Johanna Mehl

Thy city is made of solid stuff. Yet, the urban morphology of the metropolis has been referred to as anything but hard, static, inert, stable, or fixed – in fiction as well as urban theory. My paper offers an analysis of non-solidity as a central metaphor used to deconstruct and oppose the climatically dire materialities of urban landscapes in the Anthropocene. Aside from ubiquitous depictions of cities surrounded by liquid – meaning dystopian fiction in which the city floats or is swallowed whole by the rising sea – that merely address climate change via calamity, speculative architectural practices have visualized the built urban environment itself as liquid and understood building as a melting, mixing, morphing, and metabolizing activity. Through the lens of material agency, this paper will examine the works of architects Peter Cook, founding member of radical futurist group Archigram (1960–1974), in comparison to Kishō Kurokawa, associated with the Metabolist movement (1958–1970ies), who both have employed non-solidity as a mode of building environments, incorporating technology and inhabiting urban space. The hybrid city schemes that emerged, invite intersections among the environmental humanities, (neo-) cybernetics, media theory, and urban studies, as they visualize the non-solid qualities and metabolic life of cities beyond their mineral foundation.

Johanna Mehl studied communication design and art and design studies. Next to her artistic and curatorial practice, she has taught at different design schools in europe and is currently working at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen as a lecturer in urban and media theory and at Köln International School of Design as a lecturer and coordinator of the MA program Integrated Design. She is pursuing a PhD in art and design theory in collaboration between the University and Technical University of Cologne.

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