Toxic Urbanism | M.Arch Thesis

Toxic Urbanism: Heart | Heimatlosigkeit | Home 

The year is 2024.

The Anthropocene has wreaked havoc and produced a world of toxins. Humanity has settled in a condition of toxic urbanism, contained by the toxic wastelands of the periphery. Early estimates of the exponential destruction caused by our toxic landscapes of production were low; constantly shifting metrics of toxicity provided by different agencies, bureaus, and offices made measurement difficult. Remediation efforts were too slow, too costly, and failed to produce any agency in the age of toxicity.

We continued to produce Superfund sites across the country. Landscapes of toxic air, contaminated soil, and polluted water became our second nature. As we shifted from one machine age to the next, the continued autonomy provided to landscapes of production allowed increasingly more toxic means of production to develop. This methodology assured there would be no post-toxic future.

Within the confines of toxic urbanism, people dressed in protective suits every day. They wore protection more for peace of mind than protection of the body. As we destroyed the land, we perfected the interior. Continuous halls stocked with machinery created a perfectly sterile environment that defined lives; the sprawling mechanized interiors of the no-stop city had finally been realized.

We had come a long way. Ever since humanity created the fire, toxins had been part of our environment. The hearth originally acted as both an object of environment and an object of culture. As we followed the flames into modernism we found ourselves
in a state of homelessness explicated by the dichotomy between our technological culture and its toxic means of production. Martin Heidegger described the sensation as Heimatlosigkeit, the signification of our existential orientation in the era of Gestell.

Humanity has however always been a risk adverse society, and as we began to reject the sterile environments of safety and embrace the toxic environments of experience, we gained agency through the design of toxins. In an increasingly toxic world, this thesis explores how toxins can become active participants and drivers for the production of temporal spaces defined by the hard and soft boundaries they operate within. Architectural interests in materiality and dimension are deprioritized in favor of velocities, gradients, and densities that define zones of occupiability.