The Designosaur Story

08: Object and Subject

The Designosaur was still muttering something to itself and I was lost in memories and thoughts about the relationship between object and process. When this question popped into my head:

“What is my role in this game?

I - as a subject – I can adapt and change. What other subjects are there?” At that moment the Designosaur interrupted me and asked:

Designosaur: Can I ask you something? Sometimes it seems to me that you talk about the planet as if it were a subject. As if it could explain what it wants or as if it had an agency. That sounds strange to me.

Me: Hm. That's a good thought! Yes, maybe I do. And sometimes it feels strange - the planet as a subject? But when you think about it, maybe it's just the way we have to go?

Designosaur: What way? Talk to the planet? Asking it for permission to burn oil, mine sand, turn limestone into cement and use plastic for - everything? What do you think it would answer?

Me: Oh, I think the planet already answers. I mean - I'm not talking about the planet as a creature.... rather as a complex system of different cycles and biotopes. And all these parts of the planet have agency, they respond to what we do. But since the planet is only an object, no one cares about it. An object can be used and dominated by a subject. The human being, as a subject, has rights. The planet, as an object, has no rights.

I smiled at the Designosaur and added:

Me: Maybe that’s why you also don’t want to be an object, right?

Designosaur: Yes, Yes, I’m a process anyway! Still, I don’t have any rights…

The Designosaur and I stood there, in the middle of the Anthropocene, staring at each other, and it felt like we were from two different planets. And yes, we were from two different planets.

Even though both planets are named Earth. The planet the Designosaur came from offers a stable and continuous environment. Infinite resources, the perfect sustaining background for this little species called human being. A very simple and dualistic world. The planet I live on is entangled and complex. There is no sustaining background that is disconnected from our influence. Humans have become a geological force on this planet, so obviously we are part of a bigger game. There is no longer a duality, but a web of different agencies ... and we are only one of them.

Sketching these two worlds in my sketchbook
helped me understand what I was talking about, when all of a sudden the Designosaur shook his head and said:

Designosaur: Sometimes it feels like you're from another planet!

Me: Hmm. why do you say that?

Designosaur: Why do you keep talking about "changing background", "different temporalities", "entanglement"... and then you talk about the planet as a subject. You probably start talking about legal claims of the planet right away. But it doesn't work like that. Only humans can be legal subjects... yes... and... yes, and legal entities, like companies, too....

Me: Hmm... interesting.  Do companies have rights? Are they considered legal entities? That's a very interesting construct of human beings.... and what is the goal of it? To protect companies from abuse? Clever idea!

Designosaur: Yes... and to protect the planet we have a natural law!

Me: Which is mainly trying to protect us from us.... and not nature from us. And in the end, our right - to burn oil or build houses - is always more important than any natural law, isn't it? Just because... we are legal subjects - and planet Earth is a legal object… only our resources.

Designosaur: You're driving me crazy....

Me: Come on! Just think about it. Over time, we've included more and more things in the concept of a legal subject - from slaves, women, infants, corporations, associations - before we included them, we could never imagine that they should have rights. Maybe one day we'll think the same about the planet as a legal subject.

Designosaur: And what about me!!! I want to be a legal subject too! It's not my fault I'm built with reinforced concrete, the windows weren't my idea and the ventilation... who's going to protect me from being demolished?


I realised that the Designosaur was actually not the right addressee for all my thoughts.

The Designosaur was right: it wasn't his fault. One could say: it was my fault rather than his fault. I took a deep breath, touched its high-quality, exposed recycled concrete facade - it was cold and hard - and said:

Me: I'm sorry. I'm sure no one intended to design a Designosaur. Sometimes it's hard to be an architect... especially when you've had to adapt to a fundamentally new world.

Designosaur: A Designosaur?... is that what you're calling me? Is that what I am? Really? I thought I'm a CDB...

I wanted to comfort the Designosaur, but the high-quality, exposed recycled concrete facade made my hand very cold. I took my hand off the facade, looked in its eye and mumbled something as it started to rain.

It was rain - just rain - no tears this time - or did you think a building could cry? That's ridiculous!