Atmospheric time | Miquel Lacasta

Luminaria Little Sun diseñada por Olafur Eliasson y el ingeniero Frederik Ottesen
Light Little Sun designed by Olafur Eliasson and the engineer Frederik Ottesen

Atmosphere and climate.

In one of his writings, Olafur Eliasson speaks about the atmospheric time.1 In the introduction to the above-mentioned text, The Museums are Radical, Eliasson develops a small statement of the interaction between time and energy. I do not know exactly why it has turned into artist of head-board of many architects, but it is necessary to admit that his writings, for part of his work, evidently, they open this type of reflections where the architecture can meet easily reflected, they use as deformed mirror where the architects we feel specially comfortable.

It is this text, of the year 2003 published by the Tate Modern from one of his artistic projects more acquaintances, The Weather Project, the danish artist relates the time, is his almost meteorological meaning, with the idea of city, under the umbrella of the energy,

the atmospheric time is a nature in the city,

says. On the one hand the time climate gives us the guideline of the seasonal passage of time, so that it helps

us begin to show to the abstract notion of what it is the time, making it more tangible.

Already be by means of systems of forecast, calendars and numbers, we target the aspects of continuity of the temporary thing and well-considered good, organize a great quantity of our activities about the stations and the forecast of the phenomena of the physics that act on the land in the shape of a specific climate. Nevertheless, slightly specially interesting it is subject to this organization: the unpredictability of the atmospheric phenomena. The first paradox of the modernity: the time is not predictable.


The great modern project, from beginning of last century until ends of the 60s, might be summarized in an enormous effort for domesticating the climate with the help of the science and the technology. And as good indicates Eliasson,

in these moments we are accepting slowly, if it is that we do not admit completely, that the energetic ideologies of postwar period of our company have damaged that one from what we were trying to protect ourselves.

In other words, when the technological level of our company allowed the absolute plunder of the sources of energy industrial and massive scale, with the aim to obtain resources to protect ourselves from the climate, we start understanding that probably the climate, and for extension the production of energy, was not our enemy, but rather an ally.

What happens, is that during this moment of inflexion, which has been late decades in becoming popular, already we had forged a system of energetic sustenance totally dependent on the extractor logic. We had lost the sense of the common thing, dealing for it and essentially the privatization of the fossil resources and we were preparing to continue bending the nature up to his extinction.

Another paradox more that interesting it is the one that relates designs him of the energy with the time, the consumption of million years in the only unit of time. The energy of fossil origin needs of a great quantity of time for his production, whereas his use consumes it almost instantaneously. This imbalance between time of production and consumption is the key point of the enormous problem which we face and which again the modernity did not want to understand.

Now all sound laments and strategies of doubtful efficiency to lessen the consumption of the perishable thing. In a few decades we will know if we have come in time of investing such an absurd system of production, which manages to devour that one that gives him the force.

Cost this introduction of Eliasson’s reflections to start processing of different form.

Atmosphere and phenomenalogy.

A way of understanding the atmospheric thing that has had one re-arise vigorously in the latter decade, would relate the idea of time and fenomenología. There the topic is opened for an extraordinarily rich debate and source of many interpretations. Something of it already was formed here in previous writings. The work and the ideas of Peter Zumthor or Juhani Pallasmaa realize of this point precisely.

Pallasmaa was beginning a conference in the university saying:

Pallasmaa empezaba una conferencia en la universidad diciendo:

The instantaneous recognition of the inherent nature of a place, is similar to the automatic reading of the identities and essences of the biological world. The animals instantaneously the human beings recognize other creatures for his survival of the same way we recognize a few human features known between thousands of other similar faces, simultaneously that we read the sense of the emotions from minuscule muscular movements of the face. The space or the place is an image, a mental creature, or rather, neuronal, a singular experience fused with our experience and more existential cognition. Once we have estimated a space as pleasantly or as depressant, difficultly we can change this judgment first hand. We are tied to certain parameters and remain others foreign to certain and both intuitive choices are really difficult to analyze verbally or to change significant form once we have experienced a certain portion of reality.

