Myths, Tales and Other Lies

Architecture. Speculative Futures. Cultural Narratives. Ethereal Drawings

Ghost Bride Cemetery



Pattullo, James. THE GHOST BRIDE CEMETERY : MLA scheduled for completion December 2012.



Abandoned coal mining towns leave enormous scars upon the landscape once the minerals have been removed and the thriving populace has moved onward. These scars upon the landscape encourage further erosion and further destruction. The Chinese government is dedicating US$7 million to attempt to rejuvenate one such site, the abandoned Haizhou Open Pit Coal Mine in Fuxin, China. Currently this site represents the world’s largest abandoned man-made mine – the largest “hole” in Asia. It is 20m lower than the lowest land point in China. The Chinese government is seeking a means by which a thriving populace can be encouraged to repopulate the damaged site. The northern provinces of China are its coal-mining heartland. Pit accidents in these mines typically take the lives of many men too young to have married; yet Chinese tradition demands that husbands and wives always share a grave or the young man will wander forever alone in the afterlife. So sometimes when a young coal miner dies unmarried, his parents procure the body of a woman, hold a “wedding” and bury the couple together. The custom of “ghost marriages” has a two thousand year history, and with the decline of Marxism the tradition is having a strong resurgence resulting in “cemeteries of ghost brides” inhabiting the abandoned mining towns.



This thesis proposes to engage the “ghost bride cemeteries” as a metaphoric vehicle with which to address the recovery of such devastated sites. The ghosts live beneath the earth, and they symbolically represent the ones aware of the spirit of the landscape, its natural systems. The ghost cemetery metaphor will form a basis for a master plan for the City of the Dead, which gradually the City of the Living is meant to inhabit – an infrastructural framework for a new city. The remnants of the City of the Dead will form the infrastructure necessary for the City of the Living to take root. The graveyard of the ghost brides forms ephemeral traces for the City of the Living to infiltrate. The major landmarks of the City of the Dead will stand as markers, witnesses, which are implicated eventually into the City of the Living. The ‘routes’ of the City of the Dead become the future roadways of the City of the Living, but they are not routine orthogonal grids. They will follow the spirit of the land, the contours of the earth, the flow of the rainwater, the acknowledgment of what lies below. The ghosts understand all this in their graveyard; and their pathways invite the City of the Living to be designed in response to the land, not in denial of it. The thesis argues against the traditional applied orthogonal urban grid, in favor of site-specific urban frameworks that fundamentally acknowledge natural landscape systems. The thesis becomes a manifesto about contemporary solutions to urban infrastructure.






The Light Pavilion

The always Great, Lebbeus Woods.


The Light Pavilion is designed to be an experimental space, that is, one that gives us the opportunity to experience a type of space we haven’t experienced before. Whether it will be a pleasant or unpleasant experience; exciting or dull; uplifting or merely frightening; inspiring or depressing; worthwhile or a waste of time, is not determined in advance by the fulfillment of our familiar expectations, because we can have none, never having encountered such a space before. We shall simply have to go into the space and pass through it, perhaps more than once. That is the most crucial aspect of its experimental nature, and we—its transient inhabitants—are experimentalists in full partnership with the space’s designers. Each of our experiences will be unique, personal.



Set within a more known three-dimensional geometry and framed by it, the Light Pavilion exerts its differences. Most apparently, the elements defining it do not follow the known, rectilinear geometry of its architectural setting. The columns supporting stairs and viewing platforms obey a geometry defined by a dynamic of movement. Their deviation from the rectilinear grid releases its spaces from static stability and sets them in motion, encouraging visitors to explore.



The structural columns articulating the Pavilion’s interior spaces are illuminated from within and in the twilight and night hours visibly glow, creating a luminous space into which the solid architectural elements appear to merge. This quality is amplified by the mirrored surfaces enclosing the Pavilion, which visually extend its spaces infinitely. We might speculate that this new type of space stands somewhere between traditional architecture and the virtual environments of cyberspace, a domain we increasingly occupy in our homes and workplaces, but in the Light Pavilion with more emphasis on the physical than the mental or the virtual.ltpav-ddall-10a1


From distances across the city, the Pavilion is a beacon of light for the Raffles City complex. From within the buildings, and especially from the large public plaza between them, the glowing structure radiates subtly changing color symbolizing different holidays and times of day, month and year.

