More and more our physical footprint shrinks as our digital lives expand. Life is ever so convenient through clicks and taps, there is a tendency feel through a constant feed of emotions that our devices gather for us… we demand access to data & media, mass social interaction to an extent that we could end up being fully dependant of this easiness to grow out of ourselves and become a fully digitalized being.
If everyone were soon to live in the cities, would you be able to choose not to? Would the automation of agricultural and industrial sectors mean that its territory becomes no man’s land? Will the perfect integration and inner workings of society within cities sacrifice our freedom and make us indispensable for its sustainability?Even now at this time we can observe how the society we all take part in is set out to eventually become a flawless mathematical model.
Around 2080 d.c. Cities already contain 99% of the population, and the territory of Spain is for the most part a demographic desert. The service sector occupies most of the working population, in a socio-economic space based on digital values. The city has become an integration mechanism based on a government of artificial intelligence and its citizens are subject to a programmed balance for all.
With this statement, Nexus sets out to illustrate a speculative scenario where an individual and his associates who decide to exit the city and embark on an adventure recolonising the territory outside of the cities. For this purpose, a prototype is conceived, a portable integrating device, that consists of a set of considerations to facilitate this process. The technological ideas of efficiency and survival employed, generate in this case an ecosystem of compatibility, mobility and reusability. A resilient typology played against the control of machines and A.I. in cities.
This prototype, generated from objects taken from industrial waste outside cities, becomes a tool for transport, habitability and hedonism. In the process of incorporating these elements, they recover some functionality and are modified to incorporate other attributes in order to update their capabilities. Thanks to its mechanical configuration, it is possible to work on different elements in an evolutionary way. With this the user can choose what are the systems he needs to generate his own domestic landscape. The basic design prototype maintains functionalities that change or adapt during its transport or deployment state, containing the basic structure for the temporary construction of a refuge. Further on, the prototype is adapted to develop in vertical colonies in a structural frame that reinforces the chassis, adapting it to a vertical structure taken from obsolete elements in the corridor links in between cities.
The crew of the prototype are explorers and traders, who manufacture objects with the loot gathered out of the voyages in physical and virtual environments. They interact and explore with drones that travel through air traffic routes and the rest of the online community.
What prompted the project?
Being aware of the increasing difference between living in the city versus being located out in the countryside of Spain, or even on the unfinished deserted developments of the housing crisis. I began wondering to what extent the lifestyle that we are born into and encouraged to live by, is dependent on ourselves, to keep itself alive and evolving. How economy is shaping around customer widespread and accessibility for it to remain sustainable as competitiveness escalates, thus encouraging living in more densely urban focused landscapes.
I wondered given the already centralist layout of infrastructure and demographics of Spain, if this tendency would result in the complete migration from the countryside to the main cities. This finally made me focus on trying to illustrate and make people aware of the possibility, for a seemingly dystopian future in which the countryside’s life is not sustained by society, but by technology and a design strategy towards a new landscape.
You talk about our footprint diminishing as the realm of the digital expands, could you explore this notion further?
I don’t really know if it’s a diminishing or growing footprint that we have, for sure it’s re-shifting constantly. Going online in most of our spending has resulted in the decline of physical retailers and many shopping centres that serve small neighbourhoods. This trend is usually only survived by stepping up scale, serving larger communities and by providing services that can’t be provided widely on-line, like leisure activities. The online economy of services and shopping is resulting mostly on logistic warehouses, and industrial areas accessible to the main road networks, this infrastructure although in many occasions is not present in front of us has absolved much activity that used to take place inside urban areas. That’s why I said that our footprint has diminished mostly in our neighbourhoods, because it’s been absolved by the infrastructure supporting the activity within the “digital realm”.
