Future Island in Venice: Time of Stone
Exploring Concepts of Adaptation
The current discourse around climate change focuses on mitigation as a means to preserve our way of life, but most of natural history has been a history of adaptation to, rather than a stubborn avoidance of, inevitable change. While it is very necessary to reduce greenhouse gases in order to avoid planetary catastrophe, the simple truth is that we will also need to learn from nature in order to adapt to a changing environment.
You can read all 15 stories of adaptation here.
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Jesse Honsa, Hsoc Mathai George, Elif Soylu, Nilofer Tajuddin
OOZE (Eva Pfannes, Sylvain Hartenberg) & Marjetica Potrč
The 17th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 2021
Hashim Sarkis, Salgueiro Roi, Gabriel Kozlowski
La Biennale di Venezia
Temperature timeline and stories of adaptation. © Ooze 2021
Our house, planet Earth, has already witnessed a number of extreme climate crises, with all the corresponding mass extinctions and explosions of life that followed. This 4,543-billion-year logarithmic timeline—increasing detail towards the present—features Earth's shifting temperature as a protagonist, alternating between icehouses and greenhouses and offering habitats for evolving forms of life. Fifteen episodes illustrate how evolving life forms have not only continuously adapted to changing environments but became themselves the architects of more suitable habitats in order to evolve further. In the distant past, drastic temperature changes (+15˚C to -5˚C compared to the current average) were caused by either external or internal interferences with Earth’s ecosystems, such as asteroids or volcanism.
Human time span on temperature timeline. © Ooze 2021
In the recent past, human beings were the first species that was able to progressively increase their collective influence on Earth’s systems in such a way that the consequences are now almost comparable to an asteroid impact. Only 2.5 million years ago, humans entered the scene at exactly the moment when greenhouse Earth had cooled down to a relative flatline global average temperature around 14˚C degrees. Minor fluctuations have still pulled levers behind the curtains of cultural development, drowning empires and exposing the fallacy in architecture's sense of permanence. For several millennia, humans have adapted to climate changes and in turn caused temperatures to waver further. Recognising that the temperature line is likely to climb much higher within this century, Future Island is a landscape intervention in Stockholm, Sweden that simulates global warming conditions by artificially heating half of the island +5˚C: a conversation piece that observes how flora, fauna and humans adapt to warmer temperatures. It challenges us to redefine adaptation not as a mere reaction but as an opening up of possibilities.
Illustration of Planet Earth 1,85 billion years ago © Ooze 2021
BIRTH OF THE FUTURE ISLAND ROCK
1.85-1.75 billion years ago[b]
[b]COLUMBIA/ NUNA SUPERCONTINENT: The Future Island rock (in this exhibition) was produced by Earth during the Proterozoic eon. The crust of the Earth then consisted of volcanic rocks and bodies of rock formed by cooling of magma below the surface. This particular rock was formed during the Svecofennian orogeny, a process of large structural deformations and crumbling of the earth’s crust, forming what is today Sweden and Finland on the ancient supercontinent of Columbia (also known as Nuna). This supercontinent was assembled along a global time scale of 2.1 to 1.8 billion years ago and contained almost all of Earth’s continental blocks. It is estimated to have been approximately 12,900 km long from North to South. Continental plates moved and still move at the same speed human fingernails grow, amounting to about 25,000 km per billion years. The first supercontinent was growing at this speed, starting to drift apart and breaking up at about 1.2 billion years ago.
Parallel to this geologically slow process, during which Earth was still cold, life on Earth kicked-off. The first primitive bacteria developed 3.5 billion years ago in water: at that point in time the ocean was something like a primordial soup. They evolved into cyanobacteria 1.8 billion years ago. Cyanobacteria were the first living things that produced oxygen while carrying out photosynthesis. Oxygenating Earth’s atmosphere and hydrosphere, they enabled the evolution of complex life based on aerobic respiration, providing a core condition for the habitat that enabled the evolution of plants, animals and eventually humans. The breathable air we enjoy today dates back to these tiny organisms.
This rock is a witness of all processes to come—organic and inorganic. During its travel around the world it became part of the formation and breakup of several super continents that followed, always part of the Baltic plate and always at the interface between land and water amid changing sea levels.
FORECASTING OUR WAY OUT OF (AND INTO) UNCERTAINTY, © Ooze 2021
FORECASTING OUR WAY OUT OF (AND INTO) UNCERTAINTY
WORLDWIDE: The ingredients for capitalism—property ownership, finance, colonial power, double-entry bookkeeping, a conceptual division between nature and society, etc.—were all around for several hundred years before being put into a meal. It has been argued that two decades of exceptionally good weather in England from 1730 to 1750 improved food supply and started a habit of investment in manufacturing, which ultimately created a feedback loop as fossil fuel burning and ecological transformation affected global temperatures.
One key ingredient for surplus growth was the availability of finance: borrowing on the anticipation of future income was a lever to introduce changes to production. It put tremendous weight on predicting future markets. But borrowing demanded payback on interest. The concept of “return on investment” emerged, measuring the performance of capital reinvested into industry. It blended into a colonial paradigm to create the notion of GDP growth as measure of success.
This nearly universal demand for exponential returns put unprecedented strain on ecosystems. Each successive technological innovation made it more efficient to exploit natural resources, while simultaneously increasing the demand for them with each successive improvement in lifestyle. The burning of fossil fuels for energy, which put excessive carbon into the air and increased global temperatures, was one of many practices that had a two-faced relationship with the future. On the one hand, it anticipated short-term profits by making the most use of nature. On the other hand, it chose to ignore the long-term consequences of that use and its waste products. Ironically, enterprises that depended on predictability contributed to creating an environment of radical uncertainty as heat waves, storms, droughts and flooding became prevalent.
Humans have a unique ability to project into the future. As Marx noted, “what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.” The ability to plan projects (as well as the capital to execute them) is what makes architecture possible. It has also made it possible to borrow from the future, while everything else in nature can only adapt to the present.
The project Future Island uses our abilities to project into the future, simulating how anticipated global warming will affect lifeforms on a local scale.