Death of a Posthuman_2019

Thesis

2019

Humans are no longer just human. Our recent evolution has presented two realities, to which the discipline of architecture needs to respond. First, the split presence of the digital and physical identity. Second, the advancements in science and biotechnology that facilitate augmented humanity. From the well established medical devices of today, such as insulin pumps and artificial organs, to more speculative designs such as smart prosthetics and identity microchips.

We define this merging of human and technology, of physical and mental, as posthuman. So, when a person dies, the technological parts of them will remain alive through the digital extension of the self, thus making it more plausible to memorialize and perhaps mourn the human, in the absence of the body. Architecture can narrate and recycle our posthuman bodies, creating new types of burial and memorial rituals that can also respond to increasing spatial and environmental challenges presented by traditional burial and cremation.

The posthuman takes the human form and understands it as a part of a larger network. Through the posthuman lens, the environment, the human, and the non-human are interconnected and exist in non-hierarchical way.

New York City was chosen as the testing ground for the research because it have the largest human density in the country (9 million and expected to grow), but it also has a culture of exportation embedded within in its human disposal procedures and its waste management system, making it a node in a larger network of the handling of waste. Rethinking what it means to preserve, reveal, and conceal, burial becomes cocooning, encapsulating, encoding, and shrouding, actions that attempt to memorialize the digital and physical imprints of the posthuman. These verbs - cocoon, fossilize, decompose, encode, wrap, encapsulate, and shroud - become the basis of how architecture mediates the thresholds of different processes and their levels of exposure.

(text by Davey Bullard & Carolina Hasbun Elias)
thesis advisors: Julie Larsen, Britt Eversole, Sinead MacNamara

Student Names:

Davey Bullard and Carolina Hasbun Elias