The space has been designed to expand the scope and depth of our experiences. That is its sole purpose, its only function. If one needed to give a reason to skeptics for creating such experimental spaces in the context of this large urban development project, it would be this: our rapidly changing world constantly confronts us with new challenges to our abilities to understand and to act, encouraging us to encounter new dimensions of experience





Inflatable Architectural Body

This project by New Yorker Chico MacMurtrie deals with architecture form an art installation standpoint, but I love how he is dealing no differently from anything an architect would deal with. Also he thinks very carefully about the element of technology witch is intrinsic both in art and architecture, and uses an interactive interface to explore continuously changing, human responsive spaces, all while creating an atmosphere and portraying the narrative of the viewer, what the insider feels.


“Premiering at the Machines and Souls exhibition in Madrid is the Inflatable Architectural Body. This new work attempts to further develop the Inflatables technology while creating a new dialogue between man, machine, and architecture. In this work, I am modeling nature on a microscopic, fractal level. It comprises a system of plug-and-play, inflatable, musculoskeletal modules which allow me to design a series of transformative organic structures influenced by the exhibition space. The modular components can be freely connected and rearranged to produce sculptures of varied size, form, complexity and interactive possibility.



The “live” sections of the form are equipped with a simple sensing system that forces the sculpture into action. Your body’s motion in passing through the space functions as a type of force field that pushes the sculptures’ bones away from you as you are sensed, keeping the sculpture at a constant distance from you. Each bone can be selectively animated by the viewers’ movements allowing for endless interactive possibilities. If you are so inclined, your motion enables you to open it up, creating portals in that let you in and close behind you, giving an extremely different vantage point: life from the inside. In this way, the work is influenced by the nature of the environment—the space—as well as by the audience participants, who are engaged both physically and aesthetically with the constantly transforming structure.



Inflatable Architectural Body uses new technologies to continue a long line of work exploring the forms, movements, and interactions that underlie our experience. As a magnification of the cellular world,Inflatable Architectural Body gives us a direct, visceral experience of the kinds of minute geometric constructions that underlie all of life. Because the audience brings the sculpture to life, the piece literalizes the notion that the audience affects the work, and recalls the notion that none of us are bystanders in the natural world. By separating elements such as these from our normal modes of experience, and reimagining them in new bodies and interactions, we hope to gain a new perspective on ourselves and the effects we have on the world around us.” –

An Augmented Ecology Of Wildlife And Industry

This project is by Wen Ying Teh while she was in Intermediate Unit 7 in 2008-2009, it once again deals with narrative, context and  form in such an effortless way.

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“An existing salt mine sits as a scar on the Galapagos Landscape. Once the natural habitat of Flamingos, this salt lake has long been a desolate space ravaged by the nearby restaurant industry. The Galapagos is caught between its massive contribution to the Ecuadorian economy and its value as a historic wilderness.This project is conceived of as a provocation and speculation on how these two demands may be hybridized as an alternative to the typical conservationist practices applied across the islands. The two traditionally mutually exclusive programs of salt farming and Flamingo habitat are re imagined as a new form of symbiotic designed ecology; a pink wonderland, built from colored bacteria and salt crystallization, dissolving and reshaping itself with seasonal and evaporative cycles. The building becomes an ecosystem in itself, completely embedded in the context that surrounds it.

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Formed from fine webs of nylon fibers held in an aluminum frame, this strange string instrument allows the salt farming process to be drawn up out of the lake, returning it to the endemic flamingos whilst at the same time ensuring the continuation of a vital local industry. Using just capillary action, salt water from the lake crystallizes on the tension strings forming glistening, translucent enclosures. It encrusts the infrastructure of a flamingo observation hide and solidifies into a harvestable field ready to be scraped clean by miners.The project has been developed through scale models that were used as host structures for an in depth series of crystallization experiments. Material erosion, spatial qualities, structurally capacity and evaporative cycles were all determined through physical testing. The architecture and its physical models grew slowly across time, emerging from the salt waters they were immersed in, to become fully developed crystalline structures.


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The Galapagos is an ecology in crisis. The project is positioned as part documentary, part science fiction offering both a rigorous technical study and a speculative near future wilderness. An evolving future for the islands is imagined and it demands an evolved and mutated architecture.”

Wen Ying Teh


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This year the studio have trawled the wilds of genetic modification, augmented bodies and neo biological invention to query today’s idealistic and preservationist views of the natural world. The students were asked to develop their projects as critical tools to instigate debate and raise questions about architectural practice in relation to the social and political consequences of various environmental and technological futures.For three weeks we voyaged south, following Darwin’s expedition to the Galapagos Islands and South America. There Ying found a precious and fragile wilderness teetering at the point of collapse, an ecology in crisis, bearing the scars of a ravenous tourist economy and Salt mining industry. Her research led her to focus on the cuts and gouges of the Galapagos Salt lakes- a ‘violence’ which has displaced the endangered flamingo flocks but supports a tourist economy vital to the Ecuadorian population.At the core of her critical approach was Ying’s decision to engage the inevitabilities of the tourist salt mining industry by proposing a new type of hybrid ecology where industry and endemic wildlife can not only co exist but also be mutually beneficial. Her surreal pink landscape is a new type of designed wilderness, a strange nature filled with flamingo flocks and glistening salt- a contemporary recasting of traditional sustainable practises.


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The strength of the project is that it is both a speculative investigation of what it means to build within such a fragile ecosystem but also a grounded technical study of the structural and spatial potential of salt as a new building material. The architecture was developed constantly through physical modelling which was then fed back into computational models. Ying meticulously tested the phenomena she was designing with using live experiments and 1:1 studies.This capacity to be wildly imaginative but at the same time technically rigorous and utterly believable is what gives the project its critical edge. It is an important project, creatively involving itself in a most pertinent debate.Kate Davies Liam Young

The Pie Factory

This project is by James Rennie who I have introduced before with other projects and illustrations of his:

First Stage: Wakefield Rhymes


Nursery rhymes are representations of important historical events, most nursery rhymes are parodies of royal and political events in the middle ages. A direct reference to a story involving royalty was punishable by death, a rhyme became a form of code. A child however will sing a nursery rhyme without any knowledge or awareness of the historical events it represents, they will normally attach their own narrative to it. The drawings section the narrative.



Second Stage: The Chef and the Jester

That develops into an exploration of the medieval banquet. How the visual impressiveness of the food and the “performance” of the meal overtakes the quality of taste. scale and grandeur.The occasion is primary. The figures of chef and the jester exchange roles and reciprocate each other.



Third Stage: The Banquet

Exploring: sacrifice, theatre, hope, scale, secrecy and surrealism through event.



Final Stage: The Pie Factory

“My scheme reinstates Wakefield’s medieval typology of the chantry. There where once four chantry chapels that stood at the four key entrance points to the city. Only the one situated at the south of the city remains; the chapel of the Virgin Mary, on Wakefield bridge. Through this symbolic typology I aim to reinvigorate Wakefield’s identity. The four chantries will become places of comfort within the city; celebrating Yorkshire food. Modest and warming food lies at the heart of Yorkshire’s identity and like the chantries, these traditional recipes have been lost or misinterpreted. The pie, which is commonly associated with bad British cooking, was in medieval times the centre of a feast and becomes an analogy for the chantry; appearing modest from the outside, the contents remain a mystery until the first bite. It is only after this bite that the gastronomic narrative begins.


The scheme’s main function serves as a pie factory, located next to The Virgin Mary Chantry. The factory commemorates the four chantries and celebrates Yorkshire food. The four chantry towers stand adjacent to one another, along the River Calder, working together to produce the pies. These pies are then taken to the sites of the other three chantries to be sold.

Within each of the towers is an archive that houses recipes from their respective quarters of Wakefield, as well as a banquet space, where both contemporary and traditional Yorkshire food can be tried and enjoyed.”









An Acoustic Lyrical Mechanism



Basmah Kaki is a student at the Architectural Association and  was tutored by Nannette Jackowski and Ricardo de Ostos in Intermediate Unit 3 and is a good friend of mine. I am so proud of her and admire her so much. She won the RIBA Bronze medal in 2011.

This project speculates on sound energy and ambient space within the extreme setting of an active granite quarry. Located on the outskirts of the high-tech city Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, the mine employees a migrating cast – among them women and children – whose hearing is progressively damaged by the noise pollution endemic to their working conditions. An Acoustic Lyrical Mechanism creates a long-term strategy where sound and religious spaces offer relief, treatment and hope for the community of workers.
Inspired by local religious traditions, the design is built around an existing sacred temple located within a thin, excavated area of the quarry. Largely placed inside the rock face, to protect against the mine’s constant hammering sounds and blast vibrations, this temple offers an entry point that then channels into a retreat space situated 30m above the quarry’s floor, high enough to escape the destructive noises and yet embedded enough to listen to the sounds generated by a layered adaptive skin mechanism attached to the cliff rock. This skin responds to a range of complex, and often competing, physical and environmental conditions.


