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Design Studio 18: 2019

Cosmopolitical Design in a River Basin, Myanmar

Project Notes

MArch Architecture Studio @
University of Westminster, School of Architecture + Cities.
Lead by Lindsay Bremner, John Cook & Ben Pollock.

June 2019

Monsoon Assemblages

Project Tags:
2019, Research, Teaching, Design, Education, Workshops

This was the third and final of three DS 18 studios contributing to the research agenda of Monsoon Assemblages, a five-year long research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC).

This year the studio worked in Myanmar, a monsoonal territory currently being rapidly transformed by climatic, industrial and agricultural pressures. It was framed by the idea of 'cosmopolitical design.' This is based on the realisation that what used to be called nature (weather, climate, a river etc.) is no longer a stabilising pattern or a backdrop for human activity. Instead nature is created, instigated, composed and undone at every moment. It rejects the modernist idea of nature as external to human experience and able to be mastered by architects, engineers and scientists from the outside. Instead, it explores what design might be if it is practiced as an active process of manipulation and reworking nature from within, in which human and non-human ways of being and ways of knowing are taken into account.

The studio began by mapping the lrrewaddy River in Myanmar as matter, ecologies and flows. Students deepened these cartographic representations by simulating the river from the perspective of a nonhuman entity that inhabits it e.g. a fish species, dolphins, mercury, sediment. Students generated a programme and designed a new cosmopolitical forum in which the entity they had been researching and its human interlocuters could negotiate a shared future.

Rachel Wakelin, RIBA Silver Medal, Serjeant Winner 2019 - RIBA

Raymonde Bieler,  RIBA West London Architects Group Award for Best Student in MArch Year 1, 2019

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