Faculty of Architecture and Design, 2018
As humankind approaches eight billion in number our detrimental effects upon the planet are becoming greater. Once humans could barely defend themselves against nature; today nature can barely defend itself against humankind. The implications of our industrialised society are immense. Speculative architecture can play a role in raising awareness about the implications and issues of humankind’s unsustainable practices.
How can humanity possibly become sustainable in the future if we cannot think or plan sustainably in the present? Sustainability is a foreign concept to humanity. We have survived due to being highly adept at using anything around us to survive. A sustainable humankind is not natural.
Victoria graduate, Christopher Young, looked to address this very situation in his Master of Architecture thesis, titled ‘The Stranger’. Young conceived an architectural narrative to enhance the reader’s awareness of how our interdependent relationship with machines and industry has led to an environmental crisis.
This project aims to challenge people’s current thinking, raising awareness with regard to the issues related to sustainability and how these issues cannot be fixed without a change in our culture and way of life. When thinking of an architectural work, you don’t often think of a story or narrative, yet this is exactly how The Stranger is portrayed. The thesis shows how an architectural narrative can be a unique way to convey a message capable of addressing our environmental crisis.
Before the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the earth’s resources replenished themselves at a rate greater than we could use them. However, the development of industrialisation caused an increase in consumption and started an age of ever-increasing environmental abuse. The result is that today we need to evolve and change our thinking rather than be limited by our tools if we are to be truly sustainable. The Stranger highlights the relationship between the environment and industry and considers how industry can be used to reverse its own effects on our world.
The thesis culminates in the design of an Aquaponics Lab, a self-contained environment that grows marine life in an aquaculture system for fuel to power a hydroponic system that produces food, warmth and air. The lab creates an artificial system of life support; man and nature working together to sustain each other. While being self-sustaining, this lab is designed to repair damages to the natural environment which humans are responsible for. The thesis takes the form of a day in the life of a person living in the lab. The reader witnesses the sequential daily rituals of The Stranger moving through the lab from sunrise to sunset.
The conclusions reached are speculative but they do represent an exploration of sustainability through architecture. The purpose of The Stranger is to encourage readers to consider their place in the world from an environmental perspective; while also viewing the overall impact that society is having on our planet. At the end of the thesis it is revealed that the machine used to repair the landscape is in fact causing damage to the landscape. This is a metaphor for the current juxtaposition of environmental awareness and destruction in the world.