Terraforming

Projects Presentation and Screening, Venice Art Night 2021


The Terraforming is a postgraduate design-research think tank at the Strelka Institute for Media Architecture and Design (Moscow) investigating the past and future role of cities as the planetary network by which humans occupy the Earth’s surface. Each year, 30 international researchers join the program to work collaboratively in multidisciplinary groups to generate & translate new conceptual insights into provocative design projects and cinematic media outcomes.

In this talk, Strelka Program Co-Director Nicolay Boyadjiev will share some of the think tank’s design research approaches and screen a selection of the group’s latest work.

Screenings:

Future Premium (Предстоящая Выплата, 2021)
A research proposal framing insurance as a design medium for climate mitigation and governance

Current technologies of abstraction allow for the past to inform present human actions in order to produce viable futures. However, the understanding of the future as uncertain and volatile doesn’t match the way these technologies are deployed or the way climate-related risks are approached. Future Premium explores the ways humanity has conceptualized the future, the technologies that made these ideas possible, and the tools and policies it designed to manage chance and misfortune. Specifically, it focuses on the technologies of insurance and computer modeling and explores their historical, present-day, and possible future convergences. The project enquires whether when coupled with climate modeling, insurance can become a medium of climate mitigation and governance. The idea is based on the consideration that the future is deeply uncertain and therefore needs to be continuously produced and reproduced. Thus, insurance is approached as a tool of design rather than prevention. Future Premium identifies three aspects of the current insurance system that need to be taken into account when pondering the transition to insurance of the future: capital protection, uninsurability, and collectivization of risk. The proposition reveals the system’s implications for the realms of finance, spatial zoning, or governance.

KOSMOS / NEKROS (КОСМОС / НЕКРОС, 2021)
A visual essay interrogating the limits of human knowledge and experience through space/death

The only humans to have died in outer space are the three Russian cosmonauts of the Soyuz 11 Mission, 1971. To die in outer space is to approach two shared unknowns: the limit of the human in terms of its mortality, and our planetary limits in the extension of outer space. This historical interplay between space as both the realm of idealism and the crucible of technological development offers an interpretative framework for approaching questions of human finitude. How far the human can be untethered from its original context and propagate the planet outwards entails the reassessment of our epistemological frameworks and their implications for design. Kosmos and Nekros, therefore, emerge as shared boundary conditions that raise questions of the knowing and unknowing of the limits of human knowledge and experience. In moving beyond the sacralized images of the Blue Marble and the human as Vitruvian, our historical and contemporary imaginaries of space open to a new retelling through a systems view of life and death in the kosmos.

Terra-Collar Work (Терра Работа, 2021)
A speculative report outlining a new kind of work that draws from recent climate change projections and reframes the future of labor.

The Terra-Collar project provides a different view on the future of work, one that responds to the goal of staying below 2°C degrees by 2050. The project departs from the discussions about working hours reduction, nonwork advocacy, and transition of the entire labor force to coding and data science. Instead, it argues that future work will be tethered to the very material processes of climate change mitigation and adaptation. This new type of work necessarily strides away from the white and blue-collar distinctions and emerges as a new category of its own: Terra-Collar. Scaling up to the amount of produced carbon emissions and limiting global warming will require an effort equivalent to the largest terraforming project in human history. It will demand mass labor mobilization as well as new knowledge, skills, and jobs to appear and disseminate across the globe. The end of time narratives that describe the climate crisis has demonstrated their inability to instigate effective actions against the problems that become more tangible every year. A new story is needed for the times we inhabit, one that motivates action with the tools at our disposal.

Approaches To Community Building By Heart

Towards the beginning of the second cycle of the Non-Extractive Architecture residence Carolina Rubio and Yazmany Arboleda lead a community engagement workshop and shared the work of their practices. Carolina is an activist, immigration attorney, artist and the founder of Touching Land, a nonprofit organization that leverages studio art practices to engage with undocumented people in the United States whilst also educating them on their rights. Yazmany has undertaken public space projects around the world that center joy as a way of healing communities that have experienced conflict.

Carolina and Yazmany co-create their work with participants while proposing and creating critical interventions within existing social systems. Their use of mindfulness practice, kinesthetic and experiential arts, grounds the audience and brings their humanity to the forefront providing space for the act of imagining. Their work creates gestures that expose hierarchies and exchanges, inspire empowerment and catalyze social exchange. Because people and their relationships form the medium of their works – rather than a particular process of production – they will be doing a hands-on workshop and sharing stories from their practices that model why these practices are more necessary than ever. 

As part of the workshop Carolina and Yaz lead a series of sensorial exercises that allowed participants to access different memories and vulnerabilities. Among these was a unique exercise of playing with clay and answering the question, “What ideas could we model right now that would make Venice a better place?” Through this play based therapy many answers emerged including the importance of play space for children, accessibility for the differently abled, and better access to greenspace.

Design Against Crime at CSM London

Central Saint Martins University London

Earlier in the residency, mid-October 2021, I had the great pleasure of going to Central Saint Martins University in London to meet with Lorraine Gamman the director of the Design Against Crime Centre. The work of this innovative lab posits collaboration as a form of rehabilitation and skills-building for the incarcerated. The team delivers, “practice-led socially responsive design under the themes of Crime & Justice, Public Social Innovation, and Public Space.” This initiative is centered on the study of empathy, what it means, how it is generated, and why it is important.

Lorraine Gamman

Perhaps one of the most illustrative examples of DAC’s work is the Anti-theft purse Karrysafe which was co-designed in prison facilities with inmates and design fellows. The design leverages the pickpocket techniques the inmates previously employed, to create a bag that would foil said attempts. This project is quite remarkable as it goes beyond product design, to explore the series of events that brought these folks to prison. Then, through a collaborative design process with DAC fellows the bags were co-produced in the prison. Gamman hopes to eventually have a design school program implemented in London prisons, that not only create important products but also serve as a way of developing design and making skills that could serve the inmates upon their release.

Pollution Pods

While I was at CSM, I was able to experience the Pollution Pods created by Michael Pinsky they “features five geodesic domes, each containing a different environment and air quality, and will allow visitors to experience the clean air of Tautra in Norway, and pollution of New Delhi, Beijing, Sao Paulo and London.” This project follows the legacy of designing for empathy and a shared humanity at DAC. By asking us to consider the impact of pollution across environments the project asks the user who deserves a clean environment? While cheekly answering that urban pollution is a collective problem which requires collaboration and multilateralism.

The role of algae in the Venice Lagoon

From kelp to unicellular cyanobacteria, various species of algae populate the waters of Venice Lagoon. Native and invasive species compete, impacted by growing tourism industry and local effects of climate change. Algae blooms are mainly symptoms of some larger human-induced phenomena. At the same time, algae are frequently regarded as a miracle solution for energy sourcing, material production and reversing certain effects of pollution, thus creating a momentum in the biotechnological sector.

Beyond this dichotomy, algae are in fact a part of a more nuanced and complex picture. Atelier Luma made an effort to explore algae within the Venetian context in the course of a workshop in two parts which ran in parallel.

One group of researchers explored the algae landscape and its entanglements with natural, industrial and cultural networks of Venice. Considering the Lagoon ecology, urban infrastructures and various activities taking place in Venice, the workshop became an attempt to map the complex ecosystem existing around algae. Referencing vernacular knowledge and more recent projections on the potential of algae, we researched the place that algae have taken – or been given – in the Venice Lagoon and therefore outline the specific relation that the city has developed with the sea. Speculative scenarios around the role of algae in Venice were developed and discussed within the group.

Research directions: 

  • Algae as bioremediation (water treatment)
  • Algae as bioremediation (sewage management)
  • Algae cultivation
  • Algae as coastal protection
  • Carriers of algae

Another group explored the potential of materials derived from algae by means of phytoremediation techniques applied to the blooms in the Venice Lagoon. These composite materials were obtained through mixing algae with ceramics, cellulose or alginates. The team performed a set of tests to find an optimal mixture for 3D printing and other possible applications, focusing on physical, aesthetical and sensorial qualities and their limits.

The workshop was led by Anne-Claire Hostequin, Carlotta Borgato, Daniel Bell and Johanna Weggelaar from Atelier LUMA.

Atelier LUMA is a programme of LUMA Arles based on the Parc des Ateliers in Arles since 2017. Atelier Luma is a research design platform that focuses on the ecosystems of the Camargue bioregion and develops practical applications while promoting local natural and cultural resources.

