The theory of carbon form rests on the possibility of reading shared formal and spatial characteristics across different examples of energy-intensive environments. However, the scale and specific geometry of carbon form can vary greatly. This set of drawings identifies common attributes across urban settlement patterns of three different densities. Each has a distinct spatial character and is host to extremely different ways of life. Yet due to constant access to dense and abundant energy, all share a high degree of separation between the various activities that sustain human life. The result is a sequence of highly specialized environments that can only function because of infrastructural integration at the territorial scale. This tendency can be found in all three settlements, whether dense or sparse. The specific geometry of each location may vary, but a shared spatial logic can nonetheless be found.

The three sites are Miami, Florida; Bonita, California; and Eldora, Iowa. These are highly specific sites, but they were chosen because they are emblematic of an archetypical condition.

The forces that shape urban form are myriad, and the tools for perceiving it are just as varied. Cadastral maps subdivide land, making it legible for the purpose of taxation, wealth accumulation, and control. Buildings hold space also, and their proximity, density, and scale define the nature of the city. Together, the parcel and the building work in tandem to separate public from private, interior from exterior, and passable from impassable.

Form: Figure/Ground

Form: Cadastre

The patterning of space goes by many names: planning, development, or zoning are common examples. Under a regime of industrialization, these instruments are often used to keep productive and consumptive activities separate, creating repeating patterns and trends in the landscape. Even across settlement patterns of different densities, the tendency towards spatial and territorial specialization is legible.

Pattern: Non-productive Space

Pattern: Productive Space

Despite variation in form and scale, carbon form is closely ruled. If the rule of St. Benedict asks ora et labora (pray and work), the rule of carbon form imposes the trinity of work, leisure, and consumption. This imposition shapes life and, by shaping it, secures the persistence of the rule. Eventually, the abolition of this rule seems impossible. That is, the rule of carbon form creates docile subjects by structuring the possibilities of space. Tracing primary and secondary roads across these sites reveals their underlying spatial structure. Within this structure, a hypothetical subject would move between the domestic, commercial, and productive realms, each day tracing a figure in space while attending to the logistics of daily life.

Rule: Circulation

Rule: Logistics

When combined, form, pattern, and rule create a discernible logic: the path of a carbon subject traces lines between home, work, and sites of consumption while distant lands and people deliver energy, food, and commodities. Within this logic, the spatial footprint of the carbon subject can be read as a zone with a defined interior—it is a consumptive field kept apart from productive ‘elsewheres’ that are put to work in an unspecified beyond. These distant lands are connected through infrastructural integration, and plug into the consumptive field in select locations dedicated to the buying and selling of commodities. This is the logic of carbon form.

Although Brickell, Chula Vista, and Hardin County each have different densities and spatial dispositions, through a process of abstraction, these drawings nonetheless reveal that this logic has a distinct and replicable form.

Every life lived within carbon form occurs within territorial networks of power and production. To overcome carbon form, the spatial footprint of each carbon subject must be contextualized within these spatial structures, which must now be confronted, rethought, and reformed.

Territory: Power

Territory: Regional Productive Regions