Kiel Moe: Climate change, architecture change

Addressing the environmental, social and political quandaries of this century will require changing basic theoretical and practical assumptions about what architecture design is and does.

November 12, 2019
7:00 p.m.

Graphic depicting annual global temperatures from 1850 to 2017. Via

The climate emergency demands that the ways we build, and think about building, change radically. But how? We are in a rapidly evolving, paradoxical context of worsening scientific indicators, sweeping and contradictory policy proposals from different points on the political spectrum, and, simultaneously, increasing climate change-instigated action at the scale of cities and regions.

What, then, should designers do, and how can they do it? How do the practice, culture, and pedagogy of architecture and landscape architecture need to shift?

In this series of lectures and discussions, leading practitioners and educators describe the urgent need for change and sketch the outlines of new ways of thinking and acting as architects and landscape architects. On each evening, respondents will draw out the implications of the ideas presented and offer suggestions for implementing them at a speed and scale commensurate with the climate emergency.

More than climates will change in this century. To begin to address the salient environmental, social, and political quandaries of this century, many of the basic theoretical and practical assumptions about what we think architectural design is and does will also fundamentally change. Moe will address mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s theory of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, especially as it is evidenced in modern architectural production. This fallacy is the source of architecture’s manifold unequal ecological and social exchanges, its environmental ambivalences, and the misdirection of its faulty environmental efforts. A cogent response to this fallacy will necessarily question the very means we use to design and describe architecture as a terrestrial endeavor within the storms of this century. Example responses will be drawn from research, pedagogy, and practice. 

Kiel Moe is a practicing architect and the Gerald Sheff Chair in Architecture at McGill University. In recognition of his design and research endeavors, he was awarded a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Helsinki, the Gorham P. Stevens Rome Prize in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome, The Architectural League Prize, and the American Institute of Architects National Young Architect Award. He has published ten books on architecture, including Empire, State & BuildingWood Urbanism: From the Molecular to the TerritorialInsulating Modernism: Isolated and Non-Isolated Thermodynamics in ArchitectureConvergence: An Architectural Agenda for Energy; and Thermally Active Surfaces in Architecture.



A changing climate demands a new way of thinking about the relationship between architecture and geography, say the duo behind Design Earth.