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.


Liam Young, 24 11 10

“Most technological breathroughs are met both with frenetic predictions of life-changing improvement, and fear and naysaying. Instead Geoff Manaugh, Tim Maly and Liam Young examine the myriad implications of future technological escalation by speculating about their consequences through believable (though fictional) examples ranging from chemical-sensitive fowl to transhuman support groups made possible by nanoengineering.” Volume. pg72. Issue 24 counter Cultures

This is one fragment from the work. See Volume no. 24 Counter Cultures for more from the Strange Natures of Nanotechnology.

A field guide to toxicity machines.
From The Macmillan Birder’s Guide to Britain v8.03.3453

Green-throated Coal-gull
Highlight: Sensitive to high levels of CO2 in the air.

Description: When in the presence of high levels of carbon dioxide, their plumage phase shifts to an extraordinary emerald color. Coal-gulls can be found in gathering around the remaining coal-burning power stations and carbon sequestration centers. Take a fire extinguisher with you to draw them out of the trees. Note that caution is necessary when calling and tracking these birds, as evidenced by the ongoing litigation against a BBC documentary team for frivolous chemical spraying.

Roseshift Starling
Highlight: Engineered to monitor atmospheric levels of nitrous oxide.

Description: Typically brown and forgettable at ground level, in the presence of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide the Roseshift Starling displays a fanned tail of extraordinary incandescent plumage that reflects in the sunlight. These rare species are best spotted in gas cloud flocks at high altitudes or over recently fertilized farmland. If you do encounter one on the ground, however, emptying a nitrous canister nearby will initiate its vivid display. These can be acquired from custom car garages or contact us for our private list of birding dentists.
NB. The guide does not encourage nitrous use for anything other than bird watching. We do not support the ‘laughing birders’ organization.

Bomb Sparrow
Highlight: designed for explosives detection

Description: Originally developed to signal the location of explosives labs, Bomb Sparrows flock in elaborate formations marking the atmospheric presence of chemically dangerous concoctions. Typically very difficult to track down, their formations are dispersed very quickly by British intelligence; making clear sightings quite rare. Your best chances are in the outer suburbs or anonymous tower blocks. If you are lucky enough to see an actual detonation, Bomb Sparrow flocks are extraordinary. But be careful: mixing your own chemical lures may result in prosecution under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Trumpeter Finch
Highlight: Sings in the presence of concentrations of carbon monoxide.

Description: This species typically makes its nest along busy highways and main streets. Listen out for the high-pitched song of the Trumpeter Finch when airborne particulate levels reach toxicity thresholds. Go in an SUV convoy for the best chance—and pack a gas mask to hear their song up close.


Liam Young, 02 10 10

This is an exerpt of the travelogue from Acres Green. See slow thoughts for the Beamer Bees, Mobile Mountains and Prosthetic Trees and more from this strange little community.  By  Anab Jain + Jon Ardern of Superflux, Liam Young + Darryl Chen of Tomorrows Thoughts Today and Chris Hand and the ‘Power of 8’ team.

At first the residents didn’t know what to call them. The once strange creatures had no name. Maybe there was a manufacturing code, or an RFID tag attached surreptitiously to their underbelly, but nothing official or as obvious as a logo like on a newly unveiled car. No motor show. No fanfare. They just arrived.

Their size was striking. Not that they were big, but that they were unsettlingly human in dimension, each specimen the equivalent mass of an adult man inflated into a rotund figure. Each displayed a great folded surface like unfurled wings spread into a complete and airtight enclosure. Manufactured with precision pleats and jointing expertly executed, the pristine body constituted an object equal to a small exploratory spacecraft or even a fine tailored suit. Its form had a quality of otherworldly beauty, but in recent years those once virgin husks were now marked with the deposits of airborne nuisances – carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, platanus acerfolia pollens and pigeon shit

A homage to the fog catchers that came and went before them, these sophisticated beings were appendages to the natural environment – microclimatic machines. Fastidious in their task of redistributing water, they were able to green small pockets of the ecosystem with workaholic obsession. Their great canopied bodies expanded to collect moisture and contracted to move more efficiently. Hovering the skies, they sought out humid air systems following low air pressure systems, collecting moisture on their outer skins and collecting them in their fuselage. They then deposited this rain – I suppose you could call it rain – on farmlands outside of cities. A promised land like an old testament morality tale. (more…)


