The Dark Side of the City exhibited at the London Architectural Association explores alternative places around the globe, affected by the riot of technology, mass production, and climate change.
The architect of these expeditions is the nomadic design group Unknown Fields, who travels to ignored but archetypal lands, which are (un)surprisingly connected to the everyday flow of our lives.
The installations, as well as the overall design, transfigure the exhibition in an enchanting mesmerising road trip to the discovery of the unknown that is yet to be defined. The long platform, on which the most of the exhibition is assembled, is characterised by a row of screens and red leather seats, which give the idea of being on a bus. As a passenger, you curiously and constantly watch outside the windows, symbolised by the screens, where you progressively get to various stop-overs rather than a real destination.
From the glaciers of Alaska to a mining town in Madagascar, The Dark Side of the City goes beyond the imaginary, giving life to utopian crafted objects, each of them illustrating the materiality and depths of their respective territories.
The World Adrift section depicts China’s mass production and hyper technology,
which made the country the largest shipbuilding nation, with the 95% of the world’s rare earth’s minerals production. One tonne of rare earth produces 65% of acid waste and a smartphone, to operate, consumes approximately eight rare earth. Rare earth material is fundamental to ensure the ‘featherweight’ aesthetic of modern technology.
Unknown Fields has used toxic mud from the tailings lake in Baotou, Mongolia, to produce a set of three radioactive ceramic vessels. Each of them shaped from three items of technology – a smartphone, a featherweight laptop and the cell of a smart car battery, symbolising the ‘undesirable consequences of our material desires’ (Aaschool.ac.uk, 2017).
Each place explored by the design studio is represented throughout the exhibition by its geographic coordinates, in a way to embody the overall theme of the journey towards unknown fields. Madagascar, Bolivia, Alaska, China, Mongolia, and Australia are all reimagined through fragmentary and remote aspects that yearn to reveal the modern ‘city’s wants and needs, fears and dreams’ (Aaschool.ac.uk, 2017).
Aaschool.ac.uk. (2017). Unknown Fields: The Dark Side of the City. [online] Available at: http://www.aaschool.ac.uk/PUBLIC/WHATSON/Exhibitions.php?item=336#-p-unknown-fields-the-dark-side-of-the-city-p [Accessed 10 Feb. 2017].
Images were taken by Marta De Prisco, Unknown Fields: The Dark Side of the City Exhibition, 7 February 2017.
Graphic by Marta De Prisco