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MIT Better World

The book features 50 speculative projects, three of which are highlighted below.

Today, encounters with the planet are a quotidian phenomenon, dulled by increasing international relations and new means of communication. At the same time, too often we face the globe in darker, more somber ways. Contemporary perceptions of the world are unavoidably associated with… urban expansion across the planet; transcontinental migratory flows; environmental hazards; sea level rise; and global warming. All these changes bring the world scale within our daily experiences and, without a doubt, to the core of our most pressing social concerns.

Architecture’s responses to these contemporary, global challenges has mostly favored technical solutions. Architects are addressing environmental questions and global warming through a new ethics of construction supporting hard choices of renewable materials and passive environmental systems. On another front, when mobilized to respond to the problems of refugees, migratory movements, and other humanitarian crises, architects justifiably tend to switch hats and take on the role of relief workers focused on shelter…

…A different, complementary mode of operation [is] to understand the spatial, technological, and social processes that are shaping the planet, in order to define types and scales of architectural intervention that can challenge the ways in which globalization takes place. The purpose of this book is to reconnect this trend of contemporary architectural inquiry to a broader disciplinary history that has shaped the ways in which we live and think about our present.

PROJECT: Terrestrial Globe at the Scale 1:100,000

In 1895, the French geographer Élisée Reclus proposed constructing an enormous globe (1:100,000 scale) for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. It was never constructed. “The desire to realistically replicate the planet gives its most literal form to an understanding of architecture as an epistemological instrument,” the authors write. “Reclus’s Terrestrial Globe reveals the increasing need in the late nineteenth century to understand how architecture can respond to the human transformation of the planet.”

Terrestrial Globe design by Élisée Reclus. The globe is surrounded by a spiral system of staircases and elevators. Élisée Reclus, “Project de Construction d’un Globe Terrestre a L’Echelle DU 100.000E,” in report of the sixth international geographical Cognress, Ed. The Secretaries (London:John Murray, 1896), 625

PROJECT: The World in the Cybernetics Era Architect

Sergio Bernardes was one the most important and controversial figures of late modernism in Brazil, according to the authors. Having conceived a 1965 project, “Rio in the Cybernetics Era,” that centered on “the city’s future status within an increasingly integrated planet,” Bernardes later expanded his futuristic vision. Ultimately, he advocated “the total merging of ‘Man’ and ‘Earth’ systems in a new entity: ‘Homogeofusion (homogeofusao).’”

Bernardes’s Man in the Universe, 1965 Bernardes, Sergio. “Terrismo: Uma Ideolgia.” In Sergio Bernardes, edited by Kykahbern Ardes and Laura Pereira, 215 and 293. São Paolo: Artviva Editora, 2010.


“Since the mid-1970s, the goal of architect and visual artist Juan Navarro has been to express the universal constituents of the natural environment, such as light, atmospheric effects, and gravity,” the authors write. A Spanish architect, Navarro was a research fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies from 1971 to 1975. “Navarro explores how to create forms of architecture and artificial systems that can contribute to the creation of a world-system.” Mechanisms and spaces for producing and receiving information— what Navarro calls “gates”—are a central concept of his work. Navarro envisions environmental art at the world scale, including capsules that transport ecological systems.

Navarro’s Proposal for the Increasing of Ecological Experiences. Transferring ecosystems, 1972. Kepes, György. Arts of the Environment. Vision + Value Series. New York: George Braziller, 1972