Liam Young, 04 12 20

Available now for pre order at URO Press.

Humans dominate the planet. Following centuries of colonisation, globalisation and never-ending economic extraction and expansionism we have remade the world from the scale of the cell to the tectonic plate.

But what if we radically reversed this planetary sprawl? What if we reached a global consensus to retreat from our vast network of cities and entangled supply chains into one hyper-dense metropolis housing the entire population of the earth?

Planet City, by Los Angeles-based film director and architect Liam Young, explores the productive potential of extreme densification, where 10 billion people surrender the rest of the planet to a global wilderness.

Although wildly provocative, Planet City eschews the techno-utopian fantasy of designing a new world order. This is not a neo-colonial masterplan to be imposed from a singular seat of power. It is a work of critical architecture – a speculative fiction grounded in statistical analysis, research and traditional knowledge. It is a collaborative work of multiple voices and cultures supported by an international team of acclaimed environmental scientists, theorists and advisors. In Planet City we see that climate change is no longer a technological problem, but rather an ideological one, rooted in culture and politics.

This is a fiction shaped like a city. Simultaneously an extraordinary image of tomorrow and an urgent examination of the environmental questions facing us today.

Other Authors include: Benjamin Bratton, Stanley Chen, Ashley Dawson, Holly Gene Buck, Ryan Griffen, Nalo Hopkinson, XIA JIA, Giorgos Kallis, Ewan McEoin, Amaia Sanchez-Velasco, Saskia Sassen, Kim Stanley Robinson and Andrew Toland.


Liam Young, 17 05 19

Liam Young launches a new book titled Machine Landscapes: Architectures of the Post Anthropocene, which catalogues the spaces being built for non human inhabitants.

The most significant architectural spaces in the world are now entirely empty of people. The data centres, telecommunications networks, distribution warehouses, unmanned ports and industrialised agriculture that define the very nature of who we are today are at the same time places we can never visit. Instead they are occupied by server stacks and hard drives, logistics bots and mobile shelving units, autonomous cranes and container ships, robot vacuum cleaners and internet-connected toasters, driverless tractors and taxis. This issue is an atlas of sites, architectures and infrastructures that are not built for us, but whose form, materiality and purpose is configured to anticipate the patterns of machine vision and habitation rather than our own. We are said to be living in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, in which humans are the dominant force shaping the planet. This collection of spaces, however, more accurately constitutes an era of the Post-Anthropocene, a period where it is technology and artificial intelligence that now computes, conditions and constructs our world. Marking the end of human-centred design, the issue turns its attention to the new typologies of the post-human, architecture without people and our endless expanse of Machine Landscapes.

Edited By Liam Young

Contributors: Rem Koolhaas, Merve Bedir and Jason Hilgefort, Benjamin H Bratton, Ingrid Burrington, Ian Cheng, Hyphen Labs, Cathryn Dwyre, Chris Perry, David Salomon and Kathy Velikov, Deborah Harrison, Paul Inglis, Victor Martinez, John Gerrard, Alice Gorman, Adam Harvey, Jesse LeCavalier, Xingzhe Liu, Clare Lyster, Geoff Manaugh, Tim Maughan, Simone C Niquille, Jenny Odell, Trevor Paglen, Ben Roberts.


Liam Young, 29 05 14

Available to download now- 1,49€ (iTunes), 1,78€ (Amazon)*

Brave New Now is a collection of specially commissioned short stories set in a fictional future city developed by speculative architect Liam Young for the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Authors have been invited to inhabit the city, to breathe life into its characters and cultures and give form to its streets and spaces through narrative. It is a speculative urbanism, an exaggerated present, in which we can imagine the wonders and possibilities of emerging biological and technological research. Authors include Warren Ellis, Bruce Sterling, Tim Maughan, Jonathan Dotse, Rachel Armstrong, Samit Basu and Anil Menon.  These speculative fictions are illustrated with a collection of photographs of the present, gathered from a group of photographers who venture out into the world documenting the weak signals and emerging phenomena that have been extrapolated into our imaginary city. In Brave New Now it is not clear what is fact and what is fiction, but rather the two productively intertwine.  The two modes of working sit side by side and we slip suggestively between the real and the imagined, between the documentary and the visionary, where speculative fictions become a way of exploring a world that the everyday struggles to grasp.

The future is not something that washes over us like water, it is something we must actively shape and define. Some of the people we meet in the Brave New Now are swept up in what the city could be, others are reserved and look on with caution. It is a place of wonder and of fear. We meet friends and strangers, we hear their stories, and we imagine our own life here. We have not walked these streets before, what things may come, in the Brave New Now.

Preview of ebook foreword

Brave New Now
Editor: Liam Young
Authors: Warren Ellis, Tim Maughan, Jonathan Dotse, Bruce Sterling, Rachel Armstrong, Samit Basu, Anil Menon.
Photographers: Michael Wolf, Greg Girard, Neil Chowdhury, Vincent Fournier, Thomas Weinberger, Charlie Koolhaas, Greg White, Daniel Beltrá, Victoria Sambunaris, Christina Seely, Brice Richard, Bas Princen.
Concept Art: Daniel Dociu, Hoving Alahaidoyan.

“A projective fiction is a critical tool that is both an extraordinary vision of tomorrow and a provocative examination of the pertinent questions facing us today.” Liam Young

This digital publication was commissioned by Close, Closer chief curator Beatrice Galilee, Art Direction by Zak Group and graphic design by Raquel Pinto.
*The support of The British Council has enabled a discounted distribution price of Brave New Now ebook.


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


Liam Young, 11 06 12

Coal miners once hammered rock with twittering canaries living beside them, their changing song a warning alarm for a dangerous gas leak. These living sensors watched over us and kept us safe.

‘Singing Sentinels’ by London-based architect Liam Young of Tomorrows Thoughts Today explores a future scenario where bio-engineered birds once again monitor the air for us. Eighty birds have been released into the New Order exhibition at the Mediamatic Gallery in Amsterdam as an ecological warning system, living in the space and providing audible feedback on the state of the atmosphere. Across the course of the exhibition Liam performed the climate change acceleration piece ‘Silent Spring’ seen in the film above. As a ‘pollution DJ’, he flooded the gallery with CO2, altereing the air mixture to replicated the predicted atmospheric changes of the next 100 years. We hear the canary song subtly shift, their rythmn change and eventually silence, as the birds sing a toxic sky- an elegy for a changing planet.

To accompany the exhibition Liam Young, Geoff Manuagh and Tim Maly have written a near future birdwatchers guide “A Field Guide to Singing Sentinels: A Birdwatchers Companion” with illustrations from comic illustrator Paul Duffield. You can see an excerpt and purchase your copy of the limited edition book online here.

See below for exhibition photos.