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The Maker and the Made

Part 2 Project 2012
Joseph Deane
Royal College of Art, UK

The Maker and the Made examines the agency of ‘nonhumans’; the manner by which all organic and inorganic matter including weathers, minerals and inanimate objects intimately affect the formation of the urban milieu and the social behaviour of its human inhabitants.

The Olympic Legacy is an anthropogenic plan; valiantly prescribing the fate of a site for thirty-six years. But it is immersed in metabolisms that exceed human control: The Lea Valley is sinking as a result of glacial isostatic recovery; London’s overstretched wastewater system is currently spilling an estimated 19 million tonnes of sewage into the River Lea each year, rendering it the most polluted river in Great Britain. As the urban population increases and climate change trends continue, the effects of such nonhuman metabolisms will only become more pronounced. But could this compromised condition nonetheless seed an optimistic future for the Olympic site? With peak phosphate anticipated by 2040, the fertile minerals of the city’s polluted waterways could become its most valuable asset.

The Olympic Park is thus rendered an inhabited wetland; an unpredictable piece of ‘fourth nature’ and centralised municipal infrastructure providing relief to an overstretched city and its vulnerable flood plain. Nomadic minerals are located by digital buoys and harvested by allotment towers as they migrate across the waterways. The elevated roads and irrigation networks follow suit, arranging themselves around the emerging braided river network below. Pioneer species ingest the deposited heavy metals through their roots, turning toxic flood plains into enclaves of urban wilderness. Stercorary storage towers become occupied by human residents taking advantage of the energy, warmth and nutrients provided by the city’s waste. Over the Greenway, towers pump the burgeoning overflow of the city towards the Olympic monuments; now partially re-appropriated as hybridised objects of leisure and municipal infrastructure.

The masterplan is not a dictation, but a set of architectural apparatus: a playful mechanism that evolves according to an uncertain future. By centralising ecological infrastructure we bring nonhumans into our bedrooms; we live with them. Only by doing so might we hope to finally challenge the erroneous binary of human culture and nonhuman nature.

Joseph Deane


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