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Exhibition: ‘The Primordial Cities Initiative’ at STATE Studio Berlin

Text by CLOT Magazine

Photo credit: David Holt, Didier Descouens, Jonathon keats

STATE Studio Berlin is presenting their last exhibition of the year this week—opening on December 12, The Primordial Cities Initiative by artist and experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats. Blending early primordial life forms, ecosystem formation and the concept of paleobiomimicry, Keats takes us on a journey for possible habitable futures.

Stromatolites were the first communities on our planet, proto-cities inhabited by primitive microbes. The complex structures of these ecosystems allowed constituent species to endure and alter the hostile conditions of early Earth.

As environmental conditions grow increasingly inhospitable in the Anthropocene, humans and other modern species can collectively benefit from these common ancestors’ structural, organizational, and metabolic innovations, ranging from homeostasis to dynamic self-organisation. Using the conceptual framework of paleobiomimicry – biomimesis of primordial life forms – the Primordial Cities Initiative is dedicated to developing ultra-resilient architecture and infrastructure inspired by prehistoric stromatolites and their present-day microbialite equivalents.

Global warming will not only melt polar ice and expand oceans. Increasing temperatures will also exacerbate the urban heat island effect, which is already broiling cities and leading to greater dependence on energy-intensive air conditioning. More broadly, climate change will expose populations to increasingly extreme weather. These effects may be moderated by large bodies of water, which provide evaporative cooling and serve as natural heat sinks.

Millions of years ago, the first terrestrial life forms lived in tidal and fluvial shallows. These communities of microbes appear to have been able to endure the harsh paleo-environment, tempering the local climate, by remaining semi-aquatic.

In their fossilised form, microbial mats are called stromatolites because they have the appearance of sedimentary rock. This appearance is not coincidental. In fact, they grow in height by collecting and integrating layers of sediment. The Primordial Cities Initiative proposes that our cities can adapt in an equivalent way, growing in height at the pace of increasing sea levels, and exploiting the flooding for cooling and energy generation.

Based on computer simulations of extreme flooding in Manhattan, Shanghai, and Hamburg, and analysis of energy flow in tidal environments, the Primordial Cities Initiative is currently developing technologies to make cities vertically extensible and functionally habitable in conditions of cyclical and permanent tidal flooding phenomena. Simultaneously the Primordial Cities Initiative provides a framework to collectively consider possible futures, grounding political decisions in discussion and debate and fostering a culture of imaginative planning.

(Media courtesy of STATE Studio)
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