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Liam Young, 21 05 13


Sign Up Now! Applications close June 14th. Open to All.

Tomorrows Thoughts Today’s Liam Young’s co run studio the Unknown Fields Division is launching the call for applications for their 2013 summer expedition to Madagascar. 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 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 they navigate a different trajectory as we seek to map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures.

In times past an anarchist community of pirates called Madagascar home.  It was an island beyond the law and off the map, a place of rogues, booty and bounties. These were outlaws moored on a marooned ecosystem. Set adrift 88 million years ago, the island is a castaway in the Indian Ocean, inhabited by a band of ecological stowaways. In this splendid isolation it has evolved into an unparalleled wonderland of the weird and unique, diverse and unbelievable.

A political coup in 2009 left the country adrift once more – isolated from the international community, deprived of foreign aid and conservation funding. One of the planet’s most precious ecological treasures is home to one of its poorest nations and it raises difficult and complex questions about the relationship between necessity and luxury. Amidst political uncertainty, the island’s fragile and unique ecology is being smuggled out illegally, boat by boat, gem by gem. Rare tortoises leave in rucksacks, forests are carved into the ebony fingerboards on Gibson Guitars or $1million rosewood beds sold in China.

In the run up to the country’s first election since the coup Unknown Fields heads to Madagascar to catalogue the push and pull of economy and ecology and to trace the shadows of the world’s desires across the landscapes of this treasured island.  Along our way we seek to uncover some of the complex value negotiations that play out across this unique island and craft new stories from statistics, data, predictions, projections, measurements and offsets.

The Division will venture through wild west sapphire towns and mining landscapes and trek through rainforests ringing with the song of the Indri in search of rare and undiscovered treasures, a menagerie of preciousness and scarcity, of rubies, minerals and exotic spices, of ring tailed Lemurs, ‘octopus’ trees, and carnivorous plants; of pigmy chameleons, tomato frogs and moon moths. We will travel by plane and pirogue, train and taxi-brousse, from rough roads to rough seas, to fishing villages and up rivers silted with eroded soils. Unknown Fields will reimagine a territory that is equally wondrous and scarred as we follow the trail of global resource extraction into the heart of the most unique ecosystem on the planet.

Joining them on tour will be international collaborators from the worlds of technology, science 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 developed en route.

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.

Applications

The deadline for applications is 14 June 2013. Application forms and additional information are available online at: www.aaschool.ac.uk/unknownfields and applications can be submitted to: visitingschool@aaschool.ac.uk or contact info@unknownfieldsdivision.com for questions. All participants travelling from abroad are responsible for securing any visa required. After payment of fees, the AA can provide a letter confirming participation in the workshop.

All inclusive Expedition fee: £1500, 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 closer to Madagascar you can meet Unknown Fields on location in Antananarivo 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.

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Liam Young, 19 01 12


Liam Young and Kate Davies, leaders of the Architectural Association’s award winning Unknown Fields Division, have announced a recruitment drive for their next public nomadic studio which will run from 20 Aug – 01 Sep 2012. You have until July to SIGN UP! Last year the division travelled on a cross section through landscapes of obsolete futures from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, through the Ukraine and the oil fields of Azerbaijan to rocket launch pad of kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrone. This year go in search of Alien Encounters on a roadtrip from Mexican Border towns and the Roswell UFO crash site, through Area 51 to the Burning Man Festival.

Unknown Fields is a nomadic studio that throws open the doors of the AA and sets off on an annual expedition to the ends of the earth exploring unreal and forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies. Each year we navigate a different global cross-section and map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures. You will be both visionaries and reporters, part documentarian and part science-fiction soothsayers as the otherworldly sites we encounter will afford us a distanced viewpoint from which to survey the consequences of emerging environmental and technological scenarios.

This year the Division will be heading off on a reconnaissance road trip to chronicle a series of extraterrestrial encounters from the borderlands, black sites, military outposts and folkloric landscapes of the United States. From the ‘illegal aliens’ of the New Mexico border towns we will head north exploring territories of negotiation and conflict, zones of transgression, suspicion and speculation. We will rumble along the UFO highway, past the mythic territories of Area 51, listening to tall tales from conspiracy theorists amidst the sonic booms crackling in the quiet desert air.

We will visit covert military test sites and the alien technologies of the aeronautics industry as we shape our own experimental craft to launch in the skies above the psychedelic community of the Burning Man Festival, where our journey ends. By the bonfires we will examine the mysteries and conspiracies that surround what lies off the map, off-grid and below the radar as we propose new truths and expose alternative fictions.

