Liam Young, 29 05 14

Sign Up Here! Applications close June 6th. Open to All.

The Unknown Fields Division is a nomadic design studio that ventures out on expeditions to the ends of the earth to explore peripheral landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness. These distant landscapes – the iconic and the ignored, the excavated, irradiated and the pristine – are embedded in global systems that connect them in surprising and complicated ways to our everyday lives. Each year we navigate a different global supply chain and seek to map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures. Past journeys have traversed the mines of Madagascar and the Australian outback, the faded nuclear futures of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and the black military technologies and conspiracy theorists of the Nevada desert and Burning Man Festival.

This year we travel East to ride the waves of massive container ships and trace the shadows of the world’s desires along supply chains and cargo routes, to explore the dispersed choreographies and atomised geographies that global sea trade brings into being. These are the contours of our distributed city, stretched around the earth from the hole in the ground to the high street shelf. Consignments of the precious and industrial, raw and refined, mechanical and alive, drift across infrastructural seas on vast Panamax, Aframax and Suezmax from cavernous factory floors via huge ports like Shanghai, Singapore and Busan and through the bottleneck excavations of Panama and Suez. Our journey to Asia will take us behind the scenes of our modern world, cutting a cross section through the secret lives of products, where intense pockets of activity in wildly unexpected places supply cultures far removed with the fulfilment of their every need and desire. Joining us on our journey will be international collaborators and specialists from the worlds of design, technology, science, art and fiction, and together we will form a travelling circus of research visits, field reportage, rolling discussions and impromptu tutorials that will be chronicled in a publication and film.

Eligibility- The Unknown Fields summer expedition is open to all architects, designers, artists, writers and interested parties, students or professionals. A portfolio or CV is not required, only the online application form and payment.

Fees- All inclusive Expedition fee: £1600, which includes flights from London, all internal transport, accommodation, entrance fees, meetings, consultants, workshops and all other group costs (excludes meals). Please note: If you are based in Asia you can meet Unknown Fields on location and we can arrange a reduced fee that excludes return flights from London.

+ £60 Architectural Association Membership. If you are already a member of the AA, this is not required.

contact info(at) with any questions.



Darryl Chen, 27 07 08

[originally published in Architectural Review, Feb 2003]

Shanghai presents a unique almost control-model kind of urban subject matter among world metropolises. It is a city which after experiencing incredible economic prosperity through the turn of the nineteenth century froze its free market development under thirty years of failed socialist revolution, and then started again on an accelerating trajectory towards capitalist ideals. The city currently exists in a giddy state of equilibrium between government control and market forces, the monolithic state regime acting as a valve for releasing massive forces which would otherwise send the country into a multi-directional frenzy of socio-economic instability. (more…)


Darryl Chen, 21 07 08

Beijing is a north-south city – rational in its conception and linked to a fundamental cartesian logic. How can this clarity so evident in plan form – in its planning under a single eye – be so different to the experience of being on the ground? This is invariably an experience of not being on the surface of a geometric formation, but within a realm with extra-geometrical complexity – a spatial experience borne not out of a complex extrapolation of three-dimensional form, but a dense presence of phenomenonlogical factors.