into the violent world of humanity, where yes, there is knowledge, but also work (quintessential biblical plague: man must now depend only on himself) as well as good and evil. The transition, by all means, could not have been more traumatic.

Paradise...back to nature
The term ‘artificial climate’ was coined by John Claudius Loudon, a landscape architect with a prolific career building greenhouses and writing gardening treaties. Developing his career in the first half of the 19th century, Loudon believed in the possibility of creating enormous artificial climates on the basis of what had been achieved in climate control, and a zigzag structure which, he claimed, enabled him to cover large areas without limitation.
Issue #3
July 2014
172 Pages
+ - 162 mins
18 x 25 cm
12 Eur
ENG/SPA Bilingual Edition BUY





Built Atmospheres


Nerea Calvillo

Aerial Cartographies


Patrick Keller

Inhabiting Deterritorialization


Carlos Ramos

Smoke Signals


Helen Mallinson

Weather dissidents


Antonio Cobo

Pneumatic serendipity


José Vela castillo

¿Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda?


Paula García-Masedo

Paradise...Back to nature

28º Celsius is the temperature at which protection becomes superfluous. It is also the temperature at which swimming pools are acclimatized. Within the limits of this hygrothermal comfort zone, we do not require the intervention of our body’s thermoregulatory mechanisms nor that of any external artificial thermal controls in order to feel pleasantly comfortable while carrying out a sedentary activity without clothing. 28º Celsius is thus the temperature at which clothing can disappear, just as architecture could.
‘We live not, in reality, on the summit of a solid earth but at the bottom of an ocean of air’. These were the terms used by the physicist and mathematician Evangelista Torricelli addressing his colleague Michelangelo Ricci. Surprised by his discovery around 1644, ‘The air has weight’ he stated in front of what was to be the first barometer in history, resting on the table of his laboratory. From this critical moment onwards, that introduces the first text of this issue, the idea of air begins to unravel its own mystery, the one which had burdened people’s shoulders for so many years. The mystical conception that had always been associated with this enigmatic substance could now be abandoned. The Greeks, who established the foundations on which Western culture was built, considered it one of the four elements of the gods, vital principle of the spirit, and naturally, within cosmogony, in its numerous and diverse explanations of the universe, it has always been linked to magical and pure properties related to the spiritual. Thus, this mix of gases was, for the most part of history, something sacred and indescribable, and this was probably due to one of its most salient features: Air is invisible. The scientific change that enabled the understanding of its properties —that it is dense, it weighs and its temperature varies— has been extremely important in beginning its desacralization, conceiving it as a substance that can be analysed, altered, and designed in our own benefit.
If air is what encourages life, one may think of these properties and states as what modify, specialise, and therefore enable architecture (as well as politics, social structures and the rest of human activities). When considering a state of perpetual spring, those 28° Celsius enjoyed in the Garden of Eden on the island of Ogygia, just as in any other lost paradise, architecture in its origin —the need to acclimatise a space against the weather— would not have been necessary. Architecture is thus born from an instability, from the tension between two systems, the exterior (climate) and the interior (the body), which are unbalanced.
The work condensed in this issue is an example of some of the practices which abandon a geometric conception in search of climatic spatial organisation. In them, they move from the idea of symmetry to meteorological stability, they talk about the quality of the air, and they forget about programmes in order to define the atmospheric qualities which make certain activities possible. In a similar way as when air was demystified by scientific conceptions, contemporary architecture can now enter a new period in which we abandon the metaphorical nature given to emptiness (which was never empty since Torricelli pointed out that it was always full of air) in order to, operating from the invisible, place it centre stage in the discipline.
If the history of architecture has focused on defining the elements which configure space (closures, structures, materials) by means of their limits, many current works begin to do so from the study of the microscopic and the atmospheric, from the properties and qualities of the air to everything it envelopes and inundates. Overcome modernity, investigations emerge in the meteorology of interior spaces, replacing a metric composition of space with a thermal one, renewing the ideas of form and use with those of sensation, rethinking spatiality, substituting proportions with gradients, redeveloping architectural composition into thermodynamic management, and establishing a phenomenology that begins to consider conduction, transpiration, convection, and these processes as the new paradigms of an architecture yet to come. In some cases directly, in others obliquely, all the authors also propose that it is energetic efficiency applied to this new way of designing that will be the driving force in taking on architecture’s responsibility as one of the main contributors to climate change. This new architecture understood as meteorology, as reaction to the climate, is beginning by imitating the property of the air that so many fables awoke, and becoming more and more invisible. ◊