With MICROCLIMATES, we aim to situate “living together” as a fragile constitution of micro-ecologies; a fragmented assembly of confined interiorities with varied environmental conditions; an intersection of the technical and psychospatial dimension.     

Living 90% of our lives indoors has proliferated as a modality of living and working in New York City since the early 1980s. With the allusion of comfort, the climatically controlled interior reflects the hubris of late-modern capitalism in the heightened combination of entertainment and ecology within the place of work and the domestic interior. Designing, monitoring and managing indoor climates is not only a key engineering project, but also revives a postwar utopian project, to temper and fabricate the environment as a site of architectural production. The voluntary containment of bodies and psyches inside, exhibits new forms of urbanization and collectives enabled from the economic and societal structures of uninhibited energy expenditure.

MICROCLIMATE monitors, analyzes and speculates on indoor micro-ecologies that reproduce fully controlled sections of the natural world. With our survey we aim to critique as to where we are placed within broader histories of environmentalism, urbanization and politics, as well as how to illustrate how civic agency may enable new forms of economic and political relations. Further, we aim to construct a new map of the city, as a collection of dispersed interiorities and a psychogeography of an emerging order in the age of pandemics, climate change and extinction.

Our indoor environments today are politically charged spaces that reflect social ideals, and culturally‑specific standards of taste and judgment. Confined within artificial enclosures, environmental control has enforced cultural and biased standards of life by recalling the power of data and cultural capital; even though in most cases these standards institutionalize absurd criteria that homogenize ideas of comfort and well-being for the entirety of the human race.

The establishment of thermal equilibriums in interior spaces since the 1950s, sequestered comfort zones held within narrow ranges, reflects an understanding of the body as a tool within a constant atmospheric medium in order to control and predict its behavior and growth. It is precisely this mechanical vision of biology that gives life a specifically modern character. If organisms, either people or plants, are examined explicitly as mechanical structures serving a physical equilibrium, one cannot account for the complexity, or for the beauty of life.

Indoor gardens have proliferated in atriums of corporate office environments in New York City since the early 1980s. The climatically controlled interior – with flourishing fauna and flora- reflects the hubris of late-modern capitalism in the heightened combination of entertainment and ecology within a place of work: one that will augment productivity of workers with the use of plants. The Ford Foundation building, the Public Safety Answering Center II (PSAC II) in the Bronx, the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place, the IBM Plaza and other indoor jungles, are not only key sites of engineering and environmental production, but also revive what was previously considered a utopian project in the postwar period, to temper and fabricate the environment as a site of architectural production.

Indoor gardens evidence that in many ways, we live inside a simulation; we live inside the virtual environment of a naturalized bucolic landscape; a manufactured piece of wilderness; one that we mentally long for but are physically detached from.

In imagining the end of the pandemic, we question: What will happen when we can move freely in space? Will the city be the one we left behind? Will our memories -the heap of fragments of the spaces we occupied with intensity- mirror that which we will encounter?

This anxiety of reunification of the body with tangible space marks a year of confinement: a state of connected immobility, consistently zooming in and out of our physical coordinates. The 2020 delirium of domestic enclosure does not only mark the impossibility of returning to normality, but also a fundamental sense of disorientation and a rupture in the collective experience of cities and the outside.

The pandemic state of blur is not only linked to the passage of time and the erosion of biorhythmic boundaries. It is also related to the way our spatial mode of existence has been fundamentally altered: from cartesian space positioning locales in a finite x, y, z system, to a spherical stereographic system referencing the self, relative to other bodies in space. Determinate points of reference have faded in our cognition, while a new order of moving bodies has emerged in an interrelational metric game of proximity and field interactions. In the space we inhabit, there are many origin points, as the only point of orientation is the self and the extended nucleus of bodies chosen to group themselves as one. In this sense, epidemic space renders correlationism, or the need for embeddedness in the world and an ecosystem, obsolete.

Pervasive disorientation and multisensorial ubiquity delineate the reconstruction of new geographies, mappings and formal arrangements once freedom of movement is granted.  

Team Leader: Lydia Kallipoliti
Research collaborator and animation: Xiaoxiao Zhao
Studio Team: Doosung Shin, Qicheng Wu

Models: Doosung Shin
Consultants: Austin Wade Smith, Pamela Cabrera