HomeThe architecture of hyper-conditional environments

The architecture of hyper-conditional environments

Architecture des milieux hyper-conditionnés

Cahiers de la recherche architecturale, urbaine et paysagère journal - architecture, urban and regional planning

Cahiers de la recherche architecturale, urbaine et paysagère

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Published on Thursday, March 07, 2019 by Anastasia Giardinelli


Longtemps reléguées dans les champs des sciences de la construction, les techniques de conditionnement – ventilation, climatisation, illumination, sonorisation, odorisation – ont pris une place décisive dans la production architecturale et urbaine contemporaine. Elles sont pleinement à l’œuvre dans l’architecture commerciale qui promeut le marketing expérientiel et sensoriel. Elles se développent à travers les règlementations qui répondent aux enjeux de la maîtrise de l’énergie dans les bâtiments et instaurent de nouvelles régulations des flux entre architecture et environnement. Elles sont rendues nécessaires dans les climats inhospitaliers (tropiques, déserts, pôles), dans certains espaces sous contraintes (lieux de soins, de spectacles, de conservation, d’activités spécifiques) ou dans les milieux extrêmes (architectures sous-marines, souterraines, extraterrestres). Elles posent bien évidemment la question de notre relation à l’environnement et aux milieux que nous habitons, aux flux d’énergie et de matières et aux technologies visibles et invisibles qui gouvernent nos espaces de vie.


Dossier coordinated by Daniel Siret and Ignacio Requena / AAU-CRENAU, ENSA Nantes.


Relegated for a long time to the field of building sciences, conditioning techniques – ventilation, air-conditioning, lighting, sound or odorisation systems – play a decisive role in the contemporary urban and architectural production. They are fully implemented in commercial architecture, which promotes experiential and sensory marketing. They are developed in accordance with regulations of energy efficiency in buildings that establish new requirements in terms of flux between architecture and environment. They become necessary in inhospitable climates (tropics, deserts, poles), in some constrained spaces (places of care, entertainment, conservation or specific facilities), or in extreme environments (underwater, underground or extra-terrestrial architectures). They naturally question our relation to the environment and to our living spaces, to energy and material flows, and to the visible and invisible technologies that rule our living environments.

Addressed since the 1930s by L. Mumford[1], analysed in the post-war period by S. Giedon[2] or R. Banham[3], and widely studied ever since[4], conditioning techniques in architecture have taken over many aspects of our inhabited environments. The air is conditioned in terms of temperature and humidity, deodorised, and even potentially infused with substances whose effects are linked to an emerging psycho-chemistry[5]. The so-called natural lighting, significantly anthropized by filtering of increasingly complex glass products, is modulated day and night by artificial lighting devices, which can sometimes have fascinating effects[6]. The sounds of the environment and of human activities blend with informative, recreational or promotional signals that are disseminated in individual and collective sound bubbles with blurred boundaries. The sole visual appearance of the world is nowadays conditioned by screens and projections of various nature, and by the advent of augmented reality.

The converging implementation of conditioning techniques in the contemporary production of inhabited space leads to what we identify in this call for papers as “hyper-conditioned” environments. Ultimately, the resulting spaces no longer offer any connection with the (natural, urban) environment in which they are set. Decontextualized, they are thus defined by the fracture that they impose from the prevailing conditions around them. Hermetical, they can only be grasped from the inside, through immersion and personal or collective experience, which makes them resistant to the classical modalities of visual representation through blueprints, drawings or pictures. The retelling of an experience or boards of bio-static indicators (temperatures, sound, light levels, chemistry, fluxes), ultimately become the most solid descriptive tools, as well as the most ambiguous, for these spaces.

This special issue aims at understanding the way hyper-conditioning techniques influence the vision we have of the discipline of architecture, of the architects and other designers’ competences and of the mechanisms for space making. Three perspectives are suggested.

Experiencing the hyper-conditioned environment

The first perspective deals with the experience of hyper-conditioned environments, between delight and rejection, shock and fear, disorientation and familiarity. The characterization of this experience raises questions regarding new atmospheric aesthetics[7], nowadays indistinguishable from shopping malls and mobility environments (airports, train stations), festive or sport locations, some work places or housing. More questions are thus asked, regarding the limits of the human body when it comes to confinement, sensory overload, “disturbing sensations”[8], or the experience of the transition between one confinement to another (from the office to the mall, from the transports to home). We can discuss the hypothesis of a desensitisation of the inhabitants ultimately happening alongside the standardisation of ambiances and the homogenisation of normalised comfort[9]. The articles should rely on case studies regarding hyper-conditioned environments across the world or on installations that temporarily reproduce their characteristics[10].

