“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adam Kotsko on Air Conditioning

He nails it I reckon:

I suspect that the problem is that air conditioning is more than a utilitarian cooling device: it is a marker of luxury, of the ability to transcend the elements. That shock of cold air, so incongruous in the hot summer months, is precisely the point. It is not enough that air conditioning actually cool the air — it must draw attention to the fact that it is doing so.

The NIEA conference on materials and environments in Sydney a week or so ago had two papers that tackled this issue. The big picture here is how architecture has been designed to shunt flows around—and in an age in which “away” no longer exists (we know that the “bad air” just goes round the block and contributes to climate change, not into some radically different dimension), this game of shunting flows around more and more efficiently just won't do.

This paper by David Gissen makes the point in one way

This paper by Stephen Healy makes a related point

Both are worth the read.


isaaclinder said...

Yves Klein wrote some interesting things about controlled weather environments (air architecture) as the ideal form his art would take under the best technological circumstances. there's some great elaborations on it in here:


camerontw said...

While it is true that air con in some areas draws attention to itself for purposes of conspicuous consumption - think high street stores that leave their doors open ( http://www.closethedoor.org.uk/ ) and chilled hotel rooms - the pervasiveness of air conditioning is more the history of its normalization, of sociotechnical accomplishments being written on the body as ratched expectations of what it means to be human (as opposed to a sweating animal). That's why the industry was all about identifying the temperature and air speed that would not be noticed - being a (productive) human (first at work, then at home, then in the car) means not noticing the air (temp or speed).

I think it is symptomatic of the inability of philosophy to understand design and designed environments to call out a phenomenon (like) only when it attains the status of an ob-ject (cold), missing the fact that design, in essence, aims at the withdrawal of things.

cgerrish said...

Probably wouldn't work in every geography, but the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park has taken another route: Passive climate control --
The undulating roof helps guide fresh, cool air into the central piazza and stale, hot air out through high-point vents. This lessens the need for expensive, energy-wasting air-conditioning and ventilation systems. http://www.wired.com/culture/design/magazine/15-08/st_greenmuseum

Timothy Morton said...

Thanks for this Cameron. Your point is well taken--it's why I like Harman's work, because it doesn't do that...