infrastructure


Liam Young, 29 04 15


Tomorrows Thoughts Today’s Liam Young and long time collaborator Kate Davies run the Unknown Fields Division. Unknown Fields have launched a new project called Rare Earthenware, developed for the ‘What is Luxury’exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

While journeys to extraordinary places are the cornerstone of luxury travel, this project follows more well-concealed journeys taking place across global supply chains. It retraces rare earth elements, which are widely used in high-end electronics and green technologies, to their origins. A film of the project, developed in collaboration with photographer Toby Smith is composed as a single panning shot along a planetary scaled conveyor belt, documents their voyage in reverse from container ships and ports, wholesalers and factories, back to the banks of a barely-liquid radioactive lake in Inner Mongolia, pumped with tailings from the refining process. To accompany the film, Unknown Fields Division have used mud from this lake to craft a set of three ceramic vessels. Each is proportioned as a traditional Ming vase and is made from the amount of toxic waste created in the production of three items of technology – a smartphone, a featherweight laptop and the cell of a smart car battery.

You can watch the full ‘Rare Earthenware’ film exclusively on our project page at the Guardian

The finished vases are made from the exact amount of toxic waste produced in the manufacture of 3 objects of technology- the smartphone, the laptop and the electric car battery cell. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

Unknown Fields collecting radioactive tailings material from besides the worlds Largest Rare Earth minerals refinery in Inner Mongolia. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

Radiation scientists test the toxic clay collected from the tailings lake and find it to be 3 times background radiation. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

The amount of toxic clay produced in the manufacture of a single smart phone is moulded into a traditional Ming vase form. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

A Chinese factory worker assembles the components of our tech gadgets along a conveyor belt that stretches from Inner Mongolia to a London retail store. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

Rare Earthenware by Unknown Fields. Film and Photography in collaboration with Toby Smith, Ceramics assistance from Kevin Kevin Callaghan, Animation assistance from Christina Varvia

infrastructure


Liam Young, 10 03 14


Future Perfect is a fictional, future city. A think tank of scientists, technologists, designers, artists and science fiction authors have collectively developed this imaginary place, the landscapes that surround it and the stories it contains.  The following series of posts presents the Future Perfect exhibition- a stage set for a collection of fictions, movie set models, emerging infrastructures and design experiments that can be inhabited as immersive districts of the future city.  This post presents the Future Perfect Supercomputer, an interactive installation developed by artists Marshmallow Laser Feast.

Laid across the physical city is a virtual doppelganger, a ghost landscape of hyperlinks, geo tags, digital maps and satellite scans. The air is thick, charged with bits, bytes, electrons and energy fields. A network of tracking cameras follows us as we wander across this data city, our gestures and movements, translated and then beamed as dynamic forms of light that animate around us. Like flamboyant conductors, the audience interacts with an array of high powered projectors that give life to a luminous terrain of mountains, clouds and particles. By employing directional audio technology, a synthetic soundscape feels almost real, conjuring a visceral experience of a world currently hidden in screens, circuits and hardware.

Follow paths of sound, listen for the edge of a surface, see it shimmer, and drift right through, like a rock falling in the sea. It is a new model for interfacing with technology and the invisible world that completely envelopes us- an inhabitable visualisation of the digital that glows in the haze and then flickers into darkness.

The project was an evolution of some earlier studies developed by Marshmallow Laser Feast seen in motion here.

infrastructure


Liam Young, 17 04 13


Like industrialization and mass production before it 3d printing has the ability to transform our world beyond recognition. But, with a backlash against the nascent technology already underway, it remains to be seen whether the future will be wondrous or dystopic. For ICON Magazine’s issue 118 on 3d Printing Liam Young has speculated on the consequences of this technology  from the scale of the cell to the scale of the planet. An extract of the article is below.

In September 2003 a single grain of sand was sucked up from the bottom of the ocean and shot out of the nozzle of a GPS controlled dredging barge. This particle changed state, from a nonspecific sand bar drifting endlessly with the currents of the Persian Gulf to the foundation layer of a terraformed island that would become a part of The World Dubai. It is a 3d printed artificial archipelago formed, grain by grain, into a scaled facsimile of the globe. The original world it is modelled after consists of such immense quantities of matter that make it possible to form an endless constellations of artefacts. The story of a particle of material laid down, accreting, aggregating, fusing and assembling is the story of these structures and their altered states. When we can print such structures, layer by layer, particle by particle we can reorder the world, from the very small to the very large.