Joining us on our travels will be a troupe of collaborators from the worlds of technology, science and fiction including Geoff Manaugh [BLDGBLOG], Nicola Twilley [Edible Geography], futurist Stuart Candy and UFOologist, folklorist and author Mark Pilkington. Together we will form a travelling circus of research visits, field reportage, rolling discussions and impromptu tutorials that will be chronicled in an annual publication and travelling exhibition. Throughout our journey the Division will identify opportunities for tactical intervention and speculative invention as we examine the unknown fields between truth and fiction.

Enlist now before all the postiions are filled! Email l.young (at) tomorrowsthoughtstoday.com with any questions.

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Liam Young, 05 05 11


Liam Young and Kate Davies, leaders of the Architectural Association’s award winning Unknown Fields Division, have announced a recruitment drive for their new annual nomadic studio which will run from 11-22 July. You have until May 20th to SIGN UP! You can check all the costs and arrangements on this flyer and then you can sign up now to join them on an extraordinary design research expedition through the unknown fields that lie between nature and technology and collaborate with Volume magazine and Phillips Technologies on the production of an annual publication and touring exhibition. This first year takes them on a cross section through landscapes of obsolete futures from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, through the Ukraine and the oil fields of Azerbaijan to rocket launch pad of kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrone.

THE UNKNOWN FIELDS DIVISION is a nomadic studio that sets off on an annual expedition to the ends of the earth exploring forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies. Each year we navigate a different global cross-section and map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures. We are both visionaries and reporters as the sites we encounter will afford us a distanced viewpoint from which to survey the consequences of emerging environmental and technological scenarios.

This year, on the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight, we will pack our Geiger counters and space Suits as we chart a course from the atomic to the cosmic to investigate the unknown fields between the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor in the Ukraine and Gagarin’s launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. BBeginning in the shadows of nuclear disaster we will survey the irradiated wilderness and bear witness to a sobering apocalyptic vision. We will skirt the retreating tide of the Aral Sea and mine the ‘black gold’ in the Caspian oilfields and caviar factories. We will wander through the cotton fields of Kazakhstan and tread the ancient silk road before reaching the shores of the cosmic ocean bathed in the white light of satellites blasting into tomorrow’s sky. In these shifting fields of nature and artifice we will re-examine our preservationist and conservationist attitudes toward the natural world and document a cross-section through a haunting landscape of the ecologically fragile and the technologically obsolete.

Joining us on our travels will be a troupe of collaborators, photographers and filmakers from the worlds of technology, science and fiction including the Phillips Technologies Design Probes research Lab and Archis/Volume magazine.

Together we will form a travelling circus of research visits, field reportage, rolling discussions, and impromptu tutorials.  Across our journey The Unknown Fields Division will identify opportunities for tactical intervention and speculative invention that will be chronicled in an annual publication and travelling exhibition. It is a unique opportunity to be a part of an extraordinary research project that will examine the Unknown Fields between cultivation and nature and spin cautionary tales of a new kind of wilderness.

Enlist now before all the postiions are filled! Email l.young (at) tomorrowsthoughtstoday.com with any questions.

Eligibility

The workshop is open to anyone from anywhere. No pre requisites are necessary.

Applications

The deadline for applications is 01 June 2011. Application forms and additional information are available online here and more information can be found at:www.unknownfieldsdivision.com.   All participants are responsible for securing any visas required for entry to Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan and are advised to contact their home embassy early. After payment of fees, the AA School can provide a letter confirming participation in the workshop. Applicants are advised to contact the AA as soon as possible in order to apply and confirm a place, as space is limited. Places can only be reserved upon receipt of a completed application form and full fees, sent to Sandra Sanna, Administrative Coordinator of the AA Visiting School at visitingschool@aaschool.ac.uk

Schedule & Venue

The school runs from 11 to 22 July and will begin at our London rally point before travelling by land, sea and air on a landscape cross section from the Chernobyl Exclusion zone in the Ukraine to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazaksthan. This is an immersive, travelling studio with a fixed itinerary requiring full-time participation. Workshops will be conducted en route at a series of unique venues conducted by an ensemble of collaborators who will be joining us on the expedition.

Accommodation & Costs

The AA Visiting School requires a fee of £650 per participant which includes a £50 Visiting Student Membership, made payable to the AA School of Architecture. As a unique travelling studio Unknown Fields has packaged all costs of our extensive travel itinerary including all flights from and returning to London, internal travel from Chernobyl to Baikonur, all accommodation, entrance fees, permits and workshops into one additional fee of £900. Participants need to bring their own laptops, camera equipment and working materials. Please ensure that all equipment you are bringing is covered by insurance. The AA School takes no responsibility for items lost or stolen whilst travelling to/from or attending the workshop.

More Information

Programme Directors: Liam Young and Kate Davies
Academic Coordinator AA Global School: Christopher Pierce:
Global and Visiting School Coordinator: Sandra Sanna

T          +44 20 7887 4014

E          visitingschool@aaschool.ac.uk

[image credit Baikonour- NASA/Bill Ingalls, Chernobyl- source unknown, Azerbaijan- Crude Awakening]

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Liam Young, 18 10 10


Tomorrows Thoughts Today’s Liam Young and Liquid Factory’s Kate Davies have just launched the 10/11 Diploma 6 programme for their Unknown Fields Division studio at the Architectural Association. The studio outline is below.

‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ Arthur C. Clarke

This year the Unknown Fields Division continues to enter into new relations with the territories of science, nature and fiction. We explore the complex, rich and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures and probe our preservationist and conservationist attitudes toward the natural world. In our  Galapagos Island studio we mused on evolution,  last year in the Arctic we contemplated the end of the world and now we look toward strange new beginnings as we embark on a voyage to bear witness to the reinvention of nature through technology in the Australian Never-Never. 

The Division will head off on a dust blown road trip across Australia, into the vast and mysterious interior of this remote island continent in search of its ancient tribal hinterlands and its vast techno-landscapes. This land of rich resources and sparsely inhabited expanses houses huge feats of engineering; technological incisions into the narrative landscape of the Dreamtime – the creation mythology of the indigenous Aboriginals. Stories and ceremonies of dreaming beings that once shaped the sacred sites of mountain ranges and river-beds are now spun with the ghosts of modern technologies. 

Here beneath the Southern Cross, telescopes listen to the beep-beep from alien worlds, solar arrays track the sun, observatories scan the Milky Way and all the while, machines harvest the earth for the precious ingredients of our daily lives. We will venture ‘out back’ into a hidden terrain – a strange landscape behind the scenes of modern living – visiting the vast mines of the interior, stalking mechanical beasts the size of buildings and exploring excavations the size of cities. Violent gestures of accelerated geology employed across these vast expanses create landscapes of erasure, excavation and re-articulation. Towering mountains of tailings, articulated valleys and vast lakes emerge from these incisions; re-made as new nature.  We will be both visionaries and reporters, critically engaged with the conditions of today through speculation about the coming of tomorrow. Clambering over the wreckage of the future, our architecture will operate in the no-man’s land between the cultivated and the natural: a new Dreaming for a new kind of wilderness.

Image credit: Space Project by Vincent Fournier

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Darryl Chen, 06 11 09


Darryl Chen (Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today) and Elena Pascolo (Urban Projects Bureau) have just launched a unit in the Bartlett’s MArch Urban Design programme. Riffing on Colin Fournier’s overall course brief of Urban Fiction, we’ll be exploring the dark side of urbanism via a rigged Spanish Inquisition-like investigation of the spatial type. Download here, or read on….

Horse+Pig, Speedism

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

We find strangeness in the city all around us. Often the strangest and most flawed cities are the most compelling. From crime-riddled New York of the 70s, class-segregated Rio de Janeiro, hyperdense Hong Kong, and the synthetically artificial Tokyo, all are conditions of excess – often excesses of things that were good to begin with, but have become corrupted. Yet something about these cities makes them perversely attractive. Is it here we glimpse the true essence of urbanity? While we want to act upon the city with good intentions, there is no avoiding its byproducts, ruins, and failures. (more…)

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Liam Young, 19 10 09


This year’s edition of Liam Young’s and Kate Davie’s Intermediate 7 design studio at the Architectural Association has just launched. Read on for this year’s agenda and watch this space as last years ‘Necesary Monsters’ studio projects will be posted shortly.

The end of The World and Other Bedtime Stories

‘The End of the Universe is very popular’, said Zaphod… ‘People like to dress up for it… Gives it a sense of occasion.’ – Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

We stare out through Hubble at the light from the creation of the universe. At CERN we hurl electrons at each other looking for clues to its beginning only to set in motion our collective anxieties about our demise in black-hole oblivion. We sit in wait for the end of the world. We have always regaled ourselves with unnerving tales of a day yet to come. Tomorrow is a dark place and our culture is full of tales of a natural world out of control. Whether it be nuclear apocalypse, viral epidemic, tumbling asteroids or eco catastrophe our anxieties about our future demise chronicle the flaws and frailties of the everyday.

