Ms Alexandra Arenes

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Architectural Design at the Time of Anthropocene: A Gaia-graphic Approach to the Critical Zones.

Supervisors: Prof. Albena Yaneva, Prof. Stephen Walker

We live on a damaged planet where ruined landscapes are the leftovers for potential futures. To address the current situation, it seems that we know little about the variations of nature - its complex compositions, its temporalities, the agentivity of its components - a gap may be partly responsible for the Anthropocene. What if a river, for example, was not what we thought we saw, traced and, by extension, designed with? Following the emergence of the study of cosmopolitical design, my research aims to understand the complexity of landscapes. Therefore, through ethnographic observations using STS and ANT methodologies, I conduct research within cutting-edge scientific practices of the Critical Zones. I unpack the practices that enable scientists to capture natural phenomena in the Critical Zone, that damaged part of the Earth sustaining life. Does this understanding of nature trigger a more cosmopolitical view? What are the consequences that could challenge architectural design?


Alexandra Arènes is a French landscape architect and now a PhD researcher at the University of Manchester. She co-founded SOC (Société d’Objets Cartographiques) in 2016, a think tank on earth political design, drawing on scientific and public enquiries, and producing workshops and exhibitions. The studio designed the installation CZO space at the ZKM (Museum for Art and Media, Karlsruhe) for the exhibition Critical Zones. Observatories for Earthly Politics (curated by Bruno Latour, 2020), the result of close collaboration between science and art. She has also contributed to theater research (INSIDE, Back to Earth, Où atterrir?), and co-authored the book Terra Forma, Manuel de Cartographies Potentielles (B42, 2019).


Terra Forma, Manuel de Cartographies Potentielles, with Frédérique Ait-Touati and Axelle Grégoire. Edition B42, 2019.

Article (peer-review)

“Giving Depth to the Surface – an Exercise in the Gaia-graphy of Critical Zones”, in The Antropocene Review, 29 June, 2018, with Bruno Latour and Jérôme Gaillardet.

Alexandra Arènes (2020) Inside the Critical Zone, GeoHumanities, DOI: 10.1080/2373566X.2020.1803758

Articles (non peer-review)

“Traveling through the Critical Zone”, ZKM catalogue Critical Zones. The Science and Politics of Landing on Earth. Publisher: MIT Press, 2020. Editors: Bruno Latour & Peter Weibel.

“If the Earth is not the globe, how to sketch it?” with Bruno Latour in NESS 2: Mad World Pictures, September 2019.

“Terra Forma” in Feral Atlas, a web research platform assembled by Anna Tsing, 2020.


“Critical Zone Observatory Space”, installation at ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, in Critical Zones. Observatories for Earthly Politics, curated by Peter Wiebel and Bruno LatourMay 2020 - August, 2021.


Landscape seminar series, ESALA Edinburgh, « Terra Forma, investigating Critical Zones », February 24, 2021.

Goldsmith Lecture, University of Texas, Architecture. Alexandra Arenes, "Learning from Critical Zones," September 30, 2020

Lecture Series: Institute of Landscape and Urban Studies. Architecture of Territory, Prof. Milica Topalović, Critical Zones: Sensors for Ghost Landscapes, October 01, 2020.

External positions

Architect, founder, SOC - Society of Object Cartography

2016 → …

Landscape Architect, BASELAND, firm landscape urbanism


Areas of expertise


  • Anthropocene, Critical Zone sciences, Cartography, Actor-Network Theory, STS, Landscape Architecture

Education / academic qualifications

  • 2016 - SPEAP, Master d'Expérimentation en Arts Politiques, Sciencespo Paris
  • 2009 - Master of Architecture Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Grenoble