The Atmospheric Ecologies of Peter Sloterdijk: A New Thinker for Architecture?

In a recent interview, Bruno Latour, one of the founding progenitors of ANT (Actor Network Theory) and champion of Science and Technology Studies stated emphatically that the German philosopher, Peter Sloterdijk, “is the thinker of architecture.” By the use of the definite article, it seems that we are to understand that Sloterdijk is the thinker of architecture today, and that the pressing problems that Sloterdijk can help us address include the implications that would result should architecture and design venture into the future production of biological species, as well as their ecological niches: A problem that Sloterdijk infamously addressed in his 1999 essay, Rules for the Human Zoo: A Response to the Letter on Humanism. The intricacies of ecological atmospheres and their affects are present from Sloterdijk’s early work, for instance, within The Critique of Cynical Reason, and become explicitly formulated in the Sphären (Spheres) trilogy, only fragments of which have been translated into English. The first part of this essay will present an introduction to Sloterdijk’s atmospheric ecologies. By atmosphere Sloterdijk sets forth not merely the affective qualities of ecological niches in natural and artefactual mixtures, but an ethics and politics of such spheres of existence. In the latter part of this essay I will set out a tentative ethico-aesthetics that can be drawn from Sloterdijk’s work in order to address the question of ecologies at the three scales of mental, social and environmental ecologies, and how architecture and design comes to play a role in the creation and destruction of these interrelated ecologies. In this I will also have the opportunity to draw on Félix Guattari’s ethico-aesthetics, and his formulation of the three ecologies, which I have appropriated above.

Key words: atmosphere; sphere; welt and umwelt; ethico-aesthetics; mental, social and environmental ecologies

“The Atmospheric Ecologies of Peter Sloterdijk: A New Thinker for Architecture?” in Performative Ecologies in the Built Environment: Sustainability Research across Disciplines ANZAScA, 43rd Annual Conference, School of Architecture and Design, University of Tasmania, Launceston (25–27th November, 2009). Peer Reviewed Conference Proceedings.

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