Atmosphere as Instrument

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Atmospheric phenomena strongly influenced the earliest religions, which sought to account for the existence of otherwise inexplicable environmental forces. Regardless of the culture of origin, primitive forms of worship attributed both meteorological and extraplanetary effects to the purview of gods, who ostensibly used the atmosphere as a primary instrument through which to communicate a wide range of desires and emotions. However, the history of humanity’s relationship with the atmosphere is a remarkable account of our transformation from a tractable, deity-fearing species to an enlightened and empowered population. Although we once cowered in ignorance and supplication before the storm, today we not only understand many of the physical and chemical causes of atmospheric phenomena, but also exert a measurable influence over the climate. The story of Prometheus is symbolic of this transition: when the mythological champion of man stole fire from Zeus, he effectively bequeathed a heavenly tool to his mortal friends, thus enabling them with god-like powers. This fable has come to be associated with both the increasing potency and hubris of humanity, heralding the wonders of technological development while admonishing the perils of striving beyond acceptable boundaries. Just as Prometheus received a grim punishment for his misdeed, we now face an ominous future shaped by the unintended consequences of our exploitation of fire. Specifically, by harnessing this Olympian gift to its fullest potential, we unleashed the flame of modern industry—with disastrous climatological effects. Today, we seek to employ a variety of strategies to recalibrate the atmosphere to its previous, less-volatile state.

The story continues in Hypernatural, which explores architecture’s new relationship with nature.

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