I dress like that, the atmospheric time serious the manager of this instantaneous recognition provokes that Pallasmaa alludes? It could be, but I believe that what tries to explain afterwards in this one and other texts Pallasmaa, or what I interpret that it wants to say, it is that it is a time, the atmospheric time, which allows us not to identify only instantaneously a space, but to understand it, to estimate it and to learn it. A time that works for sedimentation more than for speed. A time where the experience, both the accumulated one and the vital one of the moment, is essential. A time that constructs an atmosphere.

Thanks to this time we are capable of constructing a memory that it allows us to identify in tenths of second if a space is agreeable, vital and comfortable, or everything opposite. Curiously, the employment of this instantaneous time that it allows us to accede to this judgment of intuitive value, also one has been constructed from thousands of years, penetrating from generation to generation, to know unconsciously and inherited that it helps to value a space. The not initiated ones in the architecture also possess this knowledge.

They all remember that house of the childhood friend to which we liked to go, probably for that it was big, or it was orientated well and the light was entering fier, probably for that tape-worm a room where to be able to play behind the curtains, or a splendid garden where to hide. We all, architects and not architects, hoard a few spatial archetypes that help us to detect the atmosphere of a space. Evidently not the whole world is endowed with the capacity of power to explain porqué a space is comfortable, but if that we all notice this sensation. About it he was speaking Pallasma in the conference.

The energy like vector of design.

There is something jointly between these two interpretations of the idea of atmospheric time?

I believe that if. In essence, both ideas are speaking about time and energy, of time and comfort, about time and sensations.

Probably for it, some architects, town planners and landscape painters, already are taking the idea of energy as the root. The energy is the raw material of the time, it might be said, and for it they start understanding that to project with the energy, to use the energy as vector of design, it is an appropriation that takes them towards an agreement. An agreement with the natural thing, an agreement with the climate, but also an agreement with the sensations, the comfort, the conception of a place that it allow to be nice. Consequently, also they understand that the energy is in essence time. This way of simple and as not, this way of complex.

The idea definitively consists of using the nature to favor, promoting a new alliance with her, as Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers were proclaiming, in La Nouvelle Alliance.2 East text is of fact an allegation against the dichotomy between the reason and the life. Rationality and vitality traditionally understood as an opposition, the authors consider this substantial pair to be an unnecessary inheritance of the classic science, without any correspondence with the contemporary science.

From a deep conviction, Prigogine and Stengers they declare themselves enemies of any scientific understanding that makes the human being feel strange in the cosmos, and propose, as idea – force, the establishment of a new alliance between the human being and the nature based on the science of ends of the 20th century, to substitute with her the former science rotates for an erroneous interpretation which origin they place it in the 19th century.

If indeed one is for the science and for the life, the nature is the link of union, and consequently, all that that concerns the nature, between it and of out-standing form, the architecture, turns, potentially in an ally. I dress like that, the energy, the engine of all the force of the nature, it must join from a beginning in the reasonings of the urban thing, the architectural thing and the landscape thing or as he was saying previously, the energy must be a vector of design, a fundamental actor in the capture of decisions proyectuales.

Eliasson and Pallasmaa are speaking about it, from places undoubtedly different, but they allude of direct form to the necessary relation between space and comfort, to the entail between energy and sensation, to the undissolubility between the temporary thing and the atmospheric thing.

Miquel Lacasta. PhD architect
Barcelona, september 2013


1 ELIASSON, Olafur, Leer es Respirar, es Devenir, Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2012

2 PRIGOGINE, Ilya, y STENGERS, Isabelle, La Nouvelle AllianceGallimard, París, 1986.

Es cofundador en ARCHIKUBIK y también en @kubik – espacio multidisciplinario. Obtuvo un Ph.D. con honores (cum laude) en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya UIC y también fue galardonado con el premio especial Ph.D (UIC 2012), M.arch en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, y se graduó como arquitecto en ETSAB Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya . Miquel es profesor asociado en ESARQ desde 1996. Anteriormente, fue profesor en Elisava y Escola LAI, y también en programas de postgrado en ETSAB y La Salle. Fue arquitecto en la oficina de Manuel Brullet desde 1989 desde 1995.


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