Zones of Exclusion. Unknown Fields Division

Liam Young and Kate Davies, leaders of the Architectural Association’s award winning Unknown Fields Division, have announced a recruitment drive for their new annual nomadic studio which will run for 2 weeks each July. Participants can sign up nowand join them on an extraordinary design research expedition through the unknown fields that lie between nature and technology and collaborate with Volume magazine and Phillips Technologies on the production of an annual publication and touring exhibition. This first year takes them on a cross section through landscapes of obsolete futures from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, through the Ukraine and the oil fields of Azerbaijan to rocket launch pad of Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrone.


UNKNOWN FIELDS is a nomadic studio that will throw open the doors of the AA and set off on an annual expedition to the ends of the earth exploring unreal and forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies. You will join the AA’s Unknown Fields Division as each year we navigate a different global cross section and map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures. You will be both visionaries and reporters, part documentarian and part science fiction soothsayers as the otherworldly sites we encounter will afford us a distanced viewpoint from which to survey the consequences of emerging environmental and technological scenarios.
This year, on the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight, we will pack our Geiger counters and space Suits as we chart a course from the atomic to the cosmic to investigate the unknown fields between the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor in the Ukraine and Gagarin’s launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Beginning under the shadows of Nuclear disaster we will survey the irradiated wilderness and bear witness to a sobering apocalyptic vision. Along our way we will tread the edge of the retreating tide of the Aral Sea and mine the ‘black gold’ in the Caspians’s floating oilfields and caviar factories. We will wander through the cotton fields of Kazakhstan and tread the ancient silk road before ending on the shores of the cosmic ocean bathed in the white light of satellites blasting into tomorrow’s sky. In these shifting fields of nature and artifice we will re-examine our preservationist and conservationist attitudes toward the natural world and document a cross-section through a haunting landscape of the ecologically fragile and the technologically obsolete.
Joining us on our travels will be a troupe of collaborators, photographers and filmakers from the worlds of technology, science and fiction including the Phillips Technologies Design Probes research Lab and Archis/Volume magazine.
Together we will form a travelling circus of research visits, field reportage, rolling discussions, and impromptu tutorials. Across our journey The Unknown Fields Division will identify opportunities for tactical intervention and speculative invention that will be chronicled in an annual publication and travelling exhibition. It is a unique opportunity to be a part of an extraordinary research project that will examine the Unknown Fields between cultivation and nature and spin cautionary tales of a new kind of wilderness.

Enlist now before all the positions are filled! Email l.young (at) tomorrowsthoughtstoday.com with any questions.