Thought Experiments: The Embassy of the Drowned Nations, the Conflict Zoo, and the Bloody Gift Shop

by Chris Borgen

Via BLDGBLOG and Pruned (1, 2), here are two suggestions that are not so much literal proposals but rather thought experiments, each meant to prod the viewer. (And a third one from me.)

The first is one of the winners of SeaChange 2030+, an “ideas competition” sponsored by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects with the goal of addressing the effects of sea-level rise on coastal communities. Noting that Australia is the one of the world’s highest per-capita producers of carbon dioxide pollution, OCULUS, the firm that designed the Embassy of the Drowned Nations, would set the embassy in Sydney Harbour. Using an inverted cone that would allow for increased area as sea levels rose, the embassy would provide housing and services for people whose communities have been destroyed by the rising waters. Environmental refugees would use the embassy as a way-station before relocation in Australia (and in other greenhouse gas-polluting nations, I assume). This is definitely a novel take on the “sunken states” issue and if there’s one thing that can focus voter interest, it’s the prospect of immigration, especially when it would be of poor, huddled masses, the wretched refuse from teeming shores, homeless and tempest-tossed. I am sure voters of the major greenhouse gas emitting nations would love to find room in their communities to house such refugees. My kudos to OCULUS for a bit of sly architecture.

The other idea was for a conflict zoo, “an urban zoo that only exhibits animals affected by man-made disasters.” 

In addition to refugees from the Gulf Coast oil spill, it would also house samples of local fauna affected by other large oil spills, including the one in Dalian, China, koalas saved from bushfires, elephants displaced by civil wars, gorillas smuggled out during outbreaks of genocide, and tropical birds caught in the crossfires between loggers, indigenous tribes and the Landless Workers’ Movement. In other words, it’s not only environmental destruction that’s being catalogued here but also its accompanying social violence and human strife.

I think the zoo could also have a gift shop that included the best blood diamonds, conflict cell phones, and gang-supported electric cars. While the items in the gift shop would not be related to the animals in the zoo, the real issue would be whether you would choose to buy the items in the shop. Or whether you already have, I guess. (I assume I have.) So much of our modern economy seems more and more like a gaudy, but bloody, gift shop.

http://opiniojuris.org/2010/09/05/thought-experiments-the-embassy-of-the-drowned-nations-the-conflict-zoo-and-the-bloody-gift-shop/

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