Atmospheric Architectures

Christopher Paxton (website)
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (KADK)
Fourth Year Project
Faculty: Phil Ayres (website)


This architecture project challenges the hermetic nature of many contemporary buildings and rejects the notion of discrete optimal conditions. Instead, it explores atmospheric variance, air masses in chaotic flux in which microclimates affect each other in a single, dynamic and open system. It investigates ‘air as a material’ that has distinctly architectural capacities – characteristics of directional force, temperature, humidity, charge, pressure, aroma.

Following a series of speculative studies, the project culminates in a design proposal to recharacterise Schlossplatz, a notable but currently redundant wasteland site in the heart of Berlin. The scheme may be seen as an alternative to the anticipated Humboldt-Forum Cultural Centre, implementing a contrasting approach but with comparable ambition for global outreach and exchange of world cultures.

The design orchestrates an atmospheric landscape of alpine tundra, savanna, tropical rainforest and hot desert climates across Schlossplatz and Marx-Engels Forum. Through a mechanical process, a series of refrigerant towers direct the extraction and insertion of thermal energy and water vapour, modulating local climatic characters, while a lightweight, transparent buoyant canopy entraps rising hot air masses and controls the level of enclosure.

The proposal situates unfamiliar climatic programmes in close proximity; a subterranean ski slope, a botanical garden, a zoo, a beach, an ethnological museum and a thermal spa. A promenade connects these interventions and curates a climatic route across abrupt and extended atmospheric thresholds, climbing through vapour clouds to the hottest air masses at high level and descending to the polar climate of the ski slope below ground.


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