The Embassy of the Climate Refugee

Wellcome Collection, London UK
2018 – competition

In collaboration with ANDRECO

Project data
Program: Architectural Installation
Floor Area: 160 m2

This project is part of an existing research/collaboration between and Andreco aimed at investigating how Climate Change affects people, their health and the environment, and focusing on “making the invisible visible”: finding creative solutions to translate scientific data into visual installations to show in a physical way how climate change affects us all.

Our research consists of a transposition of the concepts, functions and data from environment and climate change scientific research (“Data Flow”), into performative actions and works of art. Synthesis forms are generated, icons of the climatic condition of the world to come.

The Embassy of the Climate Refugee

We propose to build an ephemeral architecture symbolically representing every Climate Refugee around the world, escaping their homes due to the devastating effects of Climate Change.
The Embassy of the Climate Refugee will not try to be a fortress, like many embassies around the world, but will be an open, welcoming architecture, a public space, and ultimately will represent an architecture of freedom.
FREE SPACE – Architecture as political system.
Our design research explores solutions to go beyond the dichotomies of inside/outside, public/private, open/delimited. We believe the interstitial, the in-between space, can provide added-value to projects and offer unexpected opportunities to a free and personal way of experiencing the architecture.
We aim at creating a soft architecture: an architecture that is adaptable to its users and to the way it is inhabited, that isn’t rigid but malleable, permeable, warm and welcoming; allowing its users to feel part of the space in which they live, work, study or spend time.
The structure will be an open and permeable architecture, allowing free flow through its spaces and transforming, temporarily the perception of the gallery space.
The architecture will be built using small lightweight modular blocks linked to each other to create a porous structure with varying heights and depths, generating different spaces in between: a larger social space including small seats (made of the same blocks) where visitors can enter and interact with the building and each other, and a smaller space allowing only a few visitors at a time and representing a more protected and intimate zone in the installation.

The openness of the design makes it flexible enough so that it can be used for various activities during the exhibition period, including during the youth co-production project that will take place in the adjacent space within the gallery.
The space has step-free access and follows the gallery access guidelines, making the entire pavilion accessible to everyone.

The proposed structure will not only be a spatial installation but will also be the canvas for a three-dimensional representation of functions and data from environment and climate change scientific research, in the form of neon light artworks representing function graphs interwoven between the structure blocks.
The material chosen for the blocks has been developed in collaboration with Dr. Ben Batchelor, Director of the Advanced Polymer Research Laboratory, University of Texas, Dallas.
These are made of a shape-memory polymer reacting and changing shape when affected by the temperature of the human body. Shape memory polymers (SMPs) are active smart materials that can be deformed above a specific temperature, cooled into a meta-stable state, and upon a stimulus such as heat or force, return to their previous shape. To create the Embassy structure, a shape memory material can be used to partially soften the structure when targeted at body temperature at 37 °C.

The uses of these fascinating and innovative materials go beyond shape memory aspects, and their softening properties at targeted temperatures is important for use as biomedical materials, including placing electrodes on the films to be deployed as neurological probes and nerve cuffs.

Maurizio Mucciola, Maria-Chiara Piccinelli, Daria Moussavi, Filippo Tognocchi
Material Specialist consultant: Dr. Ben Batchelor, Director of the Advanced Polymer Research Laboratory, University of Texas at Dallas.