The new world of 3d printing is not here yet. The hype however has already arrived. Some are swept up in what the new world could be, others are sceptical and look on with caution or disinterest. It is a technology upon which we project all our wonder and anxiety and the debates say more about ourselves than they do about the technology. In his state of the union address President Obama placed his hopes for new American jobs on 3d printing technology which “has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything”. Vast repositories of TED talks present the same lampshades, customized shoes, iphone cases, Stradivarius violins, ball point pens, key rings and plastic models of the statue of David.

It is a technology in transition. It is a before the laws technology, developed without regulation, without big corporate, in the wilds of garage hack shops and maker fares and we still don’t really know what it will all mean. It is an impossible question to answer but it is just as seductive as it was when it was asked of the personal computer in 1977. The role of the PC was not understood until across time people found unexpected uses for it, like email, word processing video games and the internet. Architects once speculated on the impacts of industrialisation and then mass production. It is not until you push back against the systems of control that they reveal themselves. From the very small to the very large, from the banal to the fantastic, micrometre by micrometre we can remake the world.

Down the fibre are beamed bootleg files filled with glitches, 3d spam and junk mail. We awake in the morning to the whirring, buzzing sounds of our kitchen desktop printer spitting out late night porn ‘physible’s (Pirate Bay defines ‘physibles’ as data objects that are able and feasible to become physical), unwanted object ads and 3d pizza delivery flyers. Objects are laser scanned and printed, shared, scanned, printed, over and over and resolution slowly erodes, not from thousands of years of wind and rain but from minor imperfections, discrepancies and data decay multiplied with each cycle. They are fuzzy objects, slightly out of focus, like Chinese whispers, forever distanced from the original. Luxury is resolution. We find decadence in smoothness, delivered by expensive clean data and long, time consuming prints. The man who stands to make the most money from 3d printing is notorious patent troll and future master of the universe Nathan Myhrvold and his company Intellectual Ventures. They own the patent for a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system for 3d objects. 3d printing began with maker hobbyists but that may not prevent it from being co opted by a small number of very large entities. Walter Benjamin’s aura of the original may become nothing more than patent documentation or DRM protection. Just like Metallica’s Napster attacks we will see Zaha file claims against Shapeways for publishing pirate vases and counterfeit couches.

The house and in turn the city may be a dense mashup of google earth models and Grand Design house proud scanners. Fragments of a favourite window can be cut up, recomposed and reprinted in situ. We could grow an architecture superstar Chimera. Someone turns down the polygon count on a digital model of Zaha’s double curvature Guangzhou Opera House to give it a bit of the circa 1980’s faceted and angular Vitra Fire Station look. Her Wangjing Soho Towers already have a pirated clone in Chongqing that is outpacing the construction of the original.   Architourists will pilgrimage across the new world with their laser scanners to scavenge the point cloud of iconic structures and bring them back to an architectural salvage yard of millimetre perfect pieces of plastic history. Last season’s suburbs are melted down and reprinted as the city endlessly remakes itself in an accelerated history. Something between Kowloon Walled City and a Rio favela the 3d printed city is a seething reprogrammable urban mass of recontextualised fragments and geological material processes.

Huge expanses of landscape will be given over to recycle yards where material will be ground up and processed ready to be reprinted. Just as we smelted cutlery for the war effort, nothing is precious anymore and everything is a new object in waiting. Shape and form is just a temporary moment in the life of a material. The lifespan of any object shrinks to zero across a long enough timeline but in the 3d printed world this is an accelerated process of obsolescence and reclamation. We used to understand a product because it was made in specific place. It came from a site with the appropriate raw materials, a viable labour market or the necessary technology. In the new world the line between production and supply essentially disappears and anything can be made in everywhere.

We see accelerated geologies where GPS controlled landscape printers drift across the earth crafting in a morning what rivers and wind completed in a millennia. Laser scanned reproductions of iconic landscapes are terraformed in extreme resolution off the coast of Dubai. Boutique hotels and gated communities line the inside of their 1/3rd scale Grand Canyon. It is a theme park of synthetic copies, a reordered landscape at the scale of Google earth. Famous reefs are scanned and duplicated to reproduce perfect point break surf spots. Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii, Fiji’s Cloudbreak are printed along dead coastlines to spark tourist development and engineer resort growth. Like the planet engineers of Magrathea in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy we will remake our own planet and then begin to print other worlds spinning off into orbit.

United States Patent Application 20100281850 is for a rocket that prints its own solid fuel. We can launch our assembly line into space to drift like satellites, always on call, printing the night sky. Hubble could have been fabricating multiple versions of itself. Programmed to reproduce, this hurtling fleet of fab labs could build our space stations in advance of our arrival. A moonbase, printed autonomously from the recomposed material of its own surface would lie in wait. From this vantage point we can see that the recombination of matter in micrometres can have consequences at the scale of the globe.

