Next week, the Unknown Fields Division of the Architectural Association School of Architecture will bring together twenty eight collaborators and fifteen renowned specialists from around the world to investigate the surreal ecologies of the atomic wasteland in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the cosmic infrastructure of Kazakhstan’s historic Baikonur Cosmodrome, and the desiccated landscape of the moribund Aral Sea. The Unknown Fields expedition will come face to face with past projections of a technologically mastered future and the resultant dystopia of present environmental ruins.
Led by futurist and designer Liam Young, the expedition will trespass on sensitive territory, including Chernobyl’s fateful fourth reactor that spawned a massive Soviet conspiracy and relocation program that left Ukraine’s nuclear industry and the worker town of Pripyat in a fragile urban disequilibrium following mass abandonment. The expedition will spend a total of 48 hours in the Exclusion Zone. Those with excess radiation levels will be subjected to a chemical shower upon the team’s exit from the Zone.
The investigation will then proceed to infiltrate the highly controlled infrastructure of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The team will be granted access to facilities used by Yuri Gagarin before his historic first manned space flight, and will explore the nucleus of current leaseholder Russia’s space industry.
Baikonur’s rented area lies adjacent to the poisoned terrain of the dying Aral Sea, the final stop of the expedition. The Aral Sea disaster is a notorious product of an agricultural miscalculation that left the region exposed to natural and biochemical soil pollution, which gradually rendered the land unsuitable for organic life. GSAPP and GSD architecture students Aldo Cherdabayev and Joan Alicia Tom will present their report to Untapped readers in August.
The varied list of collaborators include Super/Collider, a filmmaker, comic illustrator, sound artist, poet, anthropologist, journalist, and designers. For full list, see the Unknown Fields Division website.
Photos of Pripyat and Aral Sea by Yann Arthus-Bertrand