ALBERTO DE SALVATIERRA
Assistant Professor // University of Calgary Architecture, Planning, and Landscape
Founder and Director // Center for Civilization
Founding Principal // PROXIIMA
Soft Infrastructures and Solarpunk Urbanism
This year has been one of extremes. Precipitating social upheaval—foregrounded by cataclysmic environmental degradation and accentuated by a deadly global pandemic—has revealed just how fragile and, perhaps, discordant humanity has become. Civilization has reached a critical inflection point. And at the threshold between perdition and redemption, loss of hope is easy. Apocalyptic visions and machinations of the future dominate our media. Every day, a new threat—often existential—assaults our screens. Forecasters and even fiction writers are hard-pressed to imagine a future that does not include a totalitarian state facilitated by a technological dystopia that failed to prevent a climate catastrophe. In the face of such insurmountable odds, what is the role of the designer, the landscape architect, the urbanist?
Our power is to imagine, and then design, new possibilities of the relations between human and nature. And there would be no more timely action then, than to breathe life into a nascent, yet plucky, literary genre known as “Solarpunk” that, having been borne from writers, lacks a cohesive imagery to galvanize the masses. Encouraging an optimistic version of our future, Solarpunk is a growing movement that envisions a society 1) built with renewable energies such as solar and wind power, 2) integrated with urban farming and natural ecologies, 3) embracing prefigurative politics and the twin values of pluralism and diversity, while 4) promoting self-sufficiency and decentralization of urban and governance systems. In the words of a crowd-assembled manifesto: “At its core, Solarpunk is a vision of a future that embodies the best of what humanity can achieve: a post-scarcity, post-hierarchy, post-capitalistic world where humanity sees itself as part of nature and clean energy replaces fossil fuels. The “punk” in Solarpunk is about rebellion, counterculture, postcapitalism, decolonialism and enthusiasm. Solarpunk embraces a diversity of tactics. Solarpunk emphasizes environmental sustainability and social justice. Solarpunk is about youth maker culture, local solutions, local energy grids, ways of creating autonomous functioning systems. Solarpunk includes all cultures, religions, abilities, sexes, genders and sexual identities. Solarpunk is the idea of humanity achieving a social evolution that embraces not just mere tolerance, but a more expansive compassion and acceptance.”
With this context in mind, the lecture “Soft Infrastructures and Solarpunk Urbanism” will examine the latent power of soft infrastructures in landscape architecture and ecology, and introduce never-before seen work that is pioneering the conception of a Solarpunk urbanism.