Future School
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As the first generation of digital-native architects, millennials practicing today no longer consider architecture a discipline defined by a body of inherited knowledge, but as a means to understand the relationships between humans and their environment. Architecture is unburdened from its imperative to provide shelter and instead is mobilized as a set of operations that can reproduce, interrogate, and dismantle ideas about the world around us. This generation also faces the ever-darkening spectre of climate collapse, whose urgency mounts as much of globalized culture draws further away from the ecology that sustains it. The Talking Trees project resides at the confluence of these phenomena.

Faced with advanced neoliberalism, fracture, and the impotence of the architectural object, designers will experiment with and speculate on the potential of new architectural methodologies to redefine the architectural product. The projects of each team provide both a venue for the development of methodological approaches derived from their unique geographic, political, and economic contexts, as well as a critical re-constitution of the agency of trees in culture. The staging of an architectural event as the culmination of these experiments is a statement of our intention to orient towards a productive, generative, and egalitarian future: to plant.

Joon Ma — 2021.5.5 09:31 AM

Talking Trees Members:

Joon Ma, Ryu Ahn, Ted Kim, Sun Choi,
Kyunchul Kim, Minjoo Ryu, Jeonghyun Yoon,
Hyunhee Lee, Kyuhyung Cho, Mattia Inselvini,
Marcello Carpino, Luigi Savio, Davide Masserini,
Claudia Consonni, Marco Gambare, Ryan Leifield,
Hasbrouck Miller, Stella Ioannidou

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What does an architecture centered around a theory and an ethics of care look like? Is it possible for architecture as a professional discipline—born of a market-oriented, colonial logic—to restructure itself according to the values of repair, maintenance, and other forms of reproductive labor? Can the architect serve as caregiver? Answers to these questions abound: from the organization of self-governing communities and the gestures of performance artists to the creation of digital information commons and the lessons derived from mycorrhizal networks. These images offer glimpses of the diverse inspirations, actions, provocations, and possibilities for an alternative architecture—an architecture of care.

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The material culture of trees as a building material has constituted many of our habits, customs, and rituals of domestic living. In Korea, Ondol - the vernacular radiant flooring system covered with wooden panels- created a sedentary domestic lifestyle. With technological advancements, the Ondol system and the flooring material evolved. Eventually, faux wood made of plastic replaced wooden flooring. From primary building material to a mere camouflage on plastic, the material culture of trees has also changed with the greater economic and cultural forces at play. This archive is a collection of images that traces the material culture of trees as a domestic building material in Korea. The images are sourced from historical documents, construction manuals, and blog posts.

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Scientific studies on trees, much like architecture and other disciplines, are influenced by the greater political, environmental, and cultural forces that shape our lives. From an expendable natural resource to now as a remedy to offset the impact of climate change, our understanding of trees has shifted the human-arboreal relationship in the built environment. This archive is a collection of images sourced from scientific journals, pop culture, and architectural literature that trace the ripple effect of scientific studies on trees on the human-arboreal relationship and the built environment from the mid-19th century.

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https://yalepaprika.com/folds/luck-fate-or-happy-accident/observing-the-field

In November of 2019, still unclear about what to do for my thesis, I read a New Yorker article that trees communicate with one another1 . Trees had nothing to do with what I had been thinking about, but I emailed Dr. Richard Karban, the scientist mentioned in The New Yorker, to ask if I could talk to him about his work. In preparing for my call with Dr. Karban, reading his books and publications, I noticed that ecological studies lend themselves well to architectural solutions. Scientists have to manipulate the environment for their studies. They excavate land to study roots, build tall structures to study trees, construct long networks of pipe to study water levels, and do all of this while having to be conscious about their footprint. I had formulated what I would ask him and how I could potentially turn this into a thesis project, but the conversation that ensued was far more impactful than I had expected.

After discussing his research and clarifying my interest in his work, we started to talk about the state of ecological studies in the United States. The efficacy of sensors and algorithms is a much-needed advancement to our understanding of the world, but this overemphasis on data-driven scientific studies is driving young ecologists away from conducting fieldwork. While sensors can register information far beyond what humans are capable of, using these devices as a proxy for understanding our environments runs the risk of missing the anomalies and narrowing the scientific scope to what everyone already believes is important. He emphasized that the best contemporary ecological research methodology combines observations, models, and manipulative experiments to arrive at a more complete explanation than any single approach could provide.

