M.Arch 2 AR5806/5807 AY 2021/22
ARCHITECTURE’S BACK LOOP
Borrowed from the ecologist C.S. Holling, the back loop is the stage in the Anthropocene cycle where hitherto established structures come apart, and individual entities or small groups interact across divides to create something fundamentally original. What undergirds back loop innovation is a spirit of experimentation that is not mutually exclusive to humans or nature. Wakefield (2020, 98) states, “The back loop is not limited to environmental or disaster matters, but concerns the coming unhinged of the very structures of liberal life itself. Deciding on one’s own terms where to go from here, can everywhere be a matter of taking infrastructure, architecture, and design in one’s own hands and wielding them as the powers they in fact are.” A recalibration of mindset is essential as we depart from outmoded and limiting ways of thinking and operating in the front loop, and venture into provocative speculations.
As we know, the biopolitics that Foucault (1997) speaks of cannot be forcefully administered on one level alone. Rather, it invites softer and more plural forms of intervention technologies that stitch together knowledge, practice and design, especially if they are to address issues on the ground. We begin by scrutinising everyday examples of accelerated adaptations in response to unprecedented disruptions, past and present, to scope a line of investigation, then architectural action.
Wakefield, Stephanie (2020). Anthropocene Back Loop: Experimentation in Unsafe Operating Spaces. London: Open Humanities Press, pp.12-55. [open access]
Foucault, Michel (1997). Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976. New York: St. Martin’s Press, pp.242-250. [open access]
Dunne, Anthony and Fiona Raby (2013). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. Cambridge (Mass): The MIT Press. [ebook, NUS Library]