Some Sort of Alien Nature - Speculative Future. 

A project that builds on previous site research The Mirrored City,

aiming to further explore and critic the role of “Techno-nature” plays

in today's increasingly acute environmental problems.

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- Have you ever questioned humans’ control over nature?

- Do you ever notice the inconsistencies within our ideals;

- of what we assume we are capable of?

- The power to organise, to turn the natural world into one that is man-made.

 
Initiated by the Venice flood followed by the Global Pandemic, this project looks at the human-nature relationship through the way humans manage water. ​
 
CapitalCity Simulation provides an experience where users are placed within a technologically re-designed future world. This speculative world is presented as an immersive experience through a virtual interactive web experience which spawns films, side narratives, gameplay. 

In this open-ended world, users are enabled to control the majority of natural elements; from water to air and organic matter. Fictional spaces are created and combined with documented footage from real-world research to spatially situate users within this new surrounding. 
This project not only presents an almost grotesque human-nature relationship where nature has been entirely alienated but also projects an individual’s distrust of the unorganised natural state, aiming to highlight the resulting consequences of pursuing a purely anthropocentric ideal. 
< Project Website: Capital City Simulation >

Joint Project With Francine Chan

Degree Project for BA Design Programme at Goldsmiths, University of London

Mentored By Tuur Van Balen

Special Thanks to Chen Lin, Tricia Tan

 
TABULA RASA _

Vents: Blowing scented cool air
Bed: It is moulded to your body
Duvet: The right temperature


Everything was made just right for you.

Designed, tailor-made, personalised. Are you comforted?

“Good morning, ready for your first day of work?”

a familiar voice echoes through the walls of your room.

Personal assistant, best friend, parent, confidant.

Who has guided you through every part of your life?

Can the world be made to support you?

It protects you from the world, guiding you through your fear, your safety net without a physical form to contaminate, without unpredictability.

“Time to get you out of bed.” 

Your bed lifts itself upright, your cocoon cooling down to room temperature, acclimatising you to your surroundings.

RENEWAL _

 

Cream coloured, glossy, warm floors, down the hallway, the door parts revealing the refresher unit.

Sanitising mouthwash, a steam shower, assigned clothes laid out and the rest of your essentials packed.


The room is heated, but never too warm.

The scent of CapitalWater permeates.


Rinse, steam, exit, step into the dryer and clothing.

This routine is clinical, it is essential, it is not a luxury.


The smell of a warm breakfast wafts through space.

This is the last meal you will have in this living quarter. You wonder if you will have a larger selection of CapitalNutrients in your next residence,

and you wonder what that would taste like.


You reminisce how it felt moving into this place.

You had just been assigned to your first personal quarters after completing your education.

You were the most privileged and given access to the best living quarters in the water district.

There were “fountains”, displays of flowing water.

You had access to liquid nutrients termed as “soup”.

SUBTERRANEAN _

 

You look through one of the viewports in your living quarters. You have been informed that your next residence will be subterranean, as with all upper management spaces in the Capital. In a way, you will miss looking out onto the outer surface and its bustle of vehicles.

All that is going to change today. You’ve heard that they have entertainment districts in subterranean residences like casinos, arcades, entire shopping districts and health salons. Maybe there might even be a pool, a large body of water where people can relax in. You wonder what that would feel like.

What about your predecessor? Your first job was a new role without a predecessor. What would it be like to have someone guide you through your role? Teach you new or old knowledge you had never come across? Will your predecessor be a nice person, leaving you memorabilia in your new living quarters? Or will they be mysterious and aloof leaving only fragments of hints about your job. Will they be a teacher or an example not to follow.

Maybe you would have to meet them.

You heard of some people who had social inductions where they had to interact with their mentors for weeks and shudder at the thought. Hopefully, it will be a virtual induction, or better yet, a preprogrammed one with messages left by your predecessor.

 

That would be best, but the idea of having to know someone else with such social intimacy is no less intriguing as it is terrifying. 

FABRICATION _

 

——“Your transport has arrived.”

You hear that familiar voice through the walls again and feel a tinge of separation anxiety.

 

——“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be uploaded into your new residence within a few days. I’ll see you again soon!”

You can’t help but feel a little lonely without your friend waiting for you at home. 

You consider purchasing a portable pet to upload its system into as you make your way down.

You hear the unfamiliar sounds of metallic hisses as you walk into the decontamination chamber, the space alien and unwelcoming compared to your cosy residences. You put on a thin isolation suit that automatically seals over your head, inhaling the musty air. 

You rarely leave your apartment complex and it makes you slightly uncomfortable. As lovely as it is to peer out the viewport, you will soon be met with the harsh realities of the outer surface where the temperature is too warm and the air too dry. Even after filtration, it leaves a strange metallic tang in your mouth.

You go through another chamber and wait to be instructed to your vehicle. “Be prepared to enter the outer world surface soon.” 

 

Vehicle 24601 will be waiting in the first bay.” You hear the distinct hiss of the door as the wave of heat hits you. You quickly proceed to your vehicle and huff a sigh of relief as the door is sealed and you are instantly disinfected and reacclimated.