Very clearly also, the new arising patterns for working from home or at co-working spaces, come hand in hand with the consolidation of digitalised cloud-based workflows and services. This environment incites a blurred boundary in between time spent working or consuming media and interacting socially on-line, contrary to some that state this can stimulate decentralism, I believe that in many cases in can further limit our social interactions. On top of that most of the media we consume make us feel more connected to the “ways” of live with in cities, where it’s easy to go out and experience events and places we find about daily on the web.
How and to what extent is the infrastructure of our digital lives establishing a new unique landscape?
We see how this footprint is colonising existing industrial areas or generating new developments, being some of the main objective’s, automatization and a reduction in operative staff. This in conjunction with the evolution of the countryside industrialization generates a dynamic landscape where the new society dwelling within are machines, and us if we happen to even be there are just temporary passengers.
The image envisioned is both dreading and exciting, for once it remains uncertain how society will manage such an extreme transition from rural areas to cities. Seeing the big difference in government support for rural areas now, it becomes questionable even if this unbalance goes further, would it be even possible to be accounted for if you chose to live outside the cities?
This is when I realised that what I wanted to illustrate was, how is it like to live in this situation? Could we bring along that footprint that represents our online interactions with ourselves, physically? Can we inhabit this devise achieving self-sustainability? Would we be able to retain control on how we chose to interact with the technology that’s shaping society and the landscape forming outside the city?
To what extent is the city and the surrounding landscape influenced by this new phenomenon?
This can be seen in many towns were their demographic aging goes on par with its stagnation in technological progression and the only developments go to basically reduce and optimize the presence of people in that area.
In addition to 55% of the world population living in urban areas as of today and two third predicted by 2050 we are heading towards unsustainable agricultural models, how does you project sit in relation to this?
This is even more alarming in Spain, were the 80% of the population lives in the cities at this time and increasing steadily over the years, on top of that people living in the country side belong to older generation that are not even working the country side that much, competitiveness and low wages are making agriculture more and more industrialised and the towns loose liveliness as people living in them either move out or eventually pass away naturally.
The exiting part I was going to mention earlier, was envisioning precisely how the automatization of the rural and industrial environment could diminish the footprint we have in those landscapes, effectively letting nature close in and generating endless locations for site seeing and ruin exploration. This is the situation were my proposal takes part and aims to positively tackle a situation which some would find more distressful than comforting.
How do you see your speculation developing in relationship to the imminent and exponential growth of the world population?
What informed the choice of a device as design strategy rather than policy etc?
The case created was scenario about a small group of people that chose to stay outside the support of society and the city. In some way I pictured that this minority could to some extent present a potential danger to the interest of the majority, that’s why there is an outlandish vibe about the characters portraited in the drawings.
I made the case earlier were I stated if the unbalance of rural vs urban areas increases further, government control and presence outside the cities will diminish greatly thus generating a situation of less regulation and greater freedom. Being this a result of total absence of control and prohibition to stay outside the city and law, or a product of mutual respect and liberty I can’t really tell, and for the result it wouldn’t really make a difference. The objective was survival over long journeys exploring through this unique landscape, with minimal support while remaining connected. All to experience the development of a personal environment based on the freedom to choose, create explore and endure through challenging but rewarding conditions.
To sum this up, in any case, allowed or not to remain outside the cities your support and access to food energy and goods was to be done by your own means that’s why design has such a big role in generating a circular economy of self-sustainability.
What role can we as architects play in this condition?
At this point of the project, my mindset was completely focused on self-design. Architecture is not seemingly present as a professional craft in the speculative scenario I created, it could be a valuable skill to create, salvage and fabricate devises and objects with help of fabrication technologies. But the situation is one of non-regulation and freedom to create, oddly enough inspired in old well lived houses in which each inhabitant sticks to its own spontaneous addition of utility and identity over time.
What is for you the architect's most important tool?
I believe the best tool we have is the one that enable us to express our ideas best, drawings might be sometimes the obvious answer but also speech and writing are indispensable. Al of which come from knowledge and access to information, this last one might be if not our most important tool, our most valuable asset.