1st Edition

Atlas of Material Worlds Mapping the Agency of Matter for a New Landscape Practice

Edited By Matthew Seibert Copyright 2021
    378 Pages
    by Routledge

    378 Pages
    by Routledge

    Atlas of Material Worlds is a highly designed narrative atlas illustrating the agency of nonliving materials with unique, ubiquitous, and often hidden influence on our daily lives.

    Employing new materialism as a jumping-off point, it examines the increasingly blurry lines between the organic and inorganic, engaging the following questions: What roles do nonliving materials play? Might a closer examination of those roles reveal an undeniable agency we have long overlooked or disregarded? If so, does this material agency change our understanding of the social structures, ecologies, economies, cosmologies, technologies, and landscapes that surround us? And, perhaps most importantly, why does material agency matter? This is the story of the world’s driest nonpolar desert, pink flamingos, and cerulean blue lithium ponds; industrial shipping logistics, pudding-like jiggling substrates, and monuments of mud; galactic bodies, radioactive sheep, and the yellowcake of uranium.

    Put simply, this book dares readers to see the world anew, from material up. Atlas of Material Worlds offers this new relationship to our host environment in a time of mounting crises—accelerating climate change, ballooning socioeconomic inequality, and rising toxic nationalism—uniquely telling materialist stories for practitioners and students in landscape, architecture, and other built environment disciplines.

    1. Uranium. Big Bangs: Metal as Metaphor.

    Denise Hoffman-Brandt

    2. Lithium. Tracing the Green Energy Paradox across Battery, Body, Landscape, and Cosmos.

    Matthew Seibert

     3. Crude. The Bakken Fossil Fuel Frontier.

    Collen Tuite and Ian Quate

    4. Clay. Spies in the Making: Imperial Oil Economies and the Geographies of Mediterranean Food

    Kristi Cheramie

    5. Sand. 825 Miles: or, How to Make a Beach

    Rob Holmes

    6. Mud. And Its Meaning in a Port Town

    Brian Davis

    7. Metabolite. Material as Physical History of a Relationship.

    Elizabeth Hénaff


    Matthew Seibert is Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia and former co-founder of Landscape Metrics, a visualization studio that specialized in data and design. Beyond his present studies in the agency of nonliving materials, his work employs representation as interrogative and speculative tools, from the employment of game engines as new model systems to study the experience of place, to the intervention within historical trajectories by crafting rich parafictions as both critique and potential future.

    “Matthew Seibert’s An Atlas of Material Worlds reorients us by asking us to consider the earth from the perspective of seven materials—uranium, lithium, clay, crude oil, sand, mud, and metabolite—seven nonhuman protagonists whose fascinating stories take us far from home and deep into our own bodies. Through radical cartography, image, and text, Seibert and his fellow landscape architects map out alternative, non-utilitarian, non-anthropocentric ways of thinking and being in our world, that, if we take this new materialist sensibility seriously, may just lead us away from the brink of climate catastrophe.”

    —Susan Barba, author of geode

    "Atlas of Material Worlds delves into the earth’s lithosphere, presenting a series of mineral narratives that animate the so-called inanimate world. Matthew Seibert’s expertly edited and illustrated volume challenges the capitalist extraction enterprise by mapping the very agency of elemental minerals, moving seamlessly across scales from the microscopic to the cosmic. Much like Alexander von Humboldt’s 1845 Kosmos, the atlas seeks to radically redefine relationships between the biosphere and the geosphere, while asserting that we humans are inseparably, fluidly entangled with the vibrant matter of our planet. This timely volume repositions elemental materials as dynamic agents of power, and calls for new materialist assemblages to address our crises of climate, health, and inequity."

    —Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, City College of New York

    "This beautiful and insightful collection stretches the idea of the atlas to offer a meditation on the material elements with which we are historically entangled. Just listen to the names of the chapters—uranium, lithium, clay, crude, sand, mud, metabolite—to hear the resonance of industrial worlds in motion. Through a fantastic array of images, maps, and words, the atlas offers stories that need to be told."

    —Anna Tsing, co-editor, Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene