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Competition: Climate of Dissent

An open international contest has been launched for architectural installations which protest against climate change (Deadline: 6 August)

The competition seeks radical proposals for new architectural protests that amplify public discontent over climate change. Submissions may occupy any site – such as a refinery, government building, drilling field, petrol station or disaster-struck area – but must focus on promoting action against rising temperatures.

The Climate of Dissent call for submissions aims to offer architects and designers a new role in serving the public interest through creative dissent and design. Proposals could take the form of a guerrilla project, an occupation, a banner, installation, vigil, blockade, or ‘culture jamming’.

The North Pole ice sheet breaking

The North Pole ice sheet breaking

Source: Image by Christopher Michel

The North Pole ice sheet breaking

According to the brief: ‘For dissent to be effective, it must be rigorously designed. Significant acts of protest may appear to spontaneously erupt, but the reality involves months of brainstorming, planning, organising and training. Similarly, acts of architecture require immense coordination of moving parts, attention to detail and choreography of people. This overlap suggests that architectural designers can make powerful facilitators of successful dissent.

‘For the competition, participants will design an act of protest centred on climate change. The action can be performed on a single site, or coordinate across several sites. As an architecture and design competition, the action should exist spatially – whether by transforming city plazas into occupation sites, redesigning building facades through guerrilla banners or projections, reorganising circulation routes through creative blockades, etc.’

Climate change – also known as global warming – is scientifically recognised trend in atmospheric conditions which is expected to see temperatures on planet earth increase by between 1.7 and 4.8°C by the end of the century.

Shiptracks seen in cloud formations

Shiptracks seen in cloud formations

Source: Image by NASA

Shiptracks seen in cloud formations

Thought to be caused by the man-made release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, the phenomenon was first recognised in the 1950s but remains a contentious issue disputed by governments and some business leaders around the world.

Climate of Dissent aims to deliver a new architectural protest intended to raise awareness of climate change and force decision makers to halt processes that are unnecessarily harming the environment.

The competition, organised by StudioBLEAK, is divided into two categories calling for practical proposals and more speculative visions respectively. Submissions should include three display boards featuring plans, sections, illustrations, diagrams, timelines, sketches, cartoons or text.

Judges include Stephen Duncombe from the Centre for Artistic Activism, Sneha Patel of the University of Virginia, and Scott Shall from International Design Clinic.

The overall winner of the practical category will work with StudioBLEAK to design and deliver their scheme. The first prize winner of the speculative category will receive a cash prize worth 50 per cent of all entry fees collected.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is 6 August

Fee

Standard registration from 4 June to 1 July: $40

Late registration from 2 July to 6 August: $50

Contact details

Visit the competition website for more information

Humanity is Unity case study: Q&A with Abby Bird and Mollie Griffiths

The creative directors of Doing Bits Studio discuss lessons learned designing a pop-up protest installation for the RIBA in London

How did your competition-winning project aim to raise awareness of the challenges faced by asylum seekers in the UK?

Mollie Griffiths and Abby Bird

Mollie Griffiths and Abby Bird

Mollie Griffiths and Abby Bird

For a refugee or an asylum seeker arriving in the UK, where physical borders end, social borders begin. ‘Humanity is Unity’ was an interactive installation which produced a symbol of social integration and inclusivity. Visitors attending the installation selected flexible bands to weave into the structure, metaphorically weaving themselves together over time. Each act of individual engagement combined gradually into an entangled and evolving symbol of acceptance, integration and unity.

Humanity is Unity by Doing Bits Studio

Humanity is Unity by Doing Bits Studio

Humanity is Unity by Doing Bits Studio

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design? 

The concept of doing as opposed to observing was crucial. We are overwhelmed with news, facts and tweets highlighting issues such as the refugee crisis, yet the majority of people don’t do anything to change or challenge this. Removing the visitor from this environment and encouraging them to contribute with a simple weaving motion was the starting point. Already they are doing, as opposed to thinking. Although this process provided focus whilst participating, change is only stimulated when a thought becomes an action, so providing woven bracelets, stickers and literature that highlighted what you can do in Liverpool to support asylum seekers and refugees was essential. For us, the success of the project relies on a post-engagement reaction.

