2021 Special Focus—Building the Anthropocene

While the Anthropocene is still an intensely debated scientific concept, the discourse over the past several years has highlighted a shift in how we, as humans, conceptualize our relationship to our environment. At its core, the concept acknowledges the planet as a complete system in which we all play a role. The term further highlights the idea that humans, as in Anthropos (greek for humans), have altered earth’s functioning.

The built environment plays a crucial role in this construct. Our settlements and cities sit at the core of a sophisticated arrangement of resources. The design and building of these artifacts drives the globe-spanning machinery of resource extraction and exchange. Have architecture and city building become forces of nature?

The Cosmic Calendar popularized by Carl Sagan represents the history of the cosmos in a single year. After the Big Bang on January 1st, the Solar System appears on September 2nd. Our atmosphere filled with oxygen around October 29th and flowers appear on December 28th. Humans only appear on the last day of the year around 14:24. Settlements were developed about five minutes to midnight together with symbolic markings and trade. Agriculture developed by 23:59:32, humans started using iron around 23:59 53, and the Old World collided with the New World just about 23:59:59. On that scale, humans have begun impacting the global environment only within the last few seconds of the year.

Putting human activity and practices into perspective is part of the Anthropocene concept. Scientific data tells us about the impact of our resource consumption. How we reflect on this is an open discussion, one that spans the conference themes from Constructing Place to Environmental Footprint and Human Space. Across disciplines, the dynamics of the planetary system are at stake, the Anthropocene affecting natural, artificial, and social environments.

Calgary, the location of the 11th conference on the Constructed Environment, is itself a place that connects to this broad topic. At the convergence of the Rocky Mountains and the plains of the vast Canadian prairie, the presence of the folded rock of the ever present mountains manifest the existence of time since old. The resource extraction economy has its headquarters here, and has dominated the building and shaping of the city and the region in recent decades. Times are changing: today, Calgary is diversifying its economy and has started to develop mechanisms for sustainable architecture and urbanism. Efforts are underway to make reconciliation with the local and national First Nations, Inuit, and Metis People. From global and continental to national and local efforts focusing on the natural, built, and social environments, we are all connected.

Bring your theoretical, practical, and cross-disciplinary proposals to Calgary to explore the concept of the Anthropocene as a new understanding of the dynamics between us humans and the worlds we live in. We welcome research and practice-based work from individuals and teams.

The theme is designed to be interpreted broadly within the scope of your work.

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