Deep Dust / Killing Dark (2020)
ARCS5106: Graduate Design Studio //
Instructor: Ozayr Saloojee //
This first offering of the Deep Dust / Killing Dark Studio was one of 6 winners of Architect Magazine’s 2020 Studio Prize. This studio engaged with the earth – with the grounds beneath our feet, with the grounds that our architecture engages, sits on, interfaces with, turns away from, is rooted in, shores itself up against, retains, rejects, cores and excavates. Sited in Johannesburg, South Africa, this studio took the geological, elemental and mineralic (diamonds, gold, platinum…) histories of Johannesburg’s “Elusive Metropolis” (Nuttall and Mbembe, Johannesburg: The Elusive Metroplis, Duke, 2008) as a provocation to thoughtfully and curiously explore (through mapping, technical and narrative representation) the spatial implications of an extractive terrain through drawing as a medium of conceptual and critical inquiry. Studio themes included (but were not limited to): questions of the ground, of site, of labour, of how we look (on, through plan and at, through section), of representing and representation, of superfluity, of excess and paucity, of moving above, below, on and through the grounds, of particles and sediments, of resource (in)justices, extraction and resource capitalism, of a re-claiming of the earth as a restitutive, and reconciliatory act. Projects were situated in the geologic, as well as in the socio-cultural, and fraught, history of this post-apartheid city. This was a studio about the ground and about our relationship to it, through the minerals and elements we pull out of it, to the water table that rushes to fill the voids we leave, through the equipment and infrastructure that we use to pump that water out, to dig those tunnels deeper, to move us in and through the killing dark. It was a studio through and with the particles of gold and acid in our lungs; the scars on the earth in tailings ponds and overburden piles and crushers, excavators, dynamite. It was a studio situated in the hyper-flows of money and capital in and through banks and stock-markets and safety deposit boxes and off-shore-bank accounts; through the architecture and spaces created by resource extraction itself: The Johannesburg Chamber of Mines Building, the global headquarters of De Beers in Ormonde (designed by VDMMA – local architects also responsible for the Zeitz MOCCA, with Thomas Heatherwick, in Cape Town), and so on, as far as one is willing to go. The structures and tools of extraction are myriad and multi-scalar, and this studio investigated the productive and critical roles and positions that representation – that is, image making, and architectural (read: spatial) image-making in particular – can take on in this context. How do we “build” drawings that help uncover, identify, and propose reconciliatory relations, that enable an ethical reclamation of architectural grounds?