The design was structured, firstly, around several prototypes, built to investigate Aeolian wind-belt harp concepts, and the conversion of kinetic energy into electrical and sound energy. Secondly, topographic models helped to analyse wind and natural updraft on steep surfaces and control the air/sound flow within the building. Following a series of environmental studies, it was decided to position wind catchers in order to amplify the prevailing wind, redirecting the updraft to play the building’s instrumental spaces.
Operating as a sensorial extension of the existing temple, the building engages its users in educational programmes via lyrical mechanisms, tuning tools and sonic workshops. Crafted with the detail typically afforded to the manufacture of musical instruments, its internal spaces sit in contrast to its rough external setting. Like an Aeolian harp, the building is played by the wind, acoustically transforming the abrasive sounds of quarrying.



Part documentary, part speculation, the project reflects on sites and people lost in the rush of technological progress, but at the same time celebrating the cultivation of hope through acoustic lyrical mechanisms.


The Butterfly House

Butterfly House is a dramatic architectural sculpture by English architect Laurie Chetwood, inspired by the lifecycle of a butterfly, a demonstration of experimental environmental design on a liveable scale.

The butterfly’s lifecycle

An experiment in zoomorphic design, the remodelled 1930s timber-clad family home traces each change in the butterfly lifecycle.

The larval stage is represented by the steel bridge with curved balustrades that hint at the segmented body of a caterpillar leading to the house, the chrysalis is captured by the staircase, enclosed areas of the house and conservatory and the final winged insect is represented by retractable winged external canopies spread as sun shades over a paved garden space.

The interior of the house is ‘alive’ with colour and a web of fibres, wires and cables, cocooning its inhabitants.



Originally Willards Cottage was a show house at a 1930s Ideal Home Exhibition when it was built to demonstrate the advantages of Canadian cedar-frame construction. When re-erected on a site near Godalming that was a perfect habitat for the butterfly the architect, Laurie Chetwood, wanted to transform it into something that would reflect its life cycle- so Butterfly House became a reality. There is a steel walkway leading to the house, enormous Kevlar winged canopies with red admiral markings projecting in all directions with tubes, pipes and cables festooned everywhere. The RIBA Award Judges described it as “an art installation as much as a house, wrapped around a largely unchanged building.”

They concluded: “The architect deserves praise for the way that art and design have been integrated in this building. Innovation and experimentation are the key drivers behind the design vision and this has created a truly unique and different building”.


The Terra Nova project was commissioned in 1988 by Kyong Park, at the time Director and Curator of the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, for the Project DMZ exhibition, described as:
“an extensive […] project aimed at addressing from an architectural standpoint the effects of conflict by proposing alternative spatial strategies in relation to the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Taking the DMZ as an exemplification of political, military and economic polarization, the project called for the use of design strategies rather than military force to initiate paths toward reunification of the Korean peninsula and its people. […]. Participants included Nam June Paik, Paul Virilio and Avant Travaux Studio”

The proposal by  genius Lebbeus Woods directly addresses the effects of a permanent state of war not only on human and social structures but also on the territory and its ecologies. The project is a mega-structure, one of those spatial systems called by Woods Building Lanscapes, whose aim is to foster interaction between human and natural terriories: “a ‘second nature,’ a terra nova, that engages the human and the natural in ways that are primarily spatial. The ultimate aim was to maintain the distinct characteristics of each, without sentimentalizing either, and to foster a ‘third,’ which is a new, ecological utopia.”

Not surprisingly the idea of utopia that stands behind Woods’ project is both provocative and deeply rooted into a thermodynamic reading of the existence: “The utopian condition is one of conflict, achieving a dynamic balance of opposing ideas, actions, forces, through continuous struggle to assert differences of every kind. This idea is based on the belief that the ultimate state of harmony is death. For living things and systems, harmony means the resolution of conflicts and the achievement of a final, ‘peaceful,’ state.”

Miràge Architecture

Curated by Alexander Ponomarev and Olilga Milentiy, the Ukraine Pavilion at the 2012 Architecture Biennale presents mobile museums projects under the concept of “Mirage Architecture”. The exhibition focuses on a conceptual design for a Museum of Contemporary Arts in the Antarctic.

Forgive the pictures, they are my own quick snaps.

Floating Personal Art Museum

A movile self-propelled or towed floating architectural structure, the museum comprises five exhibition spaces and several technique rooms. Two halls are underwater and the other three are submobiles capable of emersion and submersion  Along the outside perimiter these structures are equipped with special devices that are, respectively, ice, steam, and water generators. On the water surface, these substances determine the visual and tactile characteristics of the museum.

The Contemporary Art Museum in the Antarctic

This mobile architectural structure is capable of floating on the water both horizontally and vertically (the research vessel principle has been used). Upon arrival in the Antarctic the structure is positioned vertically by moving ballast from the prow to the stern thanks so that the living quarters (superstructure) is above water and the exhibition zone (the museum) is underwater. Living in the hotel part amidst the icebergs, tourists and researchers will be able to see the unique underwater museum display using a special bathyscaph.

