180 million years ago, Australia was once enmeshed as part of the Gondwanaland supercontinent, which included Africa, South America, and Antarctica. Early antiquarian maps drawn by maritime explorers envisioned the earth as a flat, infinite surface that unfurled seamlessly into interconnected continents and oceans. A Genovese chart named after Christopher Columbus depicted the Mediterranean region including Portuguese discoveries encased into a perfect circle (1488). The Earth as an object ofstudy has long symbolized both physical ground and more fluid cosmological conceptions of the world across cultures.
Beyond methods of cartographic writing, the earth summons intellectual forays into topographic descriptions, natural landscapes, and scientific theories. In observing the geological state of the Earth, Charles Lyell’s uniformitarianism, which used the Great Flood as the basis of catastrophic development, signaled an important precursor to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. In this sense, slow-acting processes such as erosion and sediment deposition, have been proposed agents of geological change. Even John Ruskin and Viollet le Duc delineated the physical outlines of mountain ranges such as the Alps as perceptible signs of the forces underlying nature. Later twentieth-century writers such as John McPhee in Annals of the Former World mapped the American landscape through his road journeys across the country in the company of famed geologists. More recently, architectural history and theory as well as other humanities fields have explored geology, ecology, and landscape studies in diverse forms – one such notable trend is “landform building” where buildings have begun to emulate natural formations. Moving away from a human-centred world, approaches to deep history (Andrew Shyrock and Daniel Smail) and big history (David Christian and Cynthia Stokes Brown) evoke the immense scale of the past by beginning with the birth of the universe. Continental drift and plate tectonics not only begin to re-position human beings against the age of the earth butalso summon global theories as attempts to explain the presence of mountains, valleys, volcanoes, and earthquakes.
Architectural Theory Review special issue 20.1 will address a wide spectrum of historical and contemporary topics dealing with the earth and its attendant representations throughout time. How have humanities fields in architecture, art history, history, and literature redefined the earth as point of polemics in light of cultural, scientific, political and social revolutions? We invite submissions that examine the earth, including but not limited to the following themes: cartography; architectural design in relation to volatiledisasters; energy and matter; geological thought in architecture; interior and external environments; mining and industry; natural history; scales of history in relation to the anthropocene era such as deep time; underground spaces.
The deadline for completed manuscripts is 31 December 2014. Please send all enquiries to editor Jennifer Ferng at jennifer.ferng at sydney.edu.au.
Lecturer in Architecture | Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning
Co-editor, Architectural Theory Review
Chief researcher, Sydney Intellectual History Network
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