Making architecture in the age of conditioning

The aim is to understand how conditioning techniques renew the ways we conceive architecture, in particular the modes of representation, evaluation or experimentation for conditioned or re-conditioned environments. We will study the relations between the architects and their partners in the different fields of science and techniques playing a part in the conditioning of space[11], from thermal or acoustic engineering to environmental psychology, from digital simulation to psychophysical experimentation, and to the emerging professions along those lines. Moreover, the contemporary awareness on ecology raises the question of the evolution of conditioning techniques – between low-tech and high-tech – and of the relations between architecture, technologies and norms. Simultaneously, we can focus on the imagination around conditioning, which spreads throughout the practices of architecture and their literary or cinematographic expressions, for example. Sociotechnical articles based on situations with built projects or fictional propositions are expected.

Hyper-conditioning as influence

The last perspective for analysis considers the implementations of conditioning, its potential influence on bodies and minds, the resulting vulnerability and the potential manipulations that are connected to it. For a long time channelled by hygienist, productivist[12] or commercial[13] approaches, conditioning in architecture is nowadays part of the “emotional capitalism” perspective[14], and takes place in the most ordinary living spaces. Therefore, we should question its modes of action and effects on the uses, and simultaneously consider new relations between architecture, environment and landscape. Therefore, we are expecting articles based on socio-anthropological, historical or political approaches about the conditioning, re-conditioning or de-conditioning of architecture.


[1] Mumford, Lewis. 1934. Technics and civilization. New York, Harcourt-Brace.

[2] Giedion, Sigfried. 1948. Mechanization takes command: a contribution to anonymous history. New York, Oxford University Press.

[3] Banham, Reyner. 1969. Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

[4] See for example on the topic of air conditioning: Cooper, Gail. 1998. Air-Conditioning America: Engineers and the Controlled Environment, 1900-1960. Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press; Ackermann, Marsha E. 2002. Cool Comfort: America's Romance With Air-Conditioning. Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press.

[5] We can think of the dystopian world described by Stanisław Lem, in his novel The Futurological Congress (1971), or of the Hormonorium project, presented by Décosterd and Rahm in 2002 during the eighth Venice Biennale of Architecture.

[6] Such as those produced by the lighting system designed by Coelux, artificial skies in spring and artificial suns frozen in an eternal Mediterranean summer. Cf. https://www.coelux.com

[7] On this topic, see Böhme, Gernot. 2017. The Aesthetics of Atmospheres. New York, Routledge.

[8] Sennett, Richard. 1994. Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization. New York, W.W. Norton.

[9] See for example: Shove, Elizabeth. 2003. Converging Conventions of Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience. Journal of Consumer Policy, 26:4. DOI: 10.1023/A:1026362829781; Healy, Stephen. 2008. Air-conditioning and the ‘homogenization’ of people and built environments. Building Research & Information, 36:4. DOI: 10.1080/09613210802076351

[10] For example, like those suggested by Philippe Rahm.

[11] See for example: Erwine, Barbara. 2017. Creating Sensory Spaces. The Architecture of the Invisible. New York, Routledge; Edensor, Tim & Sumartojo, Shanti. 2015. Designing Atmospheres: introduction to Special Issue. Visual Communication, 14:3. DOI: 10.1177/1470357215582305

[12] See, for example: Pillon, Thierry. 2018. Les couleurs d’ambiance. L’exemple des bureaux dans les années 1950-1960. Communications, n°102. « Exercices d’ambiances. Présences, enquêtes, écritures », under the supervision of Maxime Le Calvé and Olivier Gaudin.

[13] A research topic that was started by Philip Kotler at the beginning of the 1970s (Atmospherics as a marketing tool, Journal of Retailing. 49:4, 1973), which continues in numerous contemporary studies. See for example: Healy, Stephen. 2014. Atmospheres of consumption: Shopping as involuntary vulnerability. Emotion Space and Society. 10(1). DOI: 10.1016/j.emospa.2012.10.003 ; Julmi, Christian. 2016. Conquering new frontiers in research on store atmospheres: Kinetic and synesthetic qualities. Ambiances [En ligne]. DOI: 10.4000/ambiances.723

[14] See the exhibition by the Canadian Centre for Architecture called Our Happy Life. Architecture and Well-Being in the Age of Emotional Capitalism, CCA, Montreal, from May 8 to October 13, 2019.



  • Friday, June 21, 2019


  • Aude Clavel
    courriel : audeclavel [at] hotmail [dot] fr

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  • Aude Clavel
    courriel : audeclavel [at] hotmail [dot] fr

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« The architecture of hyper-conditional environments », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, March 07, 2019, https://calenda.org/577647

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