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Nauphoeta Cinerea Navitas_Cockroaches Generated Power Station

Part 1 Project 2010
Astrid Bois D'Enghien
Oxford Brookes University Oxford | UK
London_ Trafalgar Square_ 2048_

Over the past forty years, London has been facing climate change. Human populations are adapting to new ecological challenges. ‘Let us face without panic the reality of our time’ resonates from all radio stations. The city of London is infested with cockroaches. Their outstanding environmental adaptation capabilities have enabled them to survive and procreate more than ever.

Londoners’ mind is imprisoned in morosity, trapped in a constant and noisy swarm. In this greyscale world, their life is confronted with a loss of identity, experiencing a deep similarity among the human world. Dull. Tasteless. Plain. Drab and washed-out.

The British Ministry of Survival Research Laboratory is urgently entitled to create a balanced sharing of the environment between both populations. The question is: how to live with them? How to take advantage of them?

Nauphoeta cinerea navitas – a cockroaches generated power station – acts as a recycling centre located in the heart of London, Trafalgar Square. Citizens are asked to vacuum the streets of London through a network system of pipes displayed around the city. The sucked up cockroaches are sent to the Laboratory Research where they will be studied, disassembled and finally crashed into biofuel. Only the energy embodied in the cockroaches – kinetic or material – is used to run the power station.

This project engages with sci-fi primitive architecture, derived by the atmosphere described in the novel by Stewart, Earth Abides. Nauphoeta cinerea navitas illustrates a contemporary answer to an ecological crisis. It enhances the city of London in resolving an environmental problem without underestimating its psychological and sociological impact. The active role played by the citizens is a real incentive to their living conditions. The power station becomes the emblem of a happier urban life, a space for entertainment, a new place for hope in a drastically changing world.

Astrid Bois D'Enghien

What will happen if, in the future, water resources diminish or if there is global flooding or if grass grows out of control? Because the environmental agenda is having an unprecedented effect on contemporary architectural design, this year our studio titled ‘Architecture, Ecology and Sci-Fi’ speculated on how to survive in a dramatically different ecology in 2048. The studio began by reading science-fiction novels. Initially each student chose a novel which was used to frame their design brief. Texts included 'Dune' (1965), 'The Drowned World' (1962) and 'Greener than you think' to name a few. Astrid chose 'Earth Abides' (1949), a story about a pandemic that kills the majority of people on earth. She created from the text exquisite printed ‘literary landscapes’ of the scenes as she imagined them. Taking as her environmental fear a cockroach infestation, she designed for the Ministry of Survival a Research Institute to help Londoners. Astrid designed an energy and resource station on the site of Trafalgar Square.
The scenario is that Londoners are asked to catch cockroaches in a folded paper box sent out to them by the Ministry and deposit the boxes into her building. The mass cockroach repository is then transformed into food, energy and a manufacturing resource. A large organ like storage chamber is the destination of vacuum-like-tentacles retransferring cockroaches to the chamber ready for processing. The sheer mass of cockroach movement creates an energy that is harnessed and redistributed to Londoners. The elevated chamber is supported by a series of laboratories and process bays. All are represented by fine wispy lines that are layered to create intensity and visual energy, mixed with an industrial aesthetic.
By embracing ecological science fiction as a protagonist for architectural design, the studio deliberately set the environmental agenda as a creative one, extending beyond our current solutions of wind turbines, insulated cavities etc. In an engagingly original and beautiful way Astrid’s project forces a critical assessment of a changing world. Serious environmental concern becomes a passenger to a project that is architecturally ingenious.

Dr Igea Troiani and Andrew Dawson


Dr Igea Troiani
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