Photo: Environmental portrait of architect Wendy Cox

The art and impact of looking forward

“Architecture takes a long time,” says Associate Professor of Architecture Wendy Cox. “So thinking about what’s to come is vital to the field” and explains why “architects are always looking at the future.” At the School of Architecture + Art, Cox and her faculty colleagues immerse students in finding design solutions to critical problems, from homelessness to climate change. The built environment is a major source of greenhouse gases and thus demands today’s architects accept an outsize role in mitigating the crisis. To that end, the School integrates tenets of the Architecture 2030 Challenge, a movement within the discipline that advocates for key sectors of the built environment to be carbon neutral by 2030.

“I think that’s the role of an educational institution—to be exploring ideas and pushing the discipline further [to be] solving the problems that we see,” Cox says.

In her own research, Cox—who worked as an urban designer in Atlanta creating projects for the 1996 sum¬mer Olympics—is currently examining the potential impact of projection mapping on urban environments. “Imagine a skyline with different videos streaming on every building façade. Or video projections creating illusions of each building spinning and jumping and then collapsing into the ground. This could be the future of urban experience through the proliferation of projection mapping.” The medium is already used today to create moments of urban joy, art, protest, spectacle, and commercialism. Add to that the potential for propaganda and coercion.

Framing her exploration on the work of Canadian media theorist Marshal McLuhan, Cox examines not only what projection mapping may enable, but also asks, “What may it destroy, take over, or obliterate? I think that’s a really valuable question.”

—Sean Markey

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