Rachel Armstrong
One Tuesday in 2067

Sophia's experiences in her liquid world.

Rachel Armstrong, an experimental architect in Britain, envisions one day in the life of her protagonist Sophia in Venice in the year 2067. Sophia is – as well as Rachel Armstrong – a specialist in the field of communication between mechanical systems and biology.

It's time to open up imaginary spaces

For the future Rachel Armstrong is thinking about a different kind of relationship between making things and our planet. "How can we work more closely with nature?" she is asking and "Can we have a conversation with nature on nature's terms?" She is thinking of using a more complex set of exchanges with nature that acknowledge the richness of the environment but are also thinking of what we are giving back. Thus we could restructure our living spaces and the quality of the environments that we inhabit. Rachel Armstrong suggests to working with live metabolisms other than the dead metabolisms that have driven industrialization so far. By using live metabolisms that are able to reenter the ecological systems we could better use energy and resources, Armstrong suggests. And she recommends "using the apparatuses that nature is familiar with rather than keep on telling it what to do in our industrial system."

What Armstrong tries to develop is to bring together "the green and the grey" as she calls it. "It's not leaving behind the advances of digital computer systems or the machine intelligence but it's trying to think about new interfaces."

One of the main things that will change, Armstrong believes, is the metaphors that we use to describe technology. For example, we think of the body as a machine. We might think of technologies as much more body-like or we might think of them as more liquid-like. For the third millennium she expects that we will start to develop the imaginary apparatuses that will take us into these new spaces that are more compatible with biology and ecology.

Rather than the scenario where we will all become machines our apparatuses and our tools to producing work will become more biological and ecological. With that we will see softer materials, liquids rather than circuits as being the carriers of information and we will also see other forms of chemical exchange. Things will not be static like we expect machine objects to be, but maybe our working platform evolves and develops with us – a bit like watching a child growing to an adult, as Armstrong describes it. Other than machines, kids can't go back and unlearn. What machines do is reversibility, what nature and biology do is not reversibility. "Our new tools will learn along with us", Rachel Armstrong believes.

She hopes that we will start to learn to be reconnected with each other, be re-empowered by each other, re-enchanted with the conditions of the times we exist in. It's really important in Armstrong's eyes that we open up imaginary spaces for our next generations so that they can start to construct the world they want to live in.

Rachel Armstrong is a sustainability innovator who investigates a new approach to building materials called ‘living architecture,’ which suggests it is possible for our buildings to share some of the properties of living systems. She works collaboratively across disciplines to build and develop prototypes that embody her approach. Her research prompts a reevaluation of how we think about our homes and cities and raises questions about sustainable development of the built environment. Armstrong is a Professor of Experimental Architecture at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at the University of Newcastle.

Photo on top: ©Rachel Armstrong

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