Like any technology 3d printing is open to misuse, exploitative regulations and tedious banality but it also holds the possibility of something wondrous, profound and unexpected. The future scenarios’ being debated are no more than evidence of the collective fears and anxieties, hopes and desires that we all carry with us through the everyday. It is a technology that is both exceedingly strange and achingly familiar. As we look down from this 3d printed satellite hurtling through space we can see a technology that is beginning to reorder our world but it us that are remaining the same.

All images by Daniel Dociu and developed for Under Tomorrows Sky

infrastructure


Liam Young, 06 02 12


In the skies above the city a drone flock drifts into formation broadcasting their local file sharing network. Part nomadic infrastructure and part robotic swarm they form a pirate internet, an aerial napster, darting between the buildings….

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infrastructure


Liam Young, 06 11 11


Tomorrows Thoughts Today will be premiering their new interactive installation Electronic Countermeasures live at the GLOW Festival Eindhoven NL every night 5th – 11th November. The performance schedule is 1800, 1830, 1900, 1930, 2000, 2030, 2100, 2130, 2200, 2230, 2300, 2330. See the map for where you can find us. The project is an aerial drone choreography developed in collaboration with Superflux and Eleanor Saitta and performed by drone pilots Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu and Eleanor Saitta.

Today we are much closer to our virtual community than we are to our real neighbours. This death of distance has created new forms of city based around ephemeral digital connections rather than physical geography. In this context the Electronic Countermeasures explores the design and manufacture of a flock of interactive autonomous drones that form their own place specific, local, wfi community and pirate file sharing network. Drifting slowly above the water of Eindhoven’s parks the fleet of modified quadrocopters perform a balletic aerial choreography as their soft glow reflects in the canal below.

The drones continue their luminous dance and dynamic glowing formations as they wait for a passer-by to interact with them. It drone can be contacted by calling the following numbers
drone 0 +31 648521583
drone 1 +31 648521578
drone 2 +31 648521581
drone 3 +31 648521591
As we signal the drones they break formation and are called over. Their bodies illuminate, they flicker and glow to indicate their activity. The swarm becomes a pirate broadcast network, a mobile infrastructure that passers-by can interact with. Impromptu augmented communities form around the glowing flock. As more people interact with the drones the more excited the flock becomes. They swoop dramatically across the surface of the water and they hover above the heads of all those with their mobile screens still activated. It is almost as if these glowing blimps are alive as they become mobile infrastructures with endearing behaviours. They are part city infrastructure and part technological creatures living amongst the trees.

The project is developed by Tomorrows Thoughts Today with Superflux and Eleanor Saitta
Production Team- Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu and Denis Vlieghe
Performed by Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu and Eleanor Saitta.

Photos by Claus Langer.

infrastructure


Liam Young, 09 05 11


From the Data Archaeology Lab in the Architectural Association’s Unknown Fields Division 09/10 Arctic Circle studio run by TTT’s Liam Young and Kate Davies comes Data Fossils by Tobias Jewson. Tobias, with Ioana Iliesu have explored what happens to our collective history when everything is digital. In the digital era our information no longer takes the form of the physical, but that of a electronic file stored in ‘the cloud’. Our collective history is quickly effaced from this fragile and ephemeral domain, a computer crashes, formats are quickly obsolete, a hard drive is lost and all is gone. With our attachment to physical objects and mementos becoming increasingly superseded by our relationship to information, what will we leave for future generations?

The project employs design speculation as a critical tool to explore the potential ways in which architecture and landscape may respond to our ever evolving digital fascination. ‘Data Fossils’ has evolved as a series of fictional scenarios grounded in technically rigorous physical and computational investigations. Real techniques have been developed for encoding digital information in the physical world at both individual and collective scales.

Advances in biocomputing are allowing the possibility of storing data in living, physical forms. As the division between our bodies and the digital becomes increasingly blurred, the bone’s ability to remodel itself, in response to stress, can be hacked to provide data storage. Polyps of calcified binary code become written onto our skeleton, recounting our digital identities.

A teenage informational glutton comes for a surgery consult, his skin stretched with the growths of excessive music and porn downloads. His hoarded browser bookmarks cripple his every movement.

A poet’s finest sonnet is read like Braille through his skin, prostitutes steal the secrets of their bussness clients through gentle carresses of their naked body.

The treasured remains of a loved one becomes an archaeology of memories.


