“To exist, to reach equilibrium, life seeks to multiply and vary constantly at times giving up its life. Cells continue the process of death and regeneration being constantly reborn as they age. And when it comes time to die, all the data it possesses is lost leaving behind only its genes and its offspring. All defense against catastrophic failure of an inflexible system.” –Ghost in the Shell 1995
This conundrum viewed through the lens of Timothy Morton is being born ‘out of phase’ with our own existence. Humanity has an uncanny relationship with the Hyperobjects we’ve catalyzed. Very literally, at a site east of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the ecosystem is in recoil from such an event. The abandoned geographies created in proximity to the incident have an uncanny relationship to the scale (time-wise) of the disaster. Because 1 human lifetime is not enough for the landscape to completely recover, a more appropriately scaled companion to the process would be an architectural intervention.
The necessity of labs in the proximity of the plant is straightforward: to observe the reaction of the ecosystem and apply research to the rehabilitation effort. The public, with less understanding than the scientists, require an exhibit of the destruction, preservation, and amplification of the natural scenery and flora/fauna therein. The beauty of the human brain is that we are only born out of phase, and by learning about our environment we effectively expand how big “our environment” is. The DEM dissolves the Hyperobject and feeds it back to the inhabitants. We must remember though that we are only seeing through a glass, and darkly.
A deployable frame and folding barrier contain the building. Redeploying across the landscape as political/safety boundaries recede, the trail of its progress is marked by a funicular rail system growing from 0m to 17km over the span of the project. The DEM navigates the peaks and valleys of the surrounding area, changing its position over time in order to observe the variety of environments local to the disaster. The progress of the DEM’s deployment drives curatorial content much like the Guggenheim Lab, if it were set at the end of an abandoned mountain parkway.
Remember that dorky girl in 4th grade who went to Europe over the summer with her family and then came back in 5th having gone through puberty in its entirety and looking completely different? You know, the one with the hot mom who she totally takes after and it’s only just now become noticeable? Yeah that’s Shenzhen, and the mother is Hong Kong. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Shenzhen was (it’s more like 20 years, but that’s beside the point. Go read the Wikipedia if you want cursory details like that). The city of Shenzhen exhibits very well exactly what is happening to China as a whole: the rapid growth, the industrialization, the creation of community and culture that has exclusively been imported over the last two-three decades. The relevance of this type of urbanization to our studio was immediately evident, being a ‘knock off’ of every Chinese city. Because it developed so quickly, there wasn’t a contextual influence of the immediate area to shape Shenzhen. Rather, it was China as a whole (with of course, some western flavor) that cast its mold. These are among the reasons for why the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture was held here. One site is in a repurposed glass factory with amazing interiors that resemble a mixture of elements from the industrial revolution, Vesuvius’ destruction of Pompei, and a museum from the movie Tron. I bet Gordon Matta-Clark would be proud of what became of this place. It is a great distillation of the Shenzhen spirit, a place where “Human drive creates value”*, that some architects conveniently displayed as a Biennale.
*:Ole Bouman, creative director of the 5th Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture Shenzhen.