Liam Young, 12 09 10

The Imaginarium is an exhibition co-curated by Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today and Studio Lukas Feireiss (editor of Beyond Architecture, Spacecraft and Architecture of Change etc) with Luis Berrios-Negron.  The exhibition brings together a group of architects, artists and scientists including TTT’s Liam Young, Francois Roche/R&Sie(n), Greg Lynn, Philip Beesley, Rachel ArmstrongTheo Jansen, Terunobu Fujimori, Triptyque ArchitectureIlkka Halso, Lucy McRae, Cero9Mas Yendo, and many more to engage the prescient subject of ecological change and adaptations caused by artificial interventions into existing ecosystems.

‘The Imaginarium’ is curated as an unnatural history museum of archaeological fragments,
 botanical samples, exhibits, evidence and curiosities. 
Archived in the accompanying Catalogue of Speculative Specimens we see a jump in the fossil record, an evolutionary leap, as the interbreeding of biology and technology has given birth to a strange new nature. The Imaginarium forms part of the exhibition Examples to Follow: Expeditions in Aesthetics and Sustainability curated by Adrienne Gohler. and is open from 3.09.10 – 10.10.10 at the Uferhallen in Berlin. See more photos and videos below.



Liam Young, 11 03 10

This is the second installent of a series of projects to come out of our Power of 8 research trip to ‘Acres Green: The Way Life Should Be’.

…the hypnotic dance patterns of small, glowing insects against the warm colours of the dark sky left us in awe, and we wanted to know more. We stopped two people dressed in large netted clothing walking down the street. They introduced themselves as ‘hivers’ and told us the story behind these mysterious creatures:

These glowing creatures were the Beamer Bees or Beamer Signum Apis Melifera, formulated by a community of biologists and hired bio-hackers to service under-pollinated trees, plants and vegetables due to the disappearance of honey bees.

The Beamer Bees are guided by radiowaves and electromagnetic landscapes to crops requiring pollination. They are produced in a limited number each year, and their interactions with the bumble bees and other creatures are tightly monitored. It seems that the Acres Green residents can buy licenses to call the bees. License holders use the bugles or other personal mobile devices which transmits radiowaves that the bees can detect. The bees follow the waves to their source.

We realised how the Beamer Bees had became central to the Acres Green ecosystem and people seemed to be able to live in harmony with them. We see a glimpse of one family’s everyday interactions with the new creatures. Practical, yet stylish netted fashion ensured comfort on the way to a party, Gardeners who missed out on licenses opportunistically used wifi routers to attract bees to their plants. (more…)


Liam Young, 09 03 10

The first installment of an ongoing project.  Chapter 1: the electric aurora.

In the preface to his 1957 bestiary ‘The Book of Imaginary Beings’ Jorge Luis Borges describes a child’s first visit to the zoo. With wonder and joy the child marvels at the strangeness and mysteries of the unfamiliar creatures that they have never before seen. This encounter with a zoo of the real sits within the catalogue of a zoo of mythology, inhabited by ‘necessary monsters’ which are imbued with the dreams and fears of those who conjured them. (more…)


Liam Young, 08 03 10

Darting to the safety of the shadows a biotech ferret munches on its prey…

The fourth installment of an ongoing project.  Chapter 4: the Bioluminescent Billboard, the Roving Forests and an Augmented Ferret. (more…)


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…)


Liam Young, 08 12 08

The third installment of an ongoing project.  Chapter 3: the Silk Factory.

Pulled by moths an automated nomadic silk factory is spinning its glistening web under a lonely streetlamp. (more…)


Liam Young, 02 11 08

The second installment of an ongoing project.  Chapter 2: the CO2 Scrubber (more…)


Liam Young, 21 07 08


Contemporary cities are no longer just accidental homes for animals that have been displaced from their natural habitat. They can now be seen as hotbeds of evolutionary change, shaping the adaptations of their resident fauna and providing an ideal theatre in which to see behaviour evolving at a pace rarely seen in the wild.

As we begin to view our cities as worthwhile ecosystems this project investigates the possibilities of a symbiotic relationship between two different systems of organization- technology and nature. (more…)