Beaman, Hong + Sho present the session: "Preemption", at the 2014 Design for Urban Disasters Conference

photo: James Setzler

We will be leading a conference session at the Design for Urban Disasters Conference at Harvard University on May 5, 2014. 


With the advances in both climatological modeling and the computational power to run them, we are becoming better adept at forecasting the effects of climate change on global environmental conditions. The transformations that await our environment are increasingly predictable, quantifiable, visually accessible, and readily available. While this information may allow designers to better understand the impact our disciplines will have on the future state of the world as we continue our current trajectory, its says little about how we can mitigate or reverse this path. Within this quantifiable climate change, where human actions have knowingly and demonstrably altered the patterns and qualities of the world's environment, post-disaster solutions may only serve as an acknowledgement of our political and cultural failure to act. Are designers relegated to focus on preparedness and response, positioning disasters as immanent phenomena, or are there more preemptive approaches? Should designers be preparing for disasters or actively working against their formation?

The etymological origin of preemption is translated as "buy before." This suggests that we have a choice in how and when our intellectual, social, political and financial capital can be directed to address environmental changes. If preemption rather than reaction is a possibility for designers and design thinkers, a number of questions arise.

This Design for Urban Disaster conference session asks architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and industrial designers to present the ways in which they have begun to address climate change as a problem of preemption.