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Much of Gissen s work examines concepts of nature inarchitecture, a topic that is becoming increasingly central toarchitectural thought and practice. His work resists the notionthat nature is external to architecture and therefore somethingarchitecture can better emulate or mimic. In contrast, his work isformed around a concept of the architectural production ofnature . For Gissen, nature is already laced witharchitectural historical representations whether we speak of theatmosphere that moves in and out of buildings or the verdant naturewithin contemporary cities. All of nature has been reworked literally and conceptually by the constructs of modernsociety, including architecture. He believes that what is needed isa new type of architecture and a new type of history that uncoversand projects this reality.
In addition to exploring these ideas in Territory, Gissenauthored the book Subnature: Architecture s OtherEnvironments (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), whichexamines those denigrated natures codified and examined within thehistory of architectural thought (dankness, debris, smoke or mud)from the 16th century to the present. He views the sub–natural as atype of nature laced with a specifically architectural presence andhistory. Among the contemporary projects examined in the book arethose that revel in this historical aspect: Tom De Paor sIrish Pavilion made of murky Irish bog mud (2002) or JorgeOtero–Pailos preservations of the pollution and dust on afactory s walls (2008).
Finally, Gissen s research into architecture and naturelead him to examine how such explorations might be the groundworkfor new forms of experimental architectural historical practice.This is the subject of a website he authors (htcexperiments.org)and was the subject of his article in the Energies: New MaterialBoundaries issue of AD (May/June 2009). In this latterwork, he examines how various historical practices from earlymodern history such as architectural reconstructions ofarchitectural environments or various institutional appropriations might let loose new appearances of architectural historyoutside the text.
Gissen is based in the San Francisco Bay Area where he is anassistant professor and coordinator of the architectural historyand theory curriculum at the California College of the Arts. Hestudied architecture at the University of Virginia, Yale andColumbia Universities, and completed his PhD at University CollegeLondon under the direction of Matthew Gandy and Adrian Forty.