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The Ark of Kratié

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The Ark of Kratié

Leonard Schrage 

You talk about a self initiated strategy for the people of Cambodia, however the people are depicted as silhouettes – why is that so? Aren’t they the driving force of the proposal?Yes, that is correct – the people are the driving force. Though, since the project is rather a strategy, than a specified proposal, explained on the basis of a exemplary structure – which would probably look very different if based on a different Cambodian village, it is more about being strong as a collective, than standing out as a specific individual, which realistic photos of people would (in my opinion) stand for.

To what extent does the use of grunge texture or lack of it help in conveying this feeling of apocalypse without your intervention and with?

The used textures are to convey a certain DIY characteristic of the Ark. The base of the structure is recycled from abandoned vessels, which are no longer in use due to the discontinued river flow of the Mekong. Then the inhabitation is an ever-changing process involving local materials as well as a progressive reinterpretation of traditional means of rural Cambodia. Both stages are dynamically initiated and operated by the inhabitants of the Ark.

Who inspires you graphically?

For this project: A mixture of drawings from The Wes Anderson Collection, renders by Factory Fifteen, collages by Joseba Elorza amongst others, as well as (aerial view) landscape photography by various artists (often similar to work by Andreas Gursky).

What significance does colour hold for you?

In a drawing, colour plays a major role for the very first impression: it instantly creates a certain atmosphere which usually makes you decide right away whether you like the drawing – or not. I really like a harmonising, natural composition of colours as in the dreamy landscapes shrouded in fog and clouds of “Reverse Squares” by Victoria Siemer or of the inspiring and unique colours of pressed plants from the Natural History Museum in London in “Flora” by Nick Knight.

Project Description: The Ark of Kratie is a speculative project, commenting on a threatening environmental, economical and political problem in Cambodia: At the moment 80% of the population doesn’t have access to electricity while the rest is facing the highest electricity prices in the world. This results in devastating plans for the future: There are 40 hydro power dams planned to be build until 2035 along the Lower Mekong, which will break the river into a series of lakes and reservoirs. This will have disastrous effects on the biodiversity of one of the largest rivers world-wide, its fishing industry, as well as the country’s tourism and agriculture. Due to the flooding, more than 100.000 people will have to be relocated, a very similar scenario to what happened after the world’s largest dam in China had been build. A mass relocation will result in the destruction of social patterns, habits, traditions and culture. Also, the investor driven dam projects, will leave the population in dependency on monopoly businesses from China. By doing so, Capitalism is threatening to repeat Cambodia’s recent history of just three decades ago under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The Ark of Kratie is a strategy (rather than a design) for a self-initiated project by the people of rural Cambodia, hoping to inspire further communities to join in later. This so called grassroots notion is, in my eyes, absolutely crucial within the local mindset. A fishing town called Kratie, in the epicentre of the flooding, acts as an exemplary community for the structure about to inhabit the newly created lake.

Leonard Schrage currently obtained his RIBA Part I and completed the three years undergraduate course at the Architectural Association of London.

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