Humanisation of the Mine


Living in the age of global computation, algorithmic governance, cloud platforms, smart cities and automatisation we wanted to implement all those attributes in the our case scenario. The city of future aims not only to become progressive but also to give the answer to the previous generations problems. The issues are related with landscape trauma, harsh weather conditions, limited resources and lack of accessibility. The city that we are dealing with is Mirny, situated in the western part of Yakutia (Sakha) Republic in Russian Federation. Between 1957 till 2017 Mir mine was one of the most significant mining diamond industries in the world. During this period the mine diameter increased into 1200 meters and 525 meters depth. As well as the population of the city that skyrocket to 35 223 people (2018). Currently, the mine is not longer active and the question of using this space is urgent. A proposal for the reclamation of the mine has already been made by architectural bureau «AB ELIS» called «Ecocity 2020», endeavouring to solve the landscape injury and at the same moment trying to solve the problems mentioned upper. Taking into consideration all the facts we are trying to rethink a megastructure city from the social, environmental, geopolitical and evolutional point of view. Considering the scale we are dealing with the utopian scenario that is accumulating all the latest technological elements related to energy production, agriculture and infrastructure of the city. A very significant factor is the differentiation of scale. One scale is related to the human activity (surface level) another to non-human activity (underground industrial level) supported by the artificial intelligence and machine learning. The project attempts to combine a landscape intervention and a sustainable mechanism of living.


What prompted the project?

Starting from identifying human nature traumatised landscapes the pole of interest shifted towards post-mining landscapes. Open-pit mines have a certain life span of 30-50 years, and their massive appearance was first noticed around 60s. Thus, during the 00s a majority of open pit mines have become inactive, so the raised challenging question is how these gigantic artificial landforms can be active again.

What questions does the project raise and which does it answer?

The project is dealing with environmental and social issues. Land abuse in combination with pollution due to the mining process, associated to the abandoned model of the ‘‘satellite’’ city developed next to the mine providing accommodation to the workers, are the significant issues elaborated through this project. The main attempt of the project, is to heal the traumatised landscape but at the same moment to revitalise those eventually ghosted cities. This could be achieved by introducing new functions related to sustainable-autonomous approach and to a social point of view, the ‘‘satellite’’ city can still be alive and productive without the presence of the active pit mine.

How did you approach the research of the site? What tools did you use?

Mirny is located in Siberia, consequently the only way to extract information for the mine and the city was documentaries, maps, on line information and as well as online groups of the residents of the Mirny. Moreover, visiting Carrara quarry (typology of mine) in Italy was a simulation for perceiving the scale, the landscape and the atmosphere of a mine.

How and to what extent did this research inform the design and speculation of the project?

The research part revealed new notions into the project such as ‘‘connectivity’’, ‘‘autonomy’’ and ‘‘adaptability’’. Minry’s isolation is a crucial point that led us to developing transport network, as well as techniques for being self-sufficient in food and water supplies. Moreover harsh climatic conditions, triggered to invent new methodologies in order to adjust the megastructure and the human body to cold temperatures. (yourt and construction details).

What drew you to the idea and notion of the megastructure? What is the necessity for this at Mirny?

Being inspired by utopian architecture, able to create scenarios, predictions and courageous gestures, together with enormous Mirny mine scale, the idea of a megastructure was evident. Moreover the idea of a megastructure discloses an organism ready to receive new elements in order to be re-transformed, re-vitalised, always endeavouring to cope with the current conditions. Mirny urges this necessity, the power of re-transforming into a new landscape, into a new city.

How does this respond to the landscape of Mirny?

Mirny Mine is one of the few examples of mines located by the city, therefore the urban landscape has become an eerie everyday scene. This dipole between normality (city) and abnormality (mine) was one of the substantial speculations for obtaining balance between those two elements. Creating an underground megastructure fills the void of the mine and flattens the surface attempting to return the ground to its initial state. This gesture is symbolic, by covering the the mine the trauma can be ‘‘healed’’.

What is for you the relationship between architecture and landscape? How does your project address this very delicate balance?

In general the landscape of the region was formed under the harsh climatic conditions that led to the development of cracks in Earth’s surface. We decided to interpret this peculiar pattern as the surface of the “patch” – upper part of the new city. This conceptual gesture could add a sense of coherence and comfort, if we can talk about comfort in this case.
On the one hand in terms of technology we wanted to make the project as modern as possible. On the other – take into account all the features of the yakutian heritage. This trial to link modern and traditional prompted the creation of technological elements. For example the “balagan” or “yourt” structures that nomads traditionally use in this area as a house placed on the pillars became a yellow flexible fabric. During severe winter it is able to cover the whole courtyard and protect people from the snow or strong winds. In the middle of the courtyard there is a hearth, that you can also find it in the traditional yakutian houses. These correlations make the project modern and old-fashioned at the same time.

How and to what extent should we as architects be more mindful of the environment?

The main tool is to stay in the context. But after a certain point there is no need to be delicate. The problem that we are facing with the mines and quarries requires determination and a strong gesture. The Mirny mine is one of many “wounds” that are able to receive an “architectural answer”. Others like Kennecott Bingham Canyon Mine in the USA or Super Pit gold mine in Australia are too big to approach it and it’s sizes are getting bigger every day.

What is for you the architect’s most important tool?

Relevance, attention to the context and knowledge of the site. The answer will never be adequate without a proper research.