An illegal immigrant hacks and grafts fragments of data bone into his own body in an attempt to conceal his true identity. His airport xray scan reveals the extensive titanium grafts typical of data identity theft.

infrastructure


Liam Young, 09 05 11


From the Data Archaeology Lab in the Architectural Association’s Unknown Fields Division 09/10 Arctic Circle studio run by TTT’s Liam Young and Kate Davies comes Data Fossils by Tobias Jewson. Tobias has evolved his data fossils experiments from the intimate and personal attachments that calcify on our own bones into a vast digital geology of an internet archive cast into layers of volcanic glass across Iceland’s deserts. In the digital era our information no longer takes the form of the physical, but that of a electronic file stored in ‘the cloud’. Our collective history is quickly effaced from this fragile and ephemeral domain, a computer crashes, formats are quickly obsolete, a hard drive is lost and all is gone. With our attachment to physical objects and mementos becoming increasingly superseded by our relationship to information, what will we leave for future generations?

Our collective history can be deposited in columns and strata of earth – where once archivists trawled the library stacks, data geologists now roam the Icelandic landscape. Like climate records trapped in ice cores data archiving can also become a geological process. In southern Iceland the division found a ravaged landscape of eroding lava deserts- a desolate crust hiding beneath it extraordinary geothermal resources that now support huge investments in an emerging national industry of data storage and server farms. Data Geologies rehabilitate this damaged landscape by co opting these investments in technology and reimaging the Icelandic typology of data archives.

A suite of new software applications that subvert existing digital prototyping machines to encode the ephemera of the digital world into ever evolving architectural landscapes. Hoards of machines traverse the lava deserts, scraping loose sand from the surface, and under immense heat transforming it into elaborate glass like geometries, within which our recent internet activities are encased. Programs are developed to encode data inputs into structural building elements.

Simulation software is developed for the realtime growth of data geology from live twitter streams.

Informational topographies grow based and cluster on keyword inputs. The drugs keyword feed is especially active from late evening to early morning.

Topsoil blown by the harsh arctic winds soon gathers in the lee side of these immense structures, the grounded geological layer sprouting grass and moss. Over time, habitats will grow in the glimmering hollows as fields of data slowly reverse Icelandic soil erosion. Local Islanders read the growth of this landscape from afar, whilst archaeologists look close ,using advanced MRI scanners, searching for insights into our past. Information enthusiasts scan google earth sattelite images, deciphering geographies of data from across the globe.

People pilgrimage to this area known to hold the last data relating to flurry of internet activity from the day Michael Jackson died. It becomes an informational cathedral, a spatial obituary grown from a real time data feed.

And while tourists might flock to see history in the making archaeologists will read the dull fragments of frozen silica as records of our digital pasts.

infrastructure


Liam Young, 24 11 10


From the department of intangible technologies in the Architectural Association’s Unknown Fields Division 09/10 studio run by Liam Young and Kate Davies comes Scatterbrain Iceland by Jack Self. This is the first in a series of posts documenting the ongoing work of the division.

Scatterbrain Iceland is an architectural novella that proposes, through a narrative format, the construction of the Internet as an artefact, as a supercomputer server-farm. This is an excerpt:

“A crest of purple reflection wavered along the length of Songling’s bodysuit as her arm described the perfect parabola required to deliver the grenade to its target. As her hand attained the apogee of its circuit her front foot sunk into the spongy bundles of fibre-optics, which splayed under her shifting weight. Beneath her boots the crystal canopy quivered and flexed, and beneath that the halos of solid-state drives chimed like miniature bells in an informatic cathedral. The grenade now twisted along its arc, moving silently through the hibernal gloom across the fantastic billow of blue and red LEDs, across the floating sea of rhythmically pulsing information.

Fifty yards away the ventilation shutters of a server tower chattered and clicked, broadcasting thermal semaphore to electric storm clouds. A square hole in the curving basalt façade marked the liminal space leading to an open service hatch. As the grenade cleared the threshold of this short tunnel two yellow-suited figures appeared, Guardians of the Cloud. They each held a cordless neon tube powered by the immense electromagnetic field of the thousands of servers that filled the tower. The Guardian closest to the doorway also held a weapon, the barrel of which was already rising as he came into view. The vectors of these bodies – the grenade and the Guardian – shared an interstice both in time and space. Bouncing off the Guardian’s shoulder, the grenade would continue a new trajectory past the lift head, down the central column of the tower. It would pass eighty storeys of concentric server cores and detonate – immediately the ventilation shutters would snap closed, disrupting the chimney-effect that regulated the Web’s temperature. The immense heat generated by the computers would build up under the stack. Very soon the whole tower would combust, quickly setting fire to its neighbours.