Guests: Olivia Page, Soo Jung Ryu.

Phase 3 / Earth of the Venice Lagoon: from ground to printed architecture

During the final phase of the workshop, we 3D printed with the collected samples and discussed their possible application together with Alexandre Dubor.

As we ran manual tests before printing all the samples, it turned out to be slightly different with the WASP printer. The nozzle of the extruder is much smaller compared to the manual ones. Earth samples 1, 3 and 6 (see the description) had good consistency, and we were able to print basic cylinders to test. We didn’t succeed with Earth 4, and samples 2, 5 and 7 appeared to be problematic because of the amount of sand particles in the clay. The mixture was getting compact and stuck in the extruder. 

This research and experiments generated a lot of ethical questions concerning 3D printing using earth from the Venice Lagoon. These are the main ones that we identified: 

  • When it comes down to earth, what can we do with it – and, more importantly, should we do something with it?
  • Can we learn anything from the politics, both social and material, that apply to the Venice lagoon?
  • Can we produce building materials from contaminated sediments dredged from the canals?
  • Can 3D printing be an opportunity to restore the Lagoon’s ecosystem?

Interview: Luisella Romeo in conversation with Rhiarna Dhaliwal and Ibiye Camp

In June, I sat down with Ibiye Camp, a London-based artist and designer, and Luisella Romeo, a Venice native and registered city guide, to discuss the role and representation of black people in Venetian society and architecture.

Ibiye’s and my initial research on the objectification of black bodies as depicted across Venetian buildings led us to discovering the article Blackamoors in paintings, sculptures and jewels of Venice by Luisella Romeo. It delves into the historical roots of “blackamoors” and their role in Renaissance Venice, as well as dissects the historical context and presence of “blackamoors” in the decorations of the Doge Giovanni Pesaro’s tomb, which was the focal point of our research.

The tomb of Doge Giovanni Pesaro in the Basilica S.Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice, 1669. Photo by Rhiarna Dhaliwal, July 2021.

In this conversation, Ibiye Camp and myself use Luisella Romeo’s article as a starting point for a broader discussion about the Venice’s rich history of global trade and commerce, its role in slave trade between Eastern Europe, Western Europe and North Africa, and the artistic and historical context of the tomb of Giovanni Pesaro.

Luisella was born and raised in Venice and graduated from the University in Venice Ca’ Foscari in Foreign Languages and Literature. She has a background in Art History and Venice history and passionately writes for her SeeVenice blog that explores Venice history through a cultural lens.

For more information on Luisella Romeo, please check out: 

https://www.seevenice.it/en/

https://www.seevenice.it/en/blog/

Interview: Studio HOTmess in conversation with Rhiarna Dhaliwal

Studio HOTmess (Charlotte Moore + Maria Saeki) is a collaboration of two designers who have recently completed their MAs in Architecture at the Royal College of Art. Treading the borderline between spatial forms of art, architecture and product design, their practice uses site-specific research and material experiments to translate research into sensitive and social design outcomes that address the contemporary socio-bio-geophysical issues that humans and our natural environment currently face.

Studio HOTmess participated in exhibitions at San Mei Gallery (2020 & 2021), Dutch Design Week (2020), Leach 100 Raku Weekend (2020), London Design Festival with the V&A (2019), People’s Kitchen Day of Design (2019) and Palermo Manifesta Biennale (2018). Charlotte and Maria are currently commissioned by the White Gold Project to develop the Edible Hinterlands project.

In this presentation, Studio HOTmess discuss the Edible Hinterlands project in detail, focusing on the design and challenges they had to take in order to produce a façade that responds to the themes of non-extractive and slow architecture in real-world production economies.

Following this presentation, we enter into a conversation, reflecting on the role of architecture and locality in design, labour and agency of humans and non-humans.

For more information about Studio HOTmess work, please check out: 

https://www.instagram.com/studio.hotmess/

https://studiohotmess.com/

Interview: Feifei Zhou in conversation with Rhiarna Dhaliwal and Connor Cook

Feifei Zhou, co-editor of Feral Atlas in conversation with Rhiarna Dhaliwal and Connor Cook

In June, Connor Cook and I had the pleasure of speaking to Feifei Zhou, a Chinese artist/architect based between China and London. Feifei was a guest researcher at Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA), working alongside Anna Tsing (author of The Mushroom at the End of the World). Her works explore spatial, cultural and ecological impact of the industrialized environment. Recently, she has finished co-editing the digital publication Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene together with Anna Tsing, Jennifer Deger and Alder Keleman Saxena, which was published in October 2020.

