Urban Ice Core – Indoor Air Archive, 2003-2008

It is a map, a proposal, a fantasy archive for the retrieval of future data related to the indoor atmosphere of cities. During the course of my dissertation I spent a great deal of time exploring the politics surrounding indoor air in Western cities in the 1970s. This was way before debates about sick building syndrome; the issues were much different back then, more about what indoor air might enable as an aspect of urban development and institutional politics. When I was writing my dissertation, I lamented the fact that we had no archive of indoor air; as we do for all other manner of indoor elements of the built environment—furniture, designed objects, fashion.  The specific content of the air of the interiors of the past is lost to us —its bio-physical make-up is gone; we really can’t study it with a full range of analytical methods. But I wondered…what if we archived our current indoor urban atmosphere  for the historian of the future? Why would we do this, and how would this be done?  In this speculative proposal I imagine using the tools we currently have to study the air of the past, but wiring them in reverse. What if we made urban core samples of the air inside buildings and then stored them like we do with core samples from the North Pole or Antarctica? What would people in the future study? Every historian “builds” his or her archive; what does this say about the archive? 

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  1. 1 Metropolis POV » Silent Production

    [...] manner of indoor elements of the built environment-furniture, designed objects, fashion,” he writes on his blog. “The specific content of the air of the interiors of the past is lost to us -its [...]

  2. 2 Announcements « HTC Experiments

    [...] Uncategorized Thank you to Pruned and BldgBlog for covering/linking the Urban Ice Core/Indoor Air Archive project this past week. I always think of these immensely popular sites, particularly Bldgblog, as [...]

  3. 3 Architectural Non-fiction « HTC Experiments

    [...] of the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the conservation and reconstruction of dust and smells, and the archiving of a building’s air. All of these works involve THINGS, but they are all also very explicit acts of history.  I [...]

  4. 4 Ephemera « HTC Experiments

    [...] of it on the theme of energy. It includes new descriptions of my posts on the Plume/Idling project, Urban Ice Core and Manhattan Air Conditioning Map. It also includes an abbreviated version of an aborted text I [...]

  5. 5 Chemical Archive

    [...] idea of a poisonous atmospheric archive being unintentionally released—on a global scale—makes me wonder what sorts of news reports we [...]

  6. 6 Chemical Archive « Random Information

    [...] idea of a poisonous atmospheric archive being unintentionally released—on a global scale—makes me wonder what sorts of news reports we [...]

  7. 7 Chemical Archive « Random Information

    [...] idea of a poisonous atmospheric archive being unintentionally released—on a global scale—makes me wonder what sorts of news reports we [...]

  8. 8 A Can of Air, or: C.S.I. Duchamp | NuzaRazzi

    [...] historian David Gissen has proposed that an “indoor air archive” be developed. While writing his dissertation, Gissen writes, he “lamented the fact [...]

  9. 9 Exploring Paris Through Smell | Gizmodo Australia

    […] co-curator with Irene Cheng, told me. Previously, Gissen had speculated fantastically about “urban ice cores,” or an archive of indoor air for future urban climatologists. The dozen or so scents at […]




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