Faculty Design - Nine Islands

Nine Islands: Matters Around Architecture

Neyran Turan, University of California, Berkeley


In light of our current political crisis around climate change, what can architecture possibly contribute toward a new planetary imaginary of our contemporary environment beyond environmentalism? Despite its urgency and relevance, climate change has yet to be conceptualized as a cultural and political source around which our discourses on architectural representation and imagination can shape.

Nine Islands: Matters Around Architecture positions climate change as a cultural and political idea that requires a renewed architectural imagination. Through a focus on the underconceptualized long-span of architectural materiality, Nine Islands situates certain problems brought by climate change and the Anthropocene—such as resource extraction, materiality, obsolescence, and waste—in architectural terms. Instead of conceptualizing the environment as purely natural that needs to be preserved and protect¬ed or as solely systemic that needs to be mastered and managed, it offers another kind of environmental imagination for architecture, one that aims to re-boost our geo-cosmic effect from within.

Nine Islands: Matters Around Architecture examines the under-conceptualized spatial and temporal long-span of architectural materiality. From the extraction of a particular raw matter from a specific geographic location, to its processing, transportation, and construction into a desired finished effect in a building, and to its demolition and waste, the spatial and temporal span of architectural materiality is very wide (geographic) and deep (geological).

The project speculates on this long-span through nine case studies (nine islands) by looking at particularly lavish or widely used nine building materials: certain types of marble, wood, glass, travertine, copper, aluminum, concrete, leather, and plastic.

This project was presented to the public through an exhibition, which was comprised of nine drawings and nine models. The upper part of each model consists of a Monument, an archetypical building mass that is finished with a specific material. As an opposition to the upper part, the lower part of each model consists of a Rock, a formless landmass from which the raw matter is extracted.

The double signification of the raw and the finished is also evidenced in the drawings of the project. Consisted of two parts, each drawing depicts two different snapshots from the longspan of one of the nine materials.

While the upper part of each drawing positions one building material through a particular architectural lens, the lower part depicts a daily life scene from the wider life span of the same material (extraction at the quarry, demolition of the building ruin, management of the waste mount in the ocean etc.). As the upper drawings depict architectural spaces or specifications as still-lifes with traces of everyday life without the presence of humans, the lower drawings showcase over-populated human activity and presence in the extraction, production, transportation, construction, demolition or waste site.

This collapse of the architectural and the geographic aims to call attention to the underconceptualized space in between.