Interstices 15 (Under Construction)

Moved: On Atmospheres and Affects

March 11, 2013

Call for Papers/Presentations

Moved: On Atmospheres and Affects

2013 Interstices Under Construction Symposium
The University of Auckland and AUT University, Auckland November 22 to 24, 2013.

Keynote Speaker: Professor emeritus Gernot Böhme
Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany

We invite you to address in a 20 minute presentation questions of cultural and experiential atmospheres, technification and affect. For instance, what are the roles of emotion and imagination in the context of lapses in ideals of subject integrity and the immersion in affective states? What is the role, politically, culturally, creatively, of felt or non-conscious states and excesses of affect in the context of late capital? What does being moved mean historically and in contemporary senses for thinking design practices spanning cities, architecture, scenography, interiors, objects?

Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904)

Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904)

Since cultural theorist Raymond Williams (2001) foregrounded structures of feeling as pivotal to any understanding of cultural complexity more than 50 years ago, consideration of feeling, intensity, affect and immanent experience has increasingly gained importance across a range of disciplinary areas. In architecture and related art and design fields this tendency has more recently found echo in attendance on the notion of atmospheres. Peter Zumthor (2006), for one, has said of atmosphere that it is the means by which “emotional sensibility” is registered as such and, as a form of perception operating faster than any critical faculty, offers orientation to the question “what do we mean when we speak of architectural quality?” This emphasis on the concept of atmosphere – something he shares with designers and theorists as diverse as Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell, Jean-Gilles Decosterd & Philippe Rahm, Herzog & de Meuron, Diller & Scofidio, Juhani Pallasmaa and Tim Ingold – finds common reference in the thinking of German philosopher Gernot Böhme.

For Böhme, in Architektur und Atmosphäre (2006) particularly, atmospheres effect our primary aesthetic reality. What he calls atmosphere – mood and affect in their spatial situation – is the primary reality aesthetics has to deal with. These are what the beholder of a work of art and what that beholder perceives have in common. We talk of the feel or mood of a space but not of a thing or object. Atmosphere demands a co-presence that necessary engulfs the terms of any subject/object division; it is this primary reality, where moods and affects play a key role, that aesthetics – itself understood as aesthesis or a general theory of perception must deal with. Such a theory must lead to a confrontation with the longstanding bifurcation of what the Greeks defined as physis and techné, or nature and technology, and indeed calls for something like a revision in understanding of what mediation as perception entails.

It is no surprise that the first accounts of architectural space in modernity arose from conceptions of bodily experience, for example, in Schmarsow’s account of architectural space (1894). Already in 1851, Mrs Merrifield used the notion of atmosphere to describe the Crystal Palace, which “is perhaps the only building in the world in which atmosphere is perceptible” (1970). Gottfried Semper, who also participated in the Great Exhibition, was perhaps the first architect to theorise atmosphere, arguing in 1860: “every artistic creation, every artistic pleasure, presumes a certain carnival spirit, or to express it in a modern way, the haze of carnival candles is the true atmosphere of art.” (2004). Jean Baudrillard recognized in modernity an increasing lapse of harmony, or Stimmung, between self, objects and their associated worlds. Pockets of interiority, which once stabilized these associations, increasingly open to linkages that have no predefined syntax, propriety or taste. In his “sociology of interior design”, what counts is not bourgeois space as tasteful signature of an owner or crafter, but a new de-subjectified domain. The subject becomes “an active engineer of atmospheres” (2002). In such environments, the rhetoric of personification reigns: “the atmosphere will be yours alone” (2002). Yet, this modeling of agency arises precisely in a context where ‘the interior’ loses its sheltering capacity and is subjected to invasive, affective processes. Everything – from the economy, to political stability, to the future prospects of the planet – is moodily bathed in gloom, indifference or saccharine buoyance.

For Böhme, such affective immersion corresponds with a double movement in modernity’s “technological civilization”. On one hand, such a civilization is predicated on a “decidedly unemotional stance” while, on the other, it fosters the “development of an enormous imaginary domain” nurturing an otherwise truncated emotionality (2012). Affectively calibrated environments are inseparable from an “invasive technification” and externalization of social constraint.


Please send a 500-word abstract and a short cv to Andrew Douglas ( by 24 June. Abstracts will be double-blind refereed and, if accepted, published on the Interstices website ( Notifications will be sent out by 22 July 2013. The symposium will be followed by a call for papers for Issue 15 of Interstices: A Journal of Architecture and Related Arts on the same topic in December 2013.

Conference Convenors: Andrew Douglas, Ross Jenner and Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul



Baudrillard, J. (2002). Structures of interior design. In B. Highmore (Ed.), The everyday reader (pp. 308-318). London, England: Routledge.

Böhme, G. (2006). Architektur und Atmosphäre. München, Germany: Wilhelm Fink Verlag.

Böhme, G. (2012). Invasive technification: Critical essays in the philosophy of technology (C. Shingleton, Trans.). London, England: Bloomsbury Academic.

Merrifield, M. P. (1970). Essay on the Harmony and Contrast of Colours as Exemplified in the Exhibition. In The Arts Journal Illustrated Catalogue: The Industry of All Nations, 1851. London, England: David & Charles.

Schmarsow, A. (1894). Das Wesen der architektonischen Schöpfung: Antrittsvorlesung gehalten in Leipzig 1893. Leibzig, Germany: Hiersemann.

Semper, G. (2004). Style in the technical and tectonic arts; or, practical aesthetics (H. F. Mallgrave & M. Robinson, Trans.). Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research.

Williams, R. (2001). The Long Revolution. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press.

Zumthor, P. (2006). Atmospheres: Architectural environments; surrounding objects. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser.