Translating a Mental Collage
Juan Gurrea Rumeu
Ever since the first agricultural revolution in the Neolithic, farming has been responsible for a radical transformation of the natural environment and a key player in global urbanisation. Increasing demands for production have resulted in industrial food worlds, globally connected formations that have a strong presence in the landscape. In the UK, a failed application to build an “American Style” 8,000 cow factory farm in the village of Nocton, Lincolshire, created a precedent for the country’s future farming policy. It was seen by many as a serious threat, bringing up issues regarding animal welfare, pollution or disease control. However, I was particularly interested in the spatial and aesthetic concerns for protecting the distinctive character of the English countryside, a relatively recent manmade creation that operates like a continuous system of food production.
The Nocton Dairies case exemplified a farming crisis currently taking place in Britain: Traditional small-scale farming can no longer meet market demands, while industrial agriculture fails to provide a sustainable long term solution. These two premises set the starting point for the project, which uses radical artificiality as a tool to save the countryside. The proposal, Post Farm, is a machine in the garden that produces GM algae to grow in-vitro meat; establishing a paradigm shift in the way we relate to our food and the animals it comes from. This new technology allows us to save 99% of the landscape previously used for food production, generating possibilities for re-wilding and establishing new boundaries between the natural, pastoral and the technological.
Who influences you graphically?
I am not restricted by a particular graphic style, but rather seek to find specific languages of representation to communicate each idea in the best possible way. For instance, in this project I wanted to create a neo-bucolic view of the British countryside where nature and technology meet. Thus, I tried to form a “mental collage” combining both pastoral and technological images. Spending time in the countryside, observing the work of Constable, Turner and other English Landscape masters; and then superimposing the scientific and industrial identity of the machine.
What dictated your choice of colour palette for the line drawings? What significance does the bordeaux colour hold?
The project highlights the friction between the roughness of the farm and the precision of the labs; two contrasting environments that share the common element of the cell. The Bordeaux colour is meant to unify the distinct spaces into a continuous process of production.
Could you please expand on the ‘What is the future of the countryside’ image? In terms of meaning/construction etc
This image displays a British countryside that has a glitch and is updating/evolving. It is meant to be read as a subjective timeline of recent agricultural history, a “scanned” landscape composed by iconic elements that gradually mutate into absolute artificiality. It is, thus, a journey of association and estrangement that follows a sequential and aesthetic construction logic made of photographs, renderings and textures overlaid and disarticulated.
What dictated the perspective views you selected to reveal the proposal through?
The perspective views show the most significant moments of the building in juxtaposition with its surroundings. The programmes are dictated by a scientific process, but the images frame the architectural places created as a result. They are organised sequentially: starting at the courtyard that unifies the energies of landscape, animals and scientists; followed by the transitional space where research meets production and ending with a general view of the factory from the algae ponds.
What is the effect and purpose of featuring a silhouette in the last image? How does the absence of people in the other images impact the way the proposal is read and the thesis?
The farm operates as a highly automated machine, where people are not involved in the production process. Being conspicuous in the landscape, it is a distant landmark rather than a place for visitors. However, human presence is fundamental in positions of management, research and control.
The silhouette in the last image, a technician supervising algae fields, is the protagonist of a new landscape. An individual in a gigantic setting, giving a nostalgic sense of proportion reminiscent of Constable’s rural characters.
Juan Gurrea Rumeu was born in Barcelona in 1990. He recently completed his Master’s degree in architecture at the Royal College of Art in London. Previously, he obtained his bachelor’s degree from the Welsh School of Architecture (Cardiff University) and worked at Vector Architects in Beijing. His research interests are focused on the analysis of social and political situations, using architecture as a tool to generate friction between people and their environments, thus bringing contemporary issues to light.