 

——“Welcome to Capital city.”

{ CapitalWater=“true” } ;

IT IS ALL FOR HUMANITY'S INTERESTS.
WITH YOUR BEST INTENTIONS IN MIND.

{ caption="HELP"=”false” } ;

The Capital is presented as a panoptic state as a result of extreme societal organization. Humans’ need to predict and control unknown variables ultimately led to the over-control of human nature.
 
Within the “CapitalCity Simulation”, users are asked to suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves in a world without their existing biases. Similar to live-action
role-play, users are presented with scenarios on different scales. 
-
Individuals become organised like nodes in a system based on their utilitarian interactions with the natural environment, creating a divide within the human species. This part indirectly addresses the ethics related to a social hierarchy and division of a population.
 
The establishment of this techno-nature system extends to human’s self-organization leading to the use of human individuals as tools. Humans are categorized by their roles within society exposing the alienation of humans’ own nature. Human behaviour becomes a monitored element and individuals who are unpredictable get removed from their assigned roles. 

Through this designed interaction, the individual is presented with a narrative interwoven through the complex urban systems of organization, often beyond an individual’s control. This is to encourage an individual’s response towards a situation rather than presenting a fixed scenario from our point of view. 
 

Project Process

This project builds on previous site research Project The Mirrored city

We live in an artificial reality, one of human design, over design.
Where ecology is dissected and reformed, in the likeness of humans.
Black boxes; the entanglement of human networks;
surmounting delirium lost within “Ecological Colonisation”.
 
A qualified world of materiality —
the human creation, some sort of alien nature.
 
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A WORLD OF HUMAN DESIGN _ 

-

In order to support humanity’s goals of civilisation, A large number of designs are created to re-engineer and transform the environment through technology, to suit human needs. 
Resources are mass-generated to improve humans’ chances of survival and later, making life more comfortable by advancing their social evolution. Otherwise known as the process of civilisation.

TECHNO-NATURE _ 

-

Designs that re-engineer and transform the environment through technology and moulded, to suit human needs.
These designs integrate with each other, eventually forming a network of techno nature which have large scale control over interconnected elements of nature.
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Cities built from the abstract images of the anthropocentric mind;
borne out of the minds of men and plagues this world
with the beliefs of its overriding humanity. 
 
Ecology becomes artifice,
Tendrils flowing through iron cages
Roots gasping under engulfing ground
Their bodies stagnant, sterile,
Life support, 
Its mechanical veins constructed above
Tabula rasa —
The geology of a blank slate
A wasteland. 

RUTHLESS NATURE _ 

-

However, natural ecology can be seen as ruthless from the human perspective — it is representative of a large interrelated system of network, nodes within this vast network become irrelevant as individuals.
Species emerge and die while ecology always adapts to maintain a stable environment.

ALIEN WATER AS CATALYST FOR CHANGES _ 

-

When we started this project, Venice faced its worst annual flood in 50 years. 
The flood of water can be seen as aliens; beyond the prediction and control of humans’ techno nature in the planned city landscape.
 
The alien flood arrives as inevitable change, overgrowing its assigned spaces, infringing upon the human boundary. This fundamentally alters nodes within the system of techno-nature. 
 
We thought that it would be interesting to explore the constructs of human environments such as cities and the urban landscape.
 
How will human society transform and react to these circumstances? 
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Project MOSE _ 

-

In Venice, infrastructure is organized to protect the city, and the city has chosen to create a physical barrier around the lagoon to isolate the city from severe floods.
 
It acts as a way to protect the lives of people, and that translates into the fear of alien threats towards human monuments, culture and civilisation.

FEAR OF ALIEN INVASION _ 

-

The idea of building an ecological barrier in Venice is not an isolated incident.
 
Across the world, coastal cities such as Shanghai, Singapore and Miami also face the threat of rising sea levels.

DICHOTOMY BETWEEN 
CONTAINMENT & CONTAMINATION _ 

-
In Wuhan, we observed a city rapidly respond to an “alien invasion” during the COVID pandemic.
 
Contaminated areas were locked down and people who had the virus were further isolated. This created clear segregation between contained parts of human society and contaminated “alien” zones. 
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Human’s fear of nature, and this separation of hierarchy can be clearly seen in the way society is reorganized to contain it. This creates a clear dichotomy within our response between containment vs contamination. 
Amidst the unknown floods sweeping through the streets of Venice, and the evacuation of social spaces in Wuhan; there is a cognitive dissonance between what humans assume they are capable of and how nature is viewed as an alien threat. 
In a sense, human’s control over nature might just be our instincts of self-preservation, essentially borne out of fear. 

EMPTY SHELLS _ 

-
Architecture becomes artefacts that reveal our intentions in the way we self organize.
Venice’s monuments sit as empty shells — engulfed by transient tourists who pay 8 euros to sip a cup of coffee in a flooded historical square. 
This irony makes us strongly aware of the complexity of this topic. We noticed our bias when we viewed human’s control over nature solely for capital gain. 
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DESIGN APPROACHES _ 

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