Throughout the book, Sarkis and colleagues argue forcefully that the waning presence of geographical scholarship within architectural education has left the field ill-equipped to grapple with contemporary forces of globalized and racialized capitalism, or of climate and other epistemological crises, at the planetary scale. In the introductory chapter, upon asking rhetorically what the world might do for architecture, they argue that one aim of The World as an Architectural Project is to “fuse architecture with physical geography in order to organize and territorialize Earth systems.”
Figure 2. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao, Spaceship Earth. Edition of the Fuller Dymaxion Sky – Ocean World. Buckminster Fuller Institute. Philadelphia 1982. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Figure 3. Cover, Paolo Soleri, Arcology: The City in the Image of Man (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1969).
Setting aside the broader, neocolonial implications of this provocation, the most striking facet of this argument—and, in a sense, of the book itself—is the complete erasure of landscape architecture from this conversation. The projects in the book are about large-scale ecological systems; they engage with terrain and territoriality, attempting to fuse the built and natural environments with the instruments of design research and practice—feats that landscape architectural scholars have pursued, with varying degrees of success, for decades. For instance, one cannot read the authors’ analysis of Doxiadis’ “Ecumenopolis” without conjuring images of Richard Weller’s An Atlas for the End of the World or the World Park project, or of Elise Hunchuck’s striking fieldwork in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Nor can one encounter Alberto Cruz, Godofredo Iommi et al.’s Amereida and Travesías without immediately contemplating their influence on the work of Urban Theory Lab, especially Martin Arboleda’s recent (and exemplary) The Planetary Mine. Though one can certainly understand the desire to organize a book about the world as an architectural project around capital “A” architectural projects, doing so creates glaring gaps in the broader chronology of planetary scale utopian imaginaries that Sarkis and colleagues otherwise beautifully construct.
Of course, no single book can take on all of these dimensions—and perhaps it is unfair of me to ask or wish for a deeper engagement with landscape architectural scholarship from a cadre of architects, even if the gap they studiously identify is already being filled by that discipline. The design fields need more rigorous histories of ideas, large and small, and an assessment of how they do or do not—as is the case for most of the projects in this book—succeed in restructuring the material realities of real people and communities. The World as an Architectural Project is a worthy entry in this vein—one that, hopefully, inspires new strands of inquiry that can bring the design field’s more radical, utopian histories into the present.
Billy Fleming is the Wilks Family Director of the Ian L. McHarg Center in the Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania and codirector of the climate + community project. He is coeditor of A Blueprint for Coastal Adaptation (Island Press, 2021), coeditor and cocurator of the book and now internationally-traveling exhibit Design With Nature Now (Lincoln, 2019), and author of the forthcoming Drowning America: The Nature and Politics of Adaptation (Penn Press).
How to Cite This: Fleming, Billy. Review of The World as an Architectural Project, by Hashim Sarkis and Roi Salgueiro Barrio with Gabriel Kozlowski, JAE Online, April 8, 2022.