Air, Architecture + Other Climates

[50.9193° : Climate Futures] - 20/21
John Cook, Ben Pollock + Laura Nica

Commencing September 2021...


Overview

For the past two years DS18 has carried out its investigations through the realms of air and atmosphere in the context of our global climate and ecological emergency. Commencing in Norway and the Arctic regions, we studied the role atmospheric change plays in the reshaping of territories and ecosystems, and the accelerating tensions generated between human and non-human life. In the second year we returned to the UK to focus on the singular carbon component of air, exploring how this element has generated the physical and cultural fabric of our energy abundant society, as well as the transitioning potential of industries towards a ‘de-carbonised’ future. But as the recent IPCC report has made abundantly clear, we are now beyond the point where a gradual transition will suffice. To arrest our current decline towards irreversible environmental breakdown, we must consider a more urgent re-imagining of our society and practices - from one of Carbon-form towards Climate-form[1].

For the concluding year of these atmospheric studies, DS18 will apply our developed learnings, research and design methodologies through a detailed, critical and urgent place-based investigation. We will explore the concept of Climate-form by questioning the future role of architecture throughout and beyond our inevitable and imminent environmental collapse. To imagine how buildings might respond and engage with the evolving climatic disturbances of their locality. To consider how design could contribute within reformed and de-carbonised societal models founded upon new attitudes towards ownership, measures of value, and environmental stewardship. And beyond this, to speculate how landscapes and infrastructures may provide hope for future climatic restoration and repair.


Site

The site for this years enquiry focuses upon the southern coastal headland of Dungeness. This unique and precarious region presents a microcosm of the physical, socio-economic and ecological conflicts that climate degradation presents within the UK and beyond.
Formed from the accumulation of sediment between contested tidal currents over thousands of years, the geomorphology of Dungeness has generated diverse and globally unique swathes of dunes, saline lagoons, marshlands and ridges. These varied terrains bear their own delicate but strangely extreme micro-climates and ecosystems, hosting an exceptional array of rare and endangered bird, invertebrate and plant life. Conversely its shingled coastline requires artificial retaining through the manual mass movement of its own material, providing protection from oceanic forces to a hive of inland industry past and present. This managed landscape of golf courses, quarries, sewers and reserves, once formed an important observational and fuelling outpost during the war, and a historical proving ground for the development of new technologies. Presently it hosts one of the UK’s most prolific nuclear power plants, Dungeness B, though now entering an unplanned early decommissioning phase due to irreparable failures [2].

In spite of this, according to even the most conservative projections, this productive and environmentally critical landscape could be decimated or entirely lost before the end of this century through the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. As these coastal communities brace for a future of uncertainty, it is here we will initiate our investigations, amongst the contradictions and connections between environment and economics, the natural and the managed, between habitats, industries, humanity and other climates.


Process

We will commence the year through a detailed site led investigation, analysing the region through specifically assigned thematics. Through a series of guided technical workshops, we will a deconstruct these landscape systems, using hybridised cartographies to identify their nodes, regions and networks, as well as the critical parameters of their climatic balance. We will employ digital and physical simulation tools to isolate these conditions, to study their energy and material flows, and use these processes to inform design strategies responsive to both the projected and speculative evolving circumstances of their environment. In semester two, encapsulating your primary field trip research and developed skill-sets, you will independently formulate your major design thesis.

This year, in collaboration with units at the AA, RCA and Greenwich University, DS18 will be contributing to the pilot year of a novel SuperStudio centred around the UK’s prospective Green New Deal. Through shared resources, events and publication opportunities, your design projects will be tasked to set themselves within, and critically examine the opportunities or deficiencies of this new socio-economic framework, against the more radical ideals of degrowth. As the increasingly violent effects of atmospherically driven climate change threatens to destabilise our coastal regions, we ask what future does this hold for their habitats and communities, one of retreat, defence or adaptation? Through this, could their recoveries birth new collective typologies and public infrastructures based upon a responsibility towards our planetary limits, a just energy balance sourced from non-extractive origins, and a collaborative replenishment of our global commons?

1] Lizzie Yarina (2019) Toward Climate Form, Log 47: Overcoming Carbon Form, Anyone Corporation, p.85-92
2] ‘Dungeness B: Kent’s last nuclear power station closes early’, 8 June 2021, BBC South East



See Past Studios:

2020-2021: Carbon Transitions, UK
2019-2020: +Other Climates, Norway