Fish Mania-Drawing For A Dystopian Future
Alice Weil & Marie d’Oncieu @ ENSA Paris Malaquais
The project is set in a near future when the earth’s temperature will be 4°C higher. The Mediterranean Sea will be too polluted and salty to support its wildlife as well as natural fishing, upon which the town of Bagnoli relies. Meanwhile, the sea-levels will have risen to destroy the towns’ coastline and the municipality will have no funds to invest in its reconstruction.
It is in this framework that Autofish, a pioneer company in the automated production of fish, invests to implement an industrial, robotized production plant in the are of Bagnoli. The system reproduces the natural migration patterns as well as the living conditions of each fish species through an automated system where all movements are realised by robots, circulating in a technical grid.
The fish are produced in large tanks which evoke the sea’s atmosphere both for the fish and the pedestrians. Inhabitants and tourists are invited to enter into the machine creating public space within the industrial site. The building brings attention to the contrast between the pollution of the natural environment and the hygienist efficiency of the automated production. The leisurely pedestrian walk is in fact, a denunciation.
Who influences you graphically?
Whether we work together, or individually, we are committed to developing a particular graphic style for each project. We enjoy exploring different modes of representation, using diverse mediums in order to create an atmosphere attune to each proposal.
Fish Mania was particularly interesting, because it was set in a dystopian future. Therefore, we used the graphical representation to build up this future world and immerse the viewer inside it.
For the posters, we took cues from popular culture, playing on the aesthetic of advertisements, while distorting the norm. We were particularly inspired by Tsunehisa Kimura’s “Visual Scandals”, conveying a “happy apocalypse”.
For the perspectives, models and other drawings, we wanted to create a sense of calm, serenity while suggesting an ominous, uneasy quality. For graphical influence, we turned to sci-fi movies, particularly ones with a utopia-gone-wrong narrative: “The Island” (Bay, 2005), “Her” (Jonze, 2013), “Gattaca” (Niccol, 1997), “Metropolis” (Lang, 1927) or “Ex-Machina” (Garland, 2015). From these references, we derived the cold aesthetic, the strong dark elements in neutral environment, and we worked on the framing of our views. Focusing on certain aspects, placing particular elements in the foreground or background allowed us to convey uneasiness.
What is your take on the architectural silhouette and the proliferation of Skaglubbar images?
These silhouettes have quickly become a feature of many promoter renders. They are now part of the “render package deal” which includes flocks of birds, the excessive vegetation, incredibly-transparent glass facades and occasionally, hot-air balloons in the distance.
The Skaglubbar images are infamous: girl with the pink bag, guy carrying his bike, girl pointing at the sky… We recognize some of them immediately. Amusingly, because they are so “famous”, they achieve the opposite of what they set out to do. Although they are meant to discreetly populate a project, they attract the attention with their notoriety.
So in “Fish Mania”, we played on their status as these icons of kitsch architectural renders. Their presence in our images gives them a familiarity, which is then disrupted by the project. They take up the foreground, so the viewer recognizes them first, before discovering the project in the background. Their presence accentuates the shock created by the dystopian proposal.
What role did/does the model play in exploring the project?
They were essential in this project.
Physical models allowed us to explore free-form, organic shapes. Our objective was, in part, to evoke the marine environment in the fish basins, through the movement of light, reflections, distortions… Manipulating and morphing paraffin, a malleable material, allowed us to test out the atmospheres we could create.
Moreover, designing architecture in the future confronted us with the impossible task of imagining the evolution of techniques, in architecture and industry. Therefore, we chose to liberate ourselves by exploring form-finding with an element of unpredictability. Paraffin reacts to air, water and heat. The material itself, in its behavior, participated in the design process, creating shapes we could not have drawn.
Through the models, we also tested out the relationship between the fish basins and the robot grid. We aimed to create a metaphor of a natural ecosystem contrived by technology, preserved ironically by industry.
To what extent might the entire proposal be revealed through the format of the poster/advertisement?
A project like Fish Mania uses architecture as a tool for denunciation. Therefore we used the poster, a form of communication that reaches a wide audience.
Using this technique also sparked interesting debates about the architect’s role faced with a harmful commission. In our proposal, we surfed a fine architectural line, between complacency and denunciation. Some aspects of the project help the developer, while others suggest an element of revolt.
The posters highlight this ambivalence. The project could be seen as ironic, threatening or fascinating, and the posters help to stir up a reaction, because they make the proposal more “real” for the viewer.