Reading List

List Author

Phu Hoang

Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Designing for Future Weathers

This reading list investigates two extreme scales of the environment: the local and immediate scale of weather, and the global, or long term, scale of climate. While the basic differences between weather and climate are time-based — weather occurs over short-term periods, while climate is years, decades, or even millennia long — they have increasingly become differentiated in the granularity of the scale, or resolution, at which we are able to measure and understand them. The emergence of micro-weather forecasting with mobile technologies has made it possible to know upcoming weather with more immediacy and at a higher resolution than previously possible. Using a micro-weather enabled smart phone, it could soon be possible to share information that it has started to rain in one neighborhood, for instance, and predict when that rain cloud will pass to the next neighborhood. Micro-weather remaps the city as a network of variable and differentiated urban atmospheres — each with its own temperature, humidity, pressure and wind levels. What might these emerging technologies mean for architects, planners, and engineers in the face of climate change?

The readings below are from an advanced architecture design studio at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. The studio, “School Without Classrooms,” won the Sloan Award from Architect Magazine’s 2016 Studio Prize competition. Students explored the potential of micro-weather forecasting to radically change how we experience weather in our cities, and even within the interior environments of our buildings, by pairing it with emerging technologies (Apple’s Indoor Survey and Google’s The Cartographer) that map indoor spaces. By using these combined technologies, would be possible to know the temperature and humidity of all the interior spaces of a city, from offices to restaurants to subway cars. The resulting “indoor city” recorded by millions of smartphone mobile weather stations has fascinating potential for designers to re-conceptualize the relationship between the city, architecture and the environment.

These readings explore the idea that architecture and weather can react to each other in atmospheric exchanges between hybridized active environments and meteorological conditions, made possible by high-resolution micro-weather networks that treat outdoor and indoor weathers as two sides of the same coin. They investigate the possibilities of building organizations that are both physically and meteorologically differentiated, mediated, and adaptive. In the design studio, these strategies generated proposals for a future primary school in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, adapted to deal with one of three different climate scenarios: extreme climate change; continuing current warming trends; and a return to pre-climate change conditions. Students were challenged to use these technologies to create new models for educational environments: spaces that could be more flexible, active, and adaptive than traditional classroom systems. The ensuing “schools without classrooms” eliminated familiar boundaries between teaching rooms as well as between outdoor play and indoor learning — negating the static schedules and spaces of traditional primary schools. In the studio, using micro-weather futures created new possibilities for the school model, producing contemporary learning environments that are responsive to changes in both local weather and global climate.

[Image by Shu Du, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.]

  • The Mechanically Regulated Environment and Its Structural Implications

    Tower and Office: From Modernist Theory to Contemporary Practice

    MIT Press

    An essential reading that frames the modernist ideal of “indoor comfort” in terms of building technology innovations that occurred during the post-war period. The relationship between technology and ideology is important in discussing architecture’s relationship to the environment.

  • Contingent Behaviours

    Architectural Design

    The essay questions the definition of the "building envelope" with the myth of separating architecture and the environment. Today’s “performative building envelopes” are understood as part of a history of thermal exchange that began in the early twentieth century. The building envelope as social exchange is also part of this history.

  • Online

    A Vast Machine : Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming

    MIT Press

    The book provides the scientific background for weather forecasting and its relationship to climate change. Understanding the differences — as well as the politics — of weather and climate is an important step towards addressing global warming. Micro-weather technologies are discussed as well.

  • Online

    Control Earth

    Places Journal

    This article offers useful background by working through some of the climate scenarios used by scientists to model climate futures.

  • The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes From a Climate-Changed Planet


    The book highlights the social and environmental understanding of the differences between weather and climate. Weather forecasting, or prediction, is understood in terms of a mutable passage of time — past, present and future. Micro-weather technologies and high resolution forecasting are discussed in the book. See in particular the chapters “Climate and Weather Together” and “The Science of Prediction.”

  • The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined


    This is a very good starting point to understand the transformation in early childhood education. The book is part of a foundation of the same name, with a vision to educate children based on more human interaction and less lecturing and fixed schedules.

  • Fluid Assets: The Economic Waterworks of the MONIAC


    From a special issue of Cabinet on the theme of logistics. This article discusses the logistics of water and provides insight into the infrastructure required for controlling water at a large scale.

  • Utopia on Ice: the Sunny Mountain Ski Dome as Allegory of the Future


    From a special issue of Cabinet on the theme of logistics. This article looks at extreme air conditioning, providing insight into the infrastructure required for controlling weather at a large scale.

  • “Outside and Inside”

    Cartographies of Time

    Princeton Architectural Press

    The book focuses on the history of time as it has changed with societies and culture. Representing the passage of time is a complex undertaking that has a similarly involved history. This particular chapter argues that the passage of time is not linear and provides examples of representations of this understanding of time. Non-linear time is an important concept in understanding the differences between weather and climate.

  • Terror from the Air


    The writing of this philosopher foregrounds any discussion about air and the environmental movement. The relationship between the discipline of meteorology and war is an interesting aspect of our understanding of weather and climate.

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