New Geographies 6: 'Grounding Metabolism'

Daniel Ibañez and Nikos Katsikis editors, New Geographies 6: 'Grounding Metabolism' (Harvard University Press, 2014).

Over the past decade, there have been widespread efforts to reposition design and its agency in relation to a changing, more fluid and expanding context. However, the redefinition of the context itself has proven to be a serious challenge—not only due to the increasing complexity of urban environments, but because their socio-environmental intensities and interdependencies are now expanding across the earth, and thus need to be understood through a new geographical lens. Under these conditions of generalized urbanization, the question of urban metabolism can no longer be understood as a focal point for a unified field of inquiry; it instead currently articulates a set of emergent approaches that have gained influence through their promise to interweave a multiplicity of contexts, sites and scales in relation to the continuous processes of energy, material and population exchange within and between cities and their extensive hinterlands. As a metaphor derived from the physical sciences, the notion of urban metabolism offers a framework for understanding the production of space as well as its circulatory and functional dynamics.

Bringing together contributions within and outside the design disciplines, New Geographies 6: ‘Grounding Metabolism’ aims to trace alternative routes to design through a more elaborate understanding of the relation between concepts of urban metabolism and the formal and material engraving of metabolic processes across scales. The volume addresses the challenges associated with the planetary dimension of contemporary metabolic processes; it offers a critical examination of the long lineage of historical discussions and schemes on urban metabolism from the design disciplines; and it places them in parallel with a set of contemporary projects and interventions that open up new approaches for design.

This volume emerged from ongoing collaborations with our friends and colleagues in the New Geographies Lab at the Harvard GSD.