“In order to build new Utopia, there is no need to raze the world. There are still places on Earth with clean, free spaces, offering room for cooperation and co-creation. On of these places is the Antarctic”

The idea of the project ocurred to Alexander Ponomarev when he visited the Antarctic in the area of Ukraine’s Academician Vernadsky polar station, where he observed and made drawings of mirages and photographed them.

“Along with a science expedition, i visited the Ukrainian Academician Vernadsky’s research station in the Antarctic, where I took photographs and made videos of the remarkable optical phenomena known as mirages. Icebergs, the coastline, and other objects appeared on the sea horizon, transformed into different structures, and then disappeared”.

“Architects Alexei Kozyr and Ilya Babak repeatedly used the principle of disappearing shapes and transformable structures in their Architecture Projects. Our fellowship has enabled me to launch mobile museum projects under the blanket title of Mirage Architecture”

“Here, each artists will be able to implement ideas and make unrealized dreams come true. During the summer navigation season the structures move from Europe to the Antarctic, where they change their appearance like a Fata Morgana and enable travelers, researchers, and tourists to come into contact with the works of art”.



Here is the video, which I haven’t been able to embed onto the blog; it is worth a watch!

In the course of his last voyage to the Arctic, when the artist observed and photographed mirages, he was invested with an idea of a project of two museums of modern art in Antarctic. One of them would be dedicated to Ponomarev and would gather his oeuvres. Each museum would be a floating exhibition space below water level with facades made of ice, water and steam. The museums would be able to come to the surface and sink again like some submobiles. In order to see the exposition it is necessary to submerge to the depth in a bathyscaphe. The possibility of transformation and disappearance of the edifice after submerging underwater allows speaking of the unfathomable “architecture of mirages”. The museums are designed for the Polar Regions, yet they can be installed wherever there is water.


The Perth Photobioreactors

Emergent Architecture designed this organic fuel production system in response to a solicitation for an art installation by the city of Perth in Western Australia. Rather than responding to the brief with a monumental artwork representing the heritage of Perth, EA’s design consists of an outcropping of human-scale Photobioreactors which relate to the city in a more nuanced way. These devices are intended to operate ontologically at both conceptual and visceral levels, in terms of space, color, luminosity, but also infrastructure and engineering. There are seven elements, tied together by a pleated, color-variegated groundscape which tracks a network of biofuel lines leading across the street to the Perth train station.

This project is an attempt to avoid the trappings of conventional public art which is often associated with large, often modern, expressions of form. This design does not signify — it performs. The Perth Photobioreactors gather energy by way of several interwoven high- and low-tech systems. These include a luminous, artificial photosynthetic system invented by OriginOil in Los Angeles, and thin-film solar transistors woven into ornamental electronic tracery.

The outer shells of the Photobioreactors are fiber-composite monocoque construction, pleated for stiffness. These structures support large transparent polycarbonate apertures to allow in sunlight while also protecting internal moving parts. Inside are coils of transparent acrylic which contain green or red algae colonies. The photosynthetic process of the algae requires carbon dioxide on the front end, and produces bio-fuel or hydrogen at the back-end. These devices therefore simultaneously remediate the environment by removing carbon dioxide from the local atmosphere and generate fuel in a closed-loop, off-the-grid system. One of the implications here is that energy production may, in the future, be super-localized and embedded in daily behaviors, rather than magically available from distant sources.

The benefit of the OriginOil system is that it allows for continued operation in shade and also in complete darkness through the use of a helix of lights inside each algae coil. These lights are triggered by low sunlight, so that at dusk, the cells will begin to turn on, one by one, generating a kaleidoscope of colored light and glowing algae. The result is a technologically ambient urban space, which also conveniently provides ground lighting for passers-by. Electricity required for this lighting is provided by the thin-film solar transistor system embedded in the transparent polycarbonate apertures, which charge during the day.

A simple algae photobioreactor (PBR) is a device that can contain and grow algae. This self-contained system provides a controllable environment where the supply of light, nutrients, carbon dioxide, air, and temperature can be regulated. As an algae photobioreactor is a totally enclosed system it can prevent or at least minimize contamination (from other algae species and bugs), and allows easier cultivation of one algae strain. It also offers better control over a range of other growing conditions, like the pH, light, carbon dioxide, and temperature. In addition, a closed system reduces evaporative water losses, and has lower carbon dioxide losses, which promotes higher cell concentrations – or more grams of algae produced per liter of water.