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Doug Spencer

Author: Heather Sauer | Image: Heather Sauer

Doug Spencer, director of graduate education and Pickard Chilton Professor in architecture, delivered an online public lecture, “Dialectic of Nature and Capital: Subjects of the Eco-Imaginary,” Friday, Nov. 20, at Federal University of Goiás in Brazil.

Abstract: Capital progressively subjects everything in nature to its own apparatus of accumulation. At the same time, it has still to posit nature as its outside in order to stage and re-stage the performance of its own mystery play; the struggle in which this nature is subdued, conquered and colonized. From Robinson Crusoe to The Martian, from European settler-colonialism to Musk’s and Bezos’ dreams of planetary conquest, capitalism naturalizes its own history and its own version of the human: the entrepreneurial, innovative and ever-resourceful figure of homo economicus. Nature, thus naturalized, is then reimagined as an aesthetic resource, repurposed as a platform for a romanticized harmonization of man and nature.

This dialectic of nature and capital is in some sense unchanging, inevitably caught in and condemned to endlessly play out and perform its own contradictions. Yet, impelled by the existential threat of environmental crisis, the techno-utopianism to which much contemporary architecture and urban design is attached presents this dialectic in an especially exasperated form. This is the eco-imaginary of capital, to which this talk will attend, examining some of its current manifestations in the work of Foster + Partners and BIG.

The lecture can be viewed online at the link provided.