The Deep Time Project

Fall 2022 Cross-Disciplinary Class

Installation view, The Deep Time Project exhibition, MIT Wiesner Student Art Gallery, 2023. Credit: Tim Lemp/MIT.
Installation view, The Deep Time Project exhibition, MIT Wiesner Student Art Gallery, 2023. Credit: Tim Lemp/MIT.
The Deep Time Project. Courtesy of Cristina Parreño Alonso.
The Deep Time Project. Courtesy of Cristina Parreño Alonso.

Reframing current global challenges from the deep (planetary) and shallow (human) timescales


The Deep Time Project is a multidisciplinary platform of inquiry, research, and investigation offered to all students at MIT. The course’s premise is that the great challenge of becoming true planetary stewards demands that we develop a “deep time” literacy.

The unprecedented global challenges we are facing today demand radical and new temporal accountability. This entails a paradigmatic shift by which what we call “the globe” (home to our ever-globalizing cultures and economies) and “the planet” (this very old cosmic entity we’ve been inhabiting of late) are seen as entangled and unfolding in shallow (human) and deep (planetary) time simultaneously. Inevitably, recognizing deep time as part of human nature, and hence as integral to the architectural condition, will reposition architecture “in the web of life and in the connected but different histories of the globe and the planet.” This daunting but necessary transformation will change the ways we think about architecture, the ways we design and build, the ways we, architects, account for worlds. [1]

The Deep Time Project aims to develop strategies in relation to the multiple temporalities coexisting within the planet. This time literacy will enable us to reframe current global challenges and become better equipped to address the important cultural, social, and ethical questions associated with them.

At the core of the course is the conviction that developing longer perspectives will change the way we behave in the short term, and that art, culture, and design are foundational in transforming the way we relate to each other, to the planet, and the ways we think about our collective role in shaping the future.

[1] Cristina Parreño Alonso, “Deep and Shallow Timescales of the Builtsphere,” Log magazine, 2022


Past Events

Exhibition: The Deep Time Project. Architecture as Planetary Abstraction
January 20 – February 28, 2023
MIT Wiesner Student Art Gallery
Stratton Student Center, MIT Building W20, Second floor
84 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

4.181 Architectural Design Workshop—The Deep Time Project
Offered Fall 2022
Tuesdays / 9:00am–12:00pm

Synchronous provocateurs:
Marcia Bjornerud Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World
Jimena Canales The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time
Joseph Bagley City of Boston Archaeology Laboratory
Richard Fisher BBC Future: Deep Civilisation
Dietmar Offenhuber Autography: Design for a Self-inscribing World
Bina Venkataraman The Optimist Telescope
David Farrier Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils 
Azra Akšamija Design to Live: Everyday Inventions from a Refugee Camp
Polysemic The Long Now London
Fairies Gray Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag, Mattapan Rhyolite Quarry


Cristina Parreño Alonso is an architect, designer, and senior lecturer at the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT, where her research Transtectonics explores the cultural and environmental implications of expanded temporal sensibilities in architectural material practice. She is the director of her eponymous architectural firm. Her work has been recently on view at the Schusev State Museum of Architecture in Moscow, and she was one of the architects selected to participate in the La Biennale di Venezia 2021.

Biography: MIT Department of Architecture
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