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.


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.


The deadline for applications is 14 June 2013. Application forms and additional information are available online at: and applications can be submitted to: or contact 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.

Leave a Comment


Required, hidden

Trackback this post