What do outer space capsules, submarines, and office buildings have in common? Each was conceived as a closed system: a self-sustaining physical environment demarcated from its surroundings by a boundary that does not allow for the transfer of matter or energy. The history of twentieth century architecture, design, and engineering has been strongly linked to the conceptualization and production of closed systems. As partial interpretations of the world in time and in space, closed systems identify and secure materials necessary for life. Contemporary discussions about global warming, recycling, and sustainability have emerged as direct conceptual constructs related to the study and analysis of closed systems. In February 2016, Storefront for Art and Architecture will open Closed Worlds, an exhibition of 41 living prototypes built over the last century that present an unexplored genealogy of closed resource regeneration systems. From the space program to countercultural architectural groups experimenting with autonomous living, the exhibition documents a larger disciplinary transformation in the postwar period and the rise of a new environmental consensus in the form of a synthetic naturalism, where the laws of nature and metabolism are displaced from the domain of wilderness to the domain of cities and buildings.
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