Terraforming Earth

The Strelka Institute announces new terraforming research initiative

An aerial view of an already-habitable planet. (Courtesy NASA)

The Strelka Institute in Moscow has announced its newest research initiative, a three-year intensive exploration into the possibilities and necessities for terraforming a post-climate crisis earth. The initiative, called The Terraforming, will be led by American professor and theorist Benjamin Bratton, with the aim of “exploring a renewed Copernican turn,”—a lofty goal the program deems necessary for a planet being consumed by its own beneficiaries.

The tuition-free program is similar in structure to Bratton’s previous three-year venture at Strelka, an urban think tank called The New Normal, that just wrapped up its research on interdisciplinary solutions on a future for urban design. 

Bratton and some of his former New Normal faculty are reemerging for the new venture, and turning the word “terraforming” on its head—usually used in reference to adapting other planets to human life, the initiative acknowledges that human activity harming the earth and our atmosphere will necessitate “terraforming” on our own planet in the possibly near future. Original research projects and proposed solutions will pull from areas such as planetary urbanism, global energy infrastructure, and speculative design, to name a few of the more accessible vocabularies. 

Partnering with both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the new program is literally looking towards the future of design as a world-building game. The program and its students will use the vast Russian rural landscape as a study site, and, according to the website, “From here, [look] out into space and then back down to Earth to orient what ‘planetarity’ should mean.”

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