RELATED TERMS: World-forming, World-making, World-building

The name of the architectural practice, Terreform, was derived from the combination of “terre”, meaning earth or soil, and “reform”, meaning to rebuild, reconstruct or recreate. The founders sought to differentiate their practice from that of “terraforming”. In planetary engineering, terraforming is a process of transforming an alien atmosphere to create a habitable living environment for humans. Instead of contriving to copy of the Earth’s atmosphere elsewhere, as the notion of “terraform” commonly implies, Terreform seeks to reform the planet Earth in place. Their intention is “to repair the atmosphere of our world by fostering designs that reform the current pollution causing global trends.”

Similarly, Benjamin Bratton (2019) in The Terraforming, a short polemical book that serves as the basis for an urban design research programme at the Strelka Institute in Moscow, also notes that “terraforming” is usually taken to refer to the re-shaping of the ecosystems of other planets or moons in order to make them capable of supporting Earth-like life. However, he suggests, the ecological consequences of the Anthropocene mean that, in the coming decades, we will need to terraform the planet Earth itself, that is, if it is to remain a viable host for its own life.


The planetary, the global and the world, particularly the concern for ‘our world’, may need to be distinguished from one another as terms that refer to some sort of autopoietic ‘whole’, one in which the governance of ‘our world’ is part and parcel. These distinctions, in turn, may need to be considered in relation to the discussion about the differences between (neoliberal) globalisation and alternative forms of ‘mondialisation’, to cite a term used by Jean-Luc Nancy and Jacques Derrida among others, or ‘new world order’, to cite a term from the early 1990s that has been reborn. The ‘project’, if such it can be called, is ecological and political at once. This brings into play a consideration of what differences there are between an ‘order’, a ‘natural’ order or an ‘order of things’, both inadequate phrases, and a ‘mode of governance’, particularly whether an ‘order’ can be maintained or sustained through ‘governance’. Governance itself brings into play such notions as hierarchy, heterarchy, anarchy and hegemony; and especially the difficulty of understanding how all four exist at once in the contemporary ‘world’, or rather the contemporary worlds: world of worlds as pluriverse. The question of actual and possible worlds appears as a supplement.


Bratton, B. (2019) The Terraforming. Moscow, RU: Strelka Institute


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