GLOBAL Design NYU is a
multi-year project initiated by NYU
faculty from the Gallatin School of
Individualized Study. Our symposia
and exhibits take place at NYU's
academic sites.
GLOBAL Design NYU:  
Elsewhere Envisioned

Global warming effects pose drastic challenges to
the architecture, landscape architecture, and
urban design communities. The immediate
response has been a turn toward a host of energy-
saving technologies or behavior modifications.
What has rarely been addressed, however, is the
problem of scale. How can the designer ensure
that global solutions do not come at the expense
of local traditions, cultures, and environments? By
placing human coherent, emotional,
technological, and social needs at the center of
our environmental concerns, we propose a new
Global Design initiative.

That architects should care about people and the
land they engage with is, of course, not new.
Indeed it was once at the heart of the modernist
program. Walter Gropius told his students at
Harvard “[T]he greatest responsibility of the
planner and architect, I believe, is the protection
and development of our habitat. Man has evolved
a mutual relationship with nature on earth, but his
power to change its surface has grown so
tremendously that this may become a curse
instead of a blessing. [...]
Until we love and respect
the land almost religiously, its fatal deterioration
will go on.

In resurrecting this lost modernist Global Design
program we do not regard the periphery as our
antagonist. The periphery is defined by
boundaries—disciplinal and spatial, as well as
intellectual. What we propose is to collapse the
global and the local, since environmental
problems are not limited to a particular location.
We accept that the term “global” is elusive and
problematic because we can only grasp the local.
We instead embrace the duality between the
global and the local, in our desire for propinquity
and topophilia.[2] We believe that it is vital to
uphold a sense of nearness to places, identity,
and culture irrespective of actual distance.

We are already seeing bridging and breaking of
disciplinary boundaries, where design problems
demand greater fluidity and design research is
one way to blur those boundaries. With Global
Design, we are foregrounding a number of
practices who see their work as informed by both
local and global concerns and whose projects
expand traditional definitions of practice. To
address the increasing complexity of building in
this interconnected world, architects and
designers can rarely avoid engaging big
business, politics, and the finance industry.  
Architects are trained to understand and operate
within an “open set” of conditions. As the design
disciplines expand to embrace other areas of
knowledge, it is our hope that the design
process—which promotes research, innovation,
experimentation—will bring its methodology and
rigor to these “other” determinants of built form.

Our overarching aim is to develop a language of
design that can create productive relationships
between local problems, individual accountability,
and the urgent environmental challenges posed
by global warming. We see environmental
problems as a crisis of human alienation from the
natural world, and our Global Design initiative
explores ways in which design can reformat the
unfortunate separation.

[1] Walter Gropius,
Scope of Total Architecture, (New York:
Harper & Brothers, [1943] 1955), 184. Gropius’s emphasis.

[2] Yi-Fu Tuan,
Topophilia: A Study of Environmental
Perception, Attitudes, and Values
(Columbia University
Press, 1990)

*This text is co-authored by Peder Anker,
Louise Harpman, Mitchell Joachim
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