Confronting the Second Space Age: From Cosmic Speculation to Astro-Capitalism Working Group


Space Forces: A Critical Toolkit for Life in Outer Space

Fred Scharmen, Morgan State University


In 1966 the architect Cedric Price asked a lecture audience: "Technology is the answer, but what was the question?" When planning for new spaces in the future, it's often easy to get so caught up in the "how?" that we forget to examine the "why?" This talk is the product of eight years worth of research into the history of the idea that future humans can and should go and live permanently in a particular kind of novel space - outer space, away from planet Earth. Borrowing from literary studies, anthro/soc and STS, astrobiology, and the spatial practice disciplines of architecture and urban design, this is a presentation about the existence and usefulness of certain conceptual tools, that can help us to ask about all of the reasons why humans have historically wanted to make new worlds. Updating Price's question for new futures, we might ask: "Living in outer space is the answer, but what was the question?"


Fred Scharmen teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning. He is the co-founder of the Working Group on Adaptive Systems, an art and design consultancy based in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2022 he co-founded Brick Moon, a design consultancy for space habitats. His work circles around questions about how and why we make spaces for the future, and who is invited into them. His first book, Space Settlements, from Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, was published in 2019. His second book, Space Forces was published by Verso in 2021. Scharmen has spoken and exhibited internationally, at venues like the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Graham Foundation, the Strelka Institute, the Venice Architecture Biennale, and the Museum of the Future in Dubai. He received his Masters Degree in Architecture from Yale University. His writing has appeared in the Journal of Architectural Education, New Geographies, Places Journal, The Architects Newspaper, Atlantic CityLab, Slate, Log, CLOG, Volume, and Domus.

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  • Sherry Zaks
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