But Songling would not live to see this. The fulcrum of the two bodies was precisely the same moment that the Guardian’s trigger-finger achieved critical pressure. The force of the bullet striking Songling’s shoulder caused her to turn as she fell, revealing a spinning panorama of towers, a landscape of computational infrastructure that extended out beyond the geothermal reactors to the limits of the valley. This was the New Internet, a machine that did much more than simply recollect the virtual lives of humanity. It inter-compared, analysed, synthesised, and generated abstractions. It constructed elaborate logical underpinnings and formulated its own languages to test the structure and consistency of our world. It had become an organism.

It produced idiosyncratically inconsistent and unpredictable opinions, like its creators. But what only Songling seemed to comprehend was that the Internet would not accept this grossly parasitic relationship with its parents for much longer.

For obvious reasons, the Web could not be allowed to survive.”

infrastructure


Darryl Chen, 04 02 10


Urban heat islands? Sink estates? Windswept alleys? The Mobile Mountain solves all your urban problems… for a limited season only! Read on to explore TTT’s latest riff on microclimate infrastructures…

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infrastructure


Darryl Chen, 04 09 09


This project witnesses the result of the London Borough of Sutton’s desire to form England’s first “sustainable suburb” in the outer reaches of Greater London. What was first a twinkle in a councillor’s eye led to Sutton’s local government to write a policy document safeguarding Hackbridge as a showcase of carbon-positive living at the scale of the urban district. Sped by compulsory purchases and decanting of a small handful of resistant residents, the process gained more and more momentum until the milestone formation of the Green Grass Management Trust. First functioning as a para-governmental management arm of the fledgling district, the Green Grass MT gained in stature to be a renegade local government in its own right. As more and more people signed up to live within the confines of the newly established urban Ring, the Green Grass MT became less reliant on government subsidies and eventually became untouchable as a political entity, much to the quiet chagrin of local planners and councillors. Officially a special policy area under the umbrella authority of the borough, the Ring is now in actuality independent and self-sufficient in all respects.

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infrastructure


Darryl Chen, 03 09 09


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infrastructure


Darryl Chen, 02 09 09


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infrastructure


Darryl Chen, 29 08 09


“Where The Grass Is Greener” documents a radical alternative in contemporary living, an urban infrastructure, a social experiment, a political statement…. Three thousand residents and counting. In London’s outer suburbs, a community has gathered walling themselves off from the rest of society. These postcards bear testament to their vision. (more…)

infrastructure


Liam Young, 20 04 09


The role of landscape is evolving. Developing from a historical position based in conservation and preservation the ‘nature’ of ‘nature’ can now be seen as both generative and dynamic, offering the potential for new ways of engaging with the environment. The distinctions between technology and biology or the natural and artificial are dissolving to the point where they have now become outmoded terms.

Developing from Tomorrows Thoughts Today’s urban proposal ‘City Zoo’, ‘make me a mountain!’ is a standalone infrastructural landscape project.  Whether deployed in a backyard, on a football pitch or a fragile wetland the building mutates from its context to create a habitable ecosystem that (e)merges into and out of its site. More a wilderness than an architecture, ‘make me a mountain!’ operates as a synthetic organism, reinforcing the metabolic and symbiotic conditions found in the surrounding landscape.

In its first iteration the project is tested as a Bathouse, Visitor Centre and Research Station for a London Wetlands site. Like a scuttled ship molded fiberglass shells containing observation, education and research spaces perform as an artificial reef. Glistening from within the rough and lively rock of the artificial mountain is this intertwined set of sinuous and smooth public spaces. This is a dark, discovered, augmented wilderness embedded with technology for remote virtual bat viewing and arranged for intimate but unobtrusive onsite observation. (more…)

infrastructure


Darryl Chen, 06 04 09


In the outer suburbs of London, a population has voluntarily separated themselves from the rest of society, and has taken up the mantle of sustainability in an extraordinary way. Driven by a set of ethics that places them in sometimes radical opposition to the rest of London, they have adopted a lifestyle that effectively makes them a carbon sink for the remainder of the city.

Postcards bear witness to how existing geographical patterns have been consolidated to create a giant infrastructural ring containing a series of productive and social programmes. Comprised of terraforming, hybridised architecture, natural obstructions and electronically surveilled barriers, this sophisticated urban crust is a new kind of urbanism – a fortress that protects a community of carbon-positive altruists, and reserves a place within the disorderly fabric of suburban London for pure ideology… where the grass is greener.

‘…where the grass is greener’ by Tomorrows Thoughts Today will be published in full shortly.