Farming the Common Sea
Emily Temperton @ RCA (Royal College of Art), ADS6
This proposal consists of a ‘co-location’ of aquaculture amongst offshore wind farms as a more considered approach to food production. The new aquaculture industry benefits coastal communities who have been impacted by the installation of these new infrastructures, aiming to offer an alternative to the fishing practices that have been severed.
Acknowledging the perception of fish as an ethical alternative to meat, this project intends to address some of these more complex realities. In response to aquaculture as the fastest growing global food industry, I seek an alternative approach to the intense and harmful methods currently used.
Through re-evaluating perceptions of large-scale mass aquaculture, we can change food culture to acknowledge the lower end of the food chain. Provision of food can be done in a more responsible way for the future. My proposal seeks to influence a fairer ecosystem of distribution.
Using a period of research in Japan as an opportunity to explore the Japanese fishing industry, the monopolisation of aquaculture technologies becomes apparent. As production of fish is forced to increase in response to globally declining fish stocks, bay areas fill with net enclosures and coastlines become territorialised. The infrastructure of aquaculture becomes a visible pattern on the landscape.
In the United Kingdom our coastlines have become populated with wind farms. This new infrastructure has amputated the productivity in these locations, particularly fishing. Morecambe Bay is home to many different types of fishing practice, predominantly in relation to shellfish. Small family run businesses have developed fishing methods over centuries of knowledge in relation to the tide.
Walney Wind Farm off Barrow in Morecambe Bay was proposed to be one of the largest wind farms in the world. The site offers a new way to think about a system of interaction between humans and plants in a context that knows no boundaries or divisions as we know on land.
As a way to celebrate the existing infrastructure, a series of hybrid interventions brings a new form of inhabitation to the wind turbines. Reconnecting the production of food with its consumption, a new location for a specific food experience is created as a driver for a new appreciation of our productive seascape.
Who influences you graphically?
From my time spent on an exchange programme to Japan, the graphic styles of architects such as Atelier Bow Wow and Haruka Misawa have been a great source of influence. I enjoy Hokusai’s depictions of everyday life in Japanese landscapes.
Nautical maps and charts became important references for the more strategic drawings.
What defined the choice of drawings you choose to reveal the project through?
The two black and white illustrations were drawn during my research semester in Japan into their fishing industry. I tried a ‘multiscalar’ approach: emphasising the fact that issues to do with the fishing industry need to be thought through from a ‘top down’ and a ‘bottom up’ approach; appreciating the complexity of these issues. I chose to depict some of the tensions to do with the Pacific Bluefin Tuna; it’s simultaneous decline alongside detrimental technological advances to make farming possible.
Farming the Common Sea is about both changing eating habits and creating a masterplan for how the wind farm sites in the East Irish Sea may be used to farm seaweeds and bi-valves in amongst the wind turbines, engaging in a low energy future through ‘co-location’. For me, it was important to show both the large scale masterplanning element as well as the human aspect to how those spaces might be enjoyed.
Choosing an axonometric, layered with a perspective viewpoint from under the sea, was an attempt to appreciate how this ‘co-location’ of hybrid aquaculture structures at the wind turbines might change our perception of the productive seascape. By looking from the seaweed’s point of view we come to appreciate that divisions can’t be drawn as they are typically seen on land.
What was your work process in terms of project development and production of images?
For me, the strategic mapping exercise was important in being able to understand the different stakeholders in the area and the contentious topics involved; particularly as my project moved from Japan to the UK. In the UK, offshore wind farm sites have entered into direct conflict with the fishing industry so it was important to understand these viewpoints to inform my design proposal. Developing and adding to the map as I researched was an important part of the process.
Understanding the scale of the wind farms was difficult; particularly in being able to portray this in an understandable way. By drawing human interaction alongside this vast infrastructure, I hope that the contrast in scales makes the design more understandable yet bizarre.
Where there any specific parameters you adhere to when crafting an image?
I really try to think through the story I’m trying to tell, including the different protagonists and their activities.
Co-location was the main theme in the project and also the drawings. In particular, the photo-renders try to portray the interaction of all these different activities. Visibly connecting consumption with production was a strategy for the public enjoyment of this new productive landscape, as well as to raise awareness of issues to do with the fishing industry. I wanted to show this in the drawings.
To what extent and how have your studies at the RCA shaped the way you will operate as an architect and tackle the notion of representation?
The freedom to test different methods of representation was really important, particularly being surrounded by ideas from other disciplines in the school. I tested a range of different forms of representation over the year, from ceramic models to drawings to 1:1 construction.
Film started to play a really important part in the presentation of my research and final proposal (https://vimeo.com/user45811472).
How important is the ‘website’ as a tool of self representation for the contemporary architect/architecture student?
It allows you to share, view and absorb lots of images and references in a short space of time. Learning from other students’ approach to drawings is important in being able to question why you approaching a drawing in a certain way.
However there is no substitute for the real, physical thing. Getting out there and engaging with the place in which I’m designing is really important to me. This is why the ’N Chips stand I built, to test how well Seaweed & Chips would be received, played an important part in the development of the project and the images (see RCA_Image 1).