Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MONASS (MONSOON ASSEMBLAGES)
Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-10-31
The project aims to shift conceptions and understandings of the monsoon as a natural meteorological system; to deliver a ground breaking new approach to the design of cities by treating the monsoon as an organising principle of urban life, not an external threat; to assess the potential impact of this approach for urban policy, planning and infrastructure investment; to assess the new political, theoretical and aesthetic agendas for the spatial design disciplines and the environmental humanities this opens up; and to engage critically with the climate change adaption paradigm through the innovative idea of climate co-production.
During the course of the action to date, 3 x year long Master of Architecture design studios at the Host Institution, involving 20 students each year, have been aligned with Monsoon Assemblages. Studios have responded to project briefs framed by monsoonal questions in Chennai, Dhaka and Yangon, and students have undertaken field trips to these cities. These studios have tested the extent to which architecture students can be encouraged to think at scales beyond the building envelope, to which architectural software (rhino, grasshopper) can be used to model earth systems and to which software not generally used by architects (real flow) can be utilised to visualise non-human monsoonal phenomena, such as rainfall, flooding, erosion, percolation etc. to inform design strategies.
In order to extend its networks and deepen its responses to its research questions, Monsoon Assemblages has organised three annual research symposia and exhibitions at the University of Westminster: ‘Monsoon [+ other] Airs’ (20-21 April 2017), ‘Monsoon [+ other] Waters’ (12-13 April 2018) and ‘Monsoon [+ other] Grounds’ (21-22 March 2019). These have been structured around the monsoon’s three material elements - air, water and ground and comprised key-note addresses, inter-disciplinary panels and exhibitions. These have brought together established and young scholars and practitioners from a range of disciplines, literatures, knowledge systems and practices - theoretical, empirical, political, aesthetic, everyday - who seldom talk to one another – to engage in conversations about monsoon aesthetics, epistemologies, histories, ontologies, politics, practices and risks. They have established Monsoon Assemblages as an international forum for novel, interdisciplinary research and dialogue. Symposia proceedings are published in the form of print-to order books or downloadable PDF’s from the project’s web site, http://www.monass.org.
Progress beyond the state of the art in the science and design of cities in changing monsoonal climates has been made by the project by bringing together philosophy, historical research, field work, ethnography, cartography and design. This has been tested to date in Chennai, Delhi and Dhaka, with work on Yangon about to begin. The project team is pursuing a lived environment approach as the basis for transformative ideas to reimagine and remake cities as co-productions of human and non-human agencies. It is investigating climate change as relationally co-produced by more-than-human weather systems and human-ecological relations. It has designed a novel, interdisciplinary approach to understanding the entanglements of the monsoon in urban life and space, and to suggest ways that spatial design might respond strategically to stressed urban climates. This draws theoretically from anthropology, assemblage theory, design theory, ethnography and more-than human theory and brings a number of different discourses and knowledge systems into conversation - design, everyday life, indigenous knowledge, meteorology, planning, science, theory etc. As the process has developed, more-than-human interlocutors have become significant characters in developing researchers’ understandings of monsoonal regimes, and the use of data driven computational tools has been coupled with analogue participatory methods to draw out the spatiality of the monsoon at multiple scales. Through these methods, monsoonal cities and many of their human and non-human interlocutors have been drawn, described, narrated and analysed, and representational tools have been used to devise strategies to spatially reorganise conflictual monsoonal relations.
Expected results till the end of the project
3 x interdisciplinary symposia hosted
3 x symposia proceedings published
3 x student exhibitions mounted
3 x broadsheets of student work published
6 x open access peer reviewed journal articles published
3 x urban design strategies developed
3 x exhibitions and workshops in Chennai, Dhaka and Yangon mounted and organised
1 x international conference and exhibition organized
1 x book published
Multiple videos, maps, models and audio-visual outputs