Confronting Carbon Form

An exhibition by Elisa Iturbe, Stanley Cho, & Alican Taylan
Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, The Cooper Union
March 21-April 16, 2023

Confronting Carbon Form interrogates how the adoption of fossil fuels transformed the way humans think about space. The show has two goals. The most immediate is to define the spatial order that emerged with the adoption of a carbon-based energy paradigm: carbon form. The work identifies specific urban archetypes, spatial concepts, and historical narratives that are characteristic of the carbon age. This leads to the broader goal of the work: to offer a different lens for theorizing the relationship between energy and form that is not just about building efficiency. Rather than studying building systems to reveal carbon emissions, this work posits that one can study form in order to understand architecture’s allegiances to industry and capitalism.

In this way, the show offers a unique insight into the climate crisis, where history and precedent do not offer a mere recounting of the carbon age. Rather, they are presented in a way that identifies specific spatial concepts that must now be supplanted and transformed, an undertaking that is just as important for understanding architecture’s complicity in the ecological crisis as it is for locating fruitful terrain for climate action.

Given its interest in interrogating modes of architectural thought, the work in the show also experiments with representation. The objects in the show are almost all original works by Stanley Cho, Elisa Iturbe, and Alican Taylan. They consist of models, paintings, drawings, projections, and an interactive library. Through this variety of mixed media, the work presents the groundwork for a new theory of form, where architecture and the city are read alongside the political, economic, and ecological configurations that shape contemporary life.