Browsing Category 'WINTER 2008'

I am pleased to announced that Wen Ying Teh and her project from the UNKNOWN FIELDS DIVISION WINTER 2008 studio at ‘Necessary Monsters’ has been awarded the RIBA 2009 Bronze Medal. The studio have trawled the wilds of genetic modification, augmented bodies and neo biological invention to query today’s idealistic and preservationist views of the natural world. For three weeks we voyaged south, following Darwin’s expedition to the Galapagos Islands and South America. We discovered a precious and fragile wilderness teetering at the point of collapse, an ecology in crisis, bearing the scars of a ravenous tourist economy. Projects were developed in this context as critical tools to instigate debate and raise questions about architectural practice in relation to the social and political consequences of various environmental and technological futures.  Read below for an exert of the project or explore it in full on the RIBA website.

An existing salt mine sits as a scar on the Galapagos Landscape. Once the natural habitat of Flamingos, this salt lake has long been a desolate space ravaged by the nearby restaurant industry. The Galapagos is caught between its massive contribution to the Ecuadorian economy and its value as a historic wilderness.

This project is conceived of as a provocation and speculation on how these two demands may be hybridized as an alternative to the typical conservationist practices applied across the islands. The two traditionally mutually exclusive programs of salt farming and Flamingo habitat are re imagined as a new form of symbiotic designed ecology; a pink wonderland, built from colored bacteria and salt crystallization, dissolving and reshaping itself with seasonal and evaporative cycles. The building becomes an ecosystem in itself, completely embedded in the context that surrounds it.

Formed from fine webs of nylon fibers held in an aluminum frame, this strange string instrument allows the salt farming process to be drawn up out of the lake, returning it to the endemic flamingos whilst at the same time ensuring the continuation of a vital local industry. Using just capillary action, salt water from the lake crystallizes on the tension strings forming glistening, translucent enclosures. It encrusts the infrastructure of a flamingo observation hide and solidifies into a harvestable field ready to be scraped clean by miners.

The project has been developed through scale models that were used as host structures for an in depth series of crystallization experiments. Material erosion, spatial qualities, structurally capacity and evaporative cycles were all determined through physical testing. The architecture and its physical models grew slowly across time, emerging from the salt waters they were immersed in, to become fully developed crystalline structures.

The Galapagos is an ecology in crisis. The project is positioned as part documentary, part science fiction offering both a rigorous technical study and a speculative near future wilderness. An evolving future for the islands is imagined and it demands an evolved and mutated architecture.

On new Years Eve in Ecuador the city makes puppets of chracters from the year past and burns them in the streets. The Unknown Fields Division walked admidst the flames before setting of into the Amazon.

Lago Agrio translates as ‘Sour Lake’ named after the site of the texaco headquarters in the US. It is a frontier town for oil workers carved out of the Amazon Jungle. We visited it before our voyage along the river,  into the the depths of the Jungle to stay with native tribes.

“Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.” J.G. Ballard

A dark menagerie inhabits the pages of Borges’ “Book of Imaginary Beings”.  This register of curious specimens forms a zoo of mythology, a miscellany of ‘necessary monsters’ that are imbued with the dreams and fears of those who conjured them.  These monsters inhabit both the realms of nature and culture ‘slipping suggestively’ between the actual and the imagined – a ‘combinatory capacity’ of infinite and unsettling possibilities. 

 Necessary excursions into myth and play can disrupt the surface of the familiar to reveal gaps of useful uncertainty.  We can then wander off the map, through the speculative landscapes of science fiction, on a future safari into brave new worlds that have mutated from our own.

The Unknown Fields Division navigates this critical space between the real and the imagined, a space where architecture can enter into new relations with the territories of science and fiction.  We will survey foreign fields whether literary, biological or electronic and experiment with devices such as futurology, film, gaming, animation, photography, exquisite drawing and meticulous making. We will consider the mythic dimensions of emerging technologies as a way of critically engaging with the conditions of today and the coming of tomorrow.

This year the Unknown Fields Division will trawl the wilds of genetic modification, augmented bodies and neo biological invention to query today’s idealistic and preservationist views of the natural world. We will re-imagine the quiet mysteries of wilderness as we encounter the novel reality of engineered ‘monsters’ and manufactured landscapes.

Our projects will be ‘necessary monsters’, fashioned through speculation and projection. As critical instruments they will instigate debate and raise questions about architectural practice in relation to the social and political consequences of various environmental and technological futures. It would seem that ‘going mad is the only way of staying sane’.

“The Dream of Reason Breeds Monsters.” Francisco Goya

 08/09 Division Roster.

Leaders: Liam Young and Kate Davies

Troops: Soonil Kim, Kin Po Ho, Stefano Branca , Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu, Faraz Anoushahpour, Costantino Bertone di Sambuy, Ben William Eayrs, Brian Fung, Tala Fustok, Octave Perrault, Heng Yeen Sit, Wen Ying Teh