Architecture, much like this present trajectory of ecological studies that Dr. Karban presents, is often built on a pre-existing set of self-referential agendas without observing the economic, cultural, ecological, and material realities that confront our lives. Such practice has created a large gap between the discipline and the practical reality in which it is embedded. For architects to engage in larger issues that directly deal with the built environment, we need to expand our methodology beyond the insular disciplinary boundaries. Such an expanded and interdisciplinary work takes time and requires a series of ‘connecting the dot moments’ to make it work — not only to digest information that we are not familiar with but also to depend on other fields’ expertise in framing an architectural argument.

My conversation with Dr. Karban changed the way I approached my thesis. In some ways, I was looking to find a topic and a typology that I was familiar with, something that I would be comfortable making arguments around. Yet his comments on a ‘best ecological process’ made me realize that architecture, too, can benefit from expanding our modes of knowledge production. For my thesis, inspired by this personal overture into a new discipline, I designed a field station, home and lab for scientists conducting fieldwork. The project is sited in a decommissioned naval base airport in Jamaica Bay, New York, where the coastal habitation is thinning due to sea-level rise, the maritime forest is struggling to survive due to forest fragmentation, and the abandoned facilities have formed their own ecosystems from decades without maintenance. The stations are designed to observe and facilitate these transformations on and along the different edges of the site, functioning as ecological proxies by subjecting architecture to become part of the ecological cycle while measuring the stations’ weathering by and into nature over time. Dr. Karban’s work encouraged me to look at ecological transformation through the subjective viewpoint of plant life and to visit the research stations to experience how the trees were now being studied.

Unfortunately, three days before my scheduled trip to one such site, COVID-19 shut down all university facilities, including my intended site. My luck had perhaps run out, but my conversation with Dr. Karban and other scientists, anthropologists, and engineers gave me confidence that there is a place in architecture to be part of a bigger discussion, in this case, to elevate the study of ecological studies. Since then, I’ve decided to take fate into my own hands, and look to local sites of study where I could continue to push this discussion. This venture into a relative unknown started with a New Yorker article, some books, and a phone call, but a few months later, I am out in the Pinelands National Reserve in NJ, wondering how we can study how trees talk to one another.

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tapestry

Joon Ma — 2021.6.21 11:54 AM

Talking Trees exhibition will be open to the public on July 3rd from 11 am to 7 pm at ARKO Museum.

Please come by if you are available!

Joon Ma — 2021.6.27 12:40 PM

Exhibition

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Talking Trees

Talking Trees

Venice, Seoul, Online, Exhibition, Installation, Generative Dialogue

Networking disparate approaches to engaging the same environment

Overview

As the first generation of digital-native architects, many millennials practicing today no longer consider architecture to be a discipline defined by a body of inherited knowledge, seeing it rather as a means to better understand the relationships between humans and their environment. Architecture has been unburdened from its imperative to provide shelter and is instead being mobilised as a set of operations that can reproduce, interrogate, exchange and dismantle ideas about the world around us. Indeed, as traditional disciplinary borders disintegrate through the proliferation of open-source learning, new, yet to be defined, non-physical localities are emerging.

The Talking Trees Project activates a network of young architecture collectives around the world to create original work on the topic of trees. The various teams are deployed to investigate this shared and familiar theme as one way to begin mapping the new digital geography that has developed in the internet era, charting the similarities and differences that emerge in their work.

The Talking Trees teams include Perennial Commons, (ab)normal+, STUFF DESIGN and ONE-AFTR, covering investigations into networks, digital mapping of the trees outside the Korean Pavilion, architectural ethnographies, myth, oracle, Venice, global adjacencies, surfaces and textures, material research, Seoul, field stations, apparatus, and points of intersection between science, nature, technology and architecture.

Exhibition program participants

Happening now

Workers blocking the street during a protest in Vicenza. May 2021

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — Yesterday

Maestranze dello Spettacolo Veneto during the protest at La Fenice Theatre. June 2021

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — Yesterday

Demonstration in front of La Fenice Theatre in Venice. June 2021

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — Yesterday

Venetian workers from art and cultural sector, protesting during lockdown. May 2020

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — Yesterday

AWI (Art Workers Italia) during the occupation of the Piccolo Teatro in Milan. April 2021

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — Yesterday

Screenshot from the Dialogues #002 - Lunch at Korean Pavilion

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — Yesterday

New Project from Officina Marghera and Architetture Precarie

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — Yesterday

Pandemic and Mechanical Surveillance_Alex Taek-Gwang Lee

Future School Staff — Futurology of Schools — Yesterday

Exhibition programs

Future School