This year Inter 7 continues to slip suggestively between the real and the imagined, in the space where architecture enters into new relations with the territories of science and fiction. It is an experience of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures. Last year in the living wunderkammer of the Galapagos Islands, we explored the origin of the species and breathed life into a menagerie of architectural monsters. This year we will once again investigate our preservationist and conservationist attitudes toward the natural world but this time we embark on a voyage to bear witness to the alien landscapes of technology. We have mused on evolution and now we will flirt with extinction.

We will set forth on a psychedelic road trip, a last chance saloon tour of sites at their point of collapse. We will clamber over the wreckage of the future to visit a no-man’s land between cultivation and nature and spin a cautionary tale of a new kind of wilderness. Here the radio crackles, skies darken, the weather warms, grey goo seeps from between the cracks, mutant crops roam free – it’s a beautiful day in the strange landscapes that lie behind the scenes of modern living.

Our projects may be militant solutions or last gasp redemptions; a call to arms or a head in the sand; swan songs, manifestos or glorious celebrations in the shadow of an imminent end. We will be both visionaries and reporters, part documentary and part science fiction, we will critically engage with the conditions of today through speculation about the coming of tomorrow. Standing at the brink we will contemplate an end that is laden with fears and inconsistencies yet at the same time proves to be ripe with unknown escapes and wondrous possibilities.

“The collapse of the stellar universe will occur– like creation– in grandiose splendor.” – Blaise Pascal

(more…)

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Liam Young, 20 10 08


Invisible Man by Jeff Wall

“Going mad is the only way of staying sane.”  J.G.Ballard

In addition to the design studio I am running at the Architectural Association I am also running a studio with Paolo Zaide at the Bartlett school of Architecture.

 The Studio is titled Altered States. The studio outline follows.

Lost on strange islands suspended within the familiar spaces of the everyday is the vagabond troupe of DIY eccentrics, adventurers and malcontents who conjure their own atlas of Micronations. These fictional states vary in physical scale from the islands of 17th century pirate utopias, to an abandoned anti air craft tower in the middle of the North Sea or the sitting room of an anonymous flat in east London. ‘They merge fact, myth and speculation in their embrace of a parallel world, motivated by political subterfuge, legal loopholes, an immoderate love of royal titles, or a disenchantment with the commonplace.’*

This year Unit 6 will author our own archipelago of fictional states. We will navigate this critical space between the actual and the imagined, a space where architecture can enter into new relations with the territories of science and fiction. We will wander off the map, through the speculative landscapes of dreams and desires, on a future safari into brave new worlds that have mutated from our own. These projective states will actually be readings of the world we are now in, an experience of the present as a site of possible futures. Projects will slip suggestively between mistakes, myths and lies – a ‘combinatory capacity’ of infinite and unsettling possibilities. (more…)

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Liam Young, 21 09 08


This is Gurmail Virdee’s student project form a Diploma Thesis studio I ran last year. The project was just submitted as a silver nominee for the RIBA Presidents Medals. you can view the entry online here. An extract from his work follows.

The project is developed as an experiment in the tangible applications of complex system theory by designing an intelligent, collective corporate organism.

Scripting and animation studies inform the swarming and parasitic behaviour of a designed ecology of schizophrenic robots. By responding to daily, weekly and seasonal cycles the robots aggregate to create volumes and surfaces supporting both the corporate and public life of the surrounding city. The result is a ‘strange nature’ of emergent species, a bio-artificial wilderness of interactive environments and habitable digital landscapes.

Design strategies are tested in the real context of Wall Street, across three ascending scales, from the individual robot specimens and their local interactions to the generic office floor plate and ultimately the adjacent New York streetscape.

It is an intriguing project that poses questions and probes uncertain possibilities. It is both unfamiliar and novel but also unquestioningly relevant and architectural.

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Liam Young, 11 09 08


anthony crossfield_foreign bodies

Foreign Bodies by Anthony Crossfield

 “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

This year I will be running a design studio at the Architectural Association in London with Kate Davies from Liquidfactory. Work from the studio will be posted as it develops. 

The studio begins by exploring the dark menagerie that 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 studio will navigate 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.  Surveying fields whether literary, biological or electronic and experimenting with devices such as futurology, film and gaming you will be encouraged to consider the mythic dimensions of emerging technologies as a way of critically engaging with the conditions of today and the coming of tomorrow. (more…)