Humanity is Unity by Doing Bits Studio

Humanity is Unity by Doing Bits Studio

Humanity is Unity by Doing Bits Studio

The installation encouraged social interaction between visitors while the structure was purposely minimal, allowing the bands and hence the people, to provide the impact. Ensuring that asylum seekers and refugees directly benefited from the project was paramount, hence once unwoven the bands were used to provide craft workshops with a range of local families at public events. The structure was then gifted to the social enterprise Growing Sudley to be used as a planting frame.

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing an architectural installation as a protest?

While the competition encourages applying architectural principles to protest, equally, we believe the principle of protest and activism should be adopted more within architecture and design. Ironically, activism has become a word that no longer wakes people. Although we still believe in shaking placards in the face of zombie shoppers, now more than ever we must connect a host of individuals to bring change to the forefront of their agenda. Our advice for contest participants would be to provide a response that challenges the norm while ensuring it is accessible, evocative and embodies a feeling of collectivism.

Humanity is Unity by Doing Bits Studio

Humanity is Unity by Doing Bits Studio

Humanity is Unity by Doing Bits Studio

Q&A with Brandon Youndt

The co-founder of StudioBLEAK discusses his ambitions for the contest

Why are your holding a competition for an architectural installation that functions as a climate change protest?

This competition is about the politics of space and the opportunities for architecture to affect them. Climate change is a global crisis, and we believe architectural designers can do more to create solutions. That is why we are inviting architects to design an act of protest: to dissent from the status quo of architectural practice and consider how the tools and skills of a designer can be applied towards non-violent resistance. Given the incredible variety of resources available today, there is a lot of space to be explored here.

Climate change is among the most important political issues of our time, and each nation has a unique opportunity to affect it; thus, this is an international competition. Although we are based in the US, we believe that both protest and design are languages without borders and that this competition is joining an already-existing global cause. By focusing on common values and common struggles, we think that architects and designers of any background can create effective designs for entry.

The Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong

The Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong

The Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong

What is your vision for the new architectural installation?

Our competition is split into two divisions, between ‘speculative vision’ and ‘practical disruption’. By splitting the competition, we hope to give focus to two distinct pursuits: one for visionary imagination and one for realization. We have partnered with a handful of organizations that have offered to extend their resources for realization including other creative activists, legal specialists, and organizers, with more to come. We are expecting contestants to push boundaries, to innovate with precision, to expand our current notions of what’s possible and to cause some trouble. The vision of the competition is to see the conflation of protest tactics with design methodologies and creative disruptions that visually display the power of the idea.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We’re expecting to see submissions from designers who already focus on these issues in their practices; however, we are hoping that emerging, yet-undiscovered designers will surprise us. This is a difficult prompt, and there are a lot of parameters left for contestants to answer themselves, but there is a lot of potential for transformative and radical design. We’re also hoping to reach architects and designers who are frustrated with their field’s lack of urgent response to the climate change and other social crises that are unfolding.

A climate change protest

A climate change protest

A climate change protest

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Studio BLEAK is a new and open design practice with a lot of ideas in the works, at a variety of scales. In launching this competition, we have partnered with many activist organisations which we hope to work with in future creative activism endeavours. We aim to use our skills in design, fabrication and research to assist with planning and executing spatial actions.

In addition to our work in activism, we are a research-based design practice. We currently have numerous projects open for research and development. Some of these projects include guerrilla installations, a 2,500-mile political trek, wildlife cohabitation studies, sustainable fabrication workshops, architectural tour maps, visualized social media arguments and a southern baptist style tent revival climate awareness meeting with costumed leaders.

Are there any other similar protest installations projects you have been impressed by?

Two of our partnering organisations, The Yes Men and International Design Clinic, have done provocative work that has informed our practice. The Yes Men perform strategic and bombastic actions around what they call ‘Identity correction,’ while the International Design Clinic design and build to assist those on the margins of global society. We are impressed with the work of Bryan C. Lee and Colloqate, with their implementation of what they call ‘design justice.’ We are also working with activist and writer Paul Engler, whose recent book on the history of nonviolent struggle, This is an Uprising, has helped shape our work. Additionally, we continue to follow, support and learn from the social movements for justice happening across the globe right now. We stand in solidarity and follow the lead of ongoing efforts which support marginalised people worldwide.