Off the Grid: Infrastructure and transformational space

Carl Douglas
Vol 30, Number 2, p.116
Concepts of space underlie and structure design practices involved in the production of human environments, such as architecture, landscape design, urban planning, industrial design and civil engineering, for example. The implicit nature of concepts of space, and their close link to interpretations of self and world make them appropriate candidates in the pedagogy of these fields for a discussion of “threshold concepts” as proposed by Meyer and Land (2006). This paper contrasts the dialectical concept of space as a container and the non- dialectical concept of networked space, conceptualised here as threshold space and transformational space. It asks how the latter could shift understandings of a complex interdisciplinary spatial design problem, namely infrastructure, the physical systems of mobility, communication, and environmental control that underpin human environments (Bélanger, 2008; Varnelis, 2009). To address this non-dialectical concept, it examines firstly the nature of infrastructures, arguing, as proposed by Varnelis (2009), that they are “networked ecologies” or “hyperobjects” according to Morton (2011): open networks of effect rather than closed collections of equipment or fixed territories. Secondly, it considers the implications of this model for what is depicted as a world-view, adducing Morton’s rejection of the idea of Nature (2007), and Harman’s interpretation of Heidegger’s analysis of tools (Heidegger, 1962; Harman, 2006). It concludes by advocating that a critical position termed here as being off the grid should be sought as a transformative position in the education of designers, planners, and policy-makers.