Running on Cargo

In the onset of the pyrocene, wildfire is dominating the increasingly urbanized landscapes of ecological territories prone to natural combustion. These intermixed territories of inhabited and natural landscapes are spreading throughout the grasslands of California as communities naively expand into areas at high risk of wildfire. Despite the deeply embedded practice of absolute mitigation of fire’s threat, which are encoded into building standards and everyday safety measures, the built environment will inevitably combust and decay, disrupting the collective memory held within public space. Fire threatens the stability and protection of the human-constructed environment as it continues to destroy the illusive permanence of architectural practices, leaving traces through its total erasure and destruction.

A collective, growing archive of the pyrocenic environment is dispersed throughout the Wildland Urban Interface of California, where communities have expanded into terrains at high risk of wildfire. 10,000 serial artifacts cover every square mile of the interface territory, awaiting the onset of fire to each material construction, calling attention to the guaranteed future burning of the earth. Rather than fighting to avoid any risk of fire to create permanent edifices, each replicated monument is designed to explore the variety of material reactions under combustion. By relieving architecture of its fabricated permanence, new aesthetics emerge through the layering of materials’ unique, expressive processes of destruction by fire.

A specific material construction is reproduced as a series of public hearths across built communities which are threatened by environmental wildfire. Appearing at first as a sturdy, protective facade, the original stability of the container will dematerialize when affected by wildfire, exposing the reactive layers enclosed within the wall to explore nuanced forms and textures. The unknown factors of the future progression of the fire on the structure will uniquely transform each monument, documenting specific material reactions to the burning environment.  Once transformed one by one across each community, each monument is extracted and reaggregated on a new site, leaving physical voids in the ground where each was burned. The re-collecting of differentiated structures will produce an unprecedented archive exploring the presence of architectural production within a burning landscape. Fire becomes the design tool of texture, surface and form of the traumatic aesthetics of corrupted, scarred surfaces, fragile materials, and disheveled forms, which undermine the illusion of human control over and permanence in the environment, and index the planetary crisis of living in the pyrocene.