by Samantha Lee (AADipl 2012)
08 February 2013 AA Gallery, London   If you have stopped by the AA Gallery this month, you may have seen a glowing archipelago of ice replicas, and peered into crystalline volumes cast from incredibly detailed 3d prints. It is more likely however, that you have seen a few lonely remnants of ice replaced by skeletal representations and the sounds of dripping as the costly levels of precision disappear into a low resolution blur.   This may be seen as an exercise in futility, but it is not one which has escaped us. The freezing of ice has become a kind of ritualistic homage to the temporality of nature, which involves a large freezer container in Hackney Wick and an acute awareness when London is 2 degrees warmer.These acts of reproduction are made twice a week when a new set of ice floes are delivered into their short lives.   These frozen artefacts have arrived at the AA through a transformation of materiality. From lying adrift in the Arctic Sea, shaped by wind and currents, to the x,y,z coordinates of a point cloud dataset, to the fused plastic particles of a 3d print, into layers of silicon and fibreglass resin into which de-ionised water is cast and frozen.   Despite this transformation, these particular ice floes still occupy the ScanLAB server in digital immortality, amongst Zaha Hadid’s Evelyn Grace Academy and numerous other environments and buildings that they have captured over two years. It is a reminder that as the landscape of the North disappears; it is being fed into the petaflops of data that provide fodder for climatic models.   ScanLAB explores the emerging technology of large-scale terrestrial laser scanning as both a tool of architectural representation and reproduction. After graduating from the Bartlett, ScanLAB Projects was set up by Matt Shaw and Will Trossell as a way of pioneering this tool as part of an architect’s repertoire. At the time I was in my 4th year of Diploma, and was using a DIY laser scanner quite crudely made up of a webcam, line laser, and cardboard calibration corners. This played the role of both a drawing tool and scaled LIDAR aerial survey, born from the fact that the vast expanse of the Australian Outback is mostly understood through remote sensing, where value is assigned through its virtual construction. My interest in laser scanning lies in how it fits into a lineage of spatial devices and optical instruments used to read landscapes and interpret the world around us. It is not only a way of capturing precise spatial information, but it is also a way of translating ideas into the language of geopolitics, science, and policy making.
Frozen Relic is part of an ongoing series of projects that attempt to curate how we may experience and represent our future