Photo credit: “Lichtgrenze” Berlin by Matthew Gandy
What is an urban atmosphere? How can we differentiate an ‘atmosphere’ from other facets of urban consciousness and experience? This essay explores some of the wider cultural, political, and philosophical connotations of atmospheres as a focal point for critical reflections on space and subjectivity. The idea of an ‘affective atmosphere’ as a distinctive kind of mood or shared corporeal phenomenon is considered in relation to recent developments in phenomenology, extended conceptions of agency, and new understandings of materialism. The essay draws in particular on the changing characteristics of air and light to reflect on different forms of sensory experience and their wider cultural and political connotations. The argument highlights some of the tensions and anomalies that permeate contemporary understandings of urban atmospheres.