In this conversation, we discussed the process of developing Feral Atlas, the role of drawing as a means of representation, and what architects can learn by working in interdisciplinary teams.

For more information about Feifei’s work, please check out: 

https://www.feifeizhou.com/

https://feralatlas.org/

Interview: Feral Partnerships in conversation with Rhiarna Dhaliwal

In July, I had the pleasure of speaking to Matthew Darmour-Paul, James Powell, Enrico Brondelli di Brondello and Beth Fisher Levine of Feral Partnerships, a collective that was born out of frustration with professional and academic practice standards in architecture around ecological and biodiversity loss.

The Feral Partnerships project entitled The Architecture of Multispecies Cohabitation creates an archive of buildings designed for humans and other species in order to inspire new possibilities for building worlds with the other-than-human in mind. The work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the University of Sydney’s Tin Sheds Gallery from April to June 2021.

In this presentation and interview with Feral Partnerships, we look at these stories for inspiration. How can architecture play a part in fostering a more caring attitude towards our non-human neighbours?

Following this presentation, we enter into a conversation reflecting on the role of architecture in multispecies cohabitation and caring about non-human life.

For more information about Feral Partnerships and their works, please check out: 

https://feralpartnerships.com/

https://www.sydney.edu.au/architectur…

https://www.londonfestivalofarchitect…

Phase 2 / Earth in the Venice Laguna: from ground to printed architecture

At the beginning of Phase 2 of the workshop, we had a presentation by Elisabetta Carnevale about her work, 3D printing and rammed earth techniques applications in modern architecture.

After that, we proceeded with the testing of the samples collected during the first phase. We evaluated six samples based on viscosity, consistency, amount of sand and clay particles to find the best one for 3D printing.  For each sample, a series of empirical tests was conducted involving smell, sound, touch and water. As the next step, we tested manual 3D printing and defined the most promising options for the next phase of the workshop. Of course, it was important to keep in mind which samples could or could not be used depending on their location in the Venetian Lagoon. 

EARTH 1 / Salt Marsh 

  1. Rough, sandy texture (noisy) 
  2. Mixed colours – grey and yellow
  3. Smells like iron 
  4. Not very organic 
  5. Has a good amount of clay 
  6. Creamy and oily

EARTH 2 / Sant Erasmo (organic) 

  1. Darker colour, meaning there’s organic matter 
  2. Presence of clay 
  3. Rough texture 
  4. Not very noisy 
  5. Smells organic (but probably still unstable) 
  6. Would need to be sieved/crushed for printing 
  7. Doesn’t have a lot of clay 
  8. A lot of silt 

EARTH 3 / San Giacomo (excavation)

  1. Contains a lot of clay 
  2. Not very sandy 
  3. Smells slightly organic 
  4. Plastic state 
  5. Very fine silt 
  6. Very creamy, with some medium aggregates 

EARTH 4 / Sant Erasmo (sandy) 

  1. Organic, sandy, rough 
  2. Feels even, doesn’t have larger aggregates 
  3. Sounds gritty/sandy
  4. Mushroom smell (organic)
  5. Doesn’t have much clay (doesn’t hold water very well and doesn’t keep its shape) 

EARTH 5 / Unused dredged sediment 

  1. Feels uneven 
  2. Two colors: blue/green + brown/yellow
  3. Not organic
  4. Humid, almost in the plastic state
  5. Doesn’t smell 
  6. Small amount of sand, very fine salt  

EARTH 6 / Freshly deposited dredged sediments  

  1. Very soft and smooth 
  2. There is some sand 
  3. Very humid
  4. Slight organic smell, suggesting small content of organic matter
  5. Has a lot of clay 
  6. Particularly sticky 

EARTH 7 / Garden Soil

  1. Slightly dry
  2. Smells very organic/earthy
  3. Presence of roots 
  4. Rocks and larger sediments 
  5. Low content of clay – absorbs some water, not quite easy to mould
  6. Rocks make it harder to mould