JC Goodbun, SABE

View of earth on the moon

I have a book contract with Ashgate to publish my PhD: ‘The Architecture of the Extended Mind – Towards a Critical Urban Ecology’. Since completing my doctorate I have set up a design research practice called Rheomode (see rheomode.org.uk). Rheomode is currently involved in four main research projects, including:

  1. Scarcity: working as a part of the SCIBE AHRC/HERA European research team, based at the University of Westminster. I have recently co-guest-edited (with Professor Jeremy Till and Dr Deljana Lossifova) a special issue of the journal Architectural Design on ‘Scarcity – Architecture in an age of depleting resources’.
  2. A RIBA funded teaching and research project looking at the political ecologies of concrete and digital fabrication.
  3. Re-imagining the project of planning: a broad urban ecology teaching and research project (and book in progress).
  4. Space and Mind: an ongoing research interest in the role that ecological, technological and spatial environments play in our cognitive processes.

We are today, according to the UK government’s chief scientist John Beddington, facing a ‘perfect storm’ of social, political, economic and ecological dimensions. The full extent of our problems is yet to be determined, but one thing seems certain: our foreseeable futures will not be like our recent pasts. Leading analysts of all the major resource domains – water, food, material resources and energy – tell us that our global industrial and financial models, driven by the short-termism of market forces, are stressed and close to systemic failure.

Our economic naiveté is compounded by the widespread disregard of science’s warnings regarding our planetary environment. Biologists tell us that we are in the midst of the biggest mass extinction event in 65 million years, whilst in recent weeks atmospheric monitoring stations in the Arctic have recorded levels above 400 ppm CO2e for the first time. The built environment is responsible for around 60% of carbon emissions, yet a recent report by engineers Ove Arup declared that global attempts by governments and industry to self regulate and reduce emissions have been ‘a near total failure’.

In fact, our economic and ecological problems are interconnected, and the production of the built environment straddles both domains. My work explores new models for thinking about the complex interactions between buildings, cities and the broader social and ecological networks within which we exist. I argue that we can develop new conceptual, political and design tools out of the legacies of several centuries of systems theory research, which can help us think about buildings and cities as processes more than objects – as complex and interconnected multi-scalar systems and hybrids of human and natural ecologies. I argue that such a project suggests not just a rethinking of architectural practice, but a renewal and expansion of the social project of planning more broadly. Yes, we need to start planning smart ecological urban infrastructures, but that shift in political priorities can only be delivered through a democratic planning of the global economy.

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