Beyond Peak Indifference recap 3 & 10 February 2021 by Markus Appenzeller

It started – this year’s C4C6 lecture series. And while it still puts pressing subjects on the agenda, the format is different. For the first time we hold an event together with the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture.

Covid19 turned the lectures into online events – and into dialogues, rather than one-directional sending, always involving a group of students. The series kicked off with an introductory framing of the subject by Thijs van Spaandonk, my counterpart in Rotterdam. We marked the field that we want to investigate in the coming 13 weeks. To us climate change is a problem that goes beyond technical solutions or planting more trees. It is the single most impactful process that mankind has faced in hundreds of years and we believe it will affect all aspects of life. The question is: How? Doing our due diligence when preparing, we discovered that the range of real answers is really limited. We could not find many examples that go beyond planting trees on buildings. We are still in the questioning phase. We are still in the early days of defining solutions. It is unavoidable for every emerging urbanist, architect and landscape architect to develop an own answer and we want to force students to come up with them by exposing them to the pending questions.

Our first guest was Scott McAulay. Still a student himself, the founder of the Anthropocene Architecture School – without showing any architectural design – convinced us that architecture needs a systemic change. In his eyes everything – from design across materials and material cycles to construction practice need rethinking and reinventing. Change starts with changing people’s way of thinking. That is what he pursues with his school in the form of masterclasses, workshops, community programs and talks with fellow students. It was amazing to feel the energy he has and how simple it can be to become active: be determined and have an agenda. But it also showed the long way we have to go to achieve the fundamental changes we need and the little time we have to do that.

Last week Marina Dubova and Pierce Myers – two graduates from Strelka Institute in Moscow joined us. Their graduation project took a somewhat traditional approach but introduced a scale that quite literally shows the scale of the challenge we face. While we are discussing how to reduce our greenhouse gases, we still do not answer how we get the CO2 that already is in the atmosphere back into the ground. Their suggestion: capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in the vast basalt formations of Siberia using chemical processes and atomic energy as a means of creating carbon neutral electricity. While they themselves see their proposal as an art project, it raises the question if the world does not need another ‘landing on the moon challenge’ moment. A commitment that seems unfeasible but has the full backing of the global community. The subsequent discussion showed that there is a divide between a change of lifestyle the is being promoted and the technological approach that uses current ideology and thinking to solve a problem. Both attitudes are credible but we might well have to combine both to achieve what we need to when it comes to climate change.

Beyond Peak Indifference takes place every Wednesday evening at 20:00 h. It will feature designers, researchers, economists, lawyers, politicians and activists in the weeks to come. It can be watched as live stream of the conversations on the Facebook Page of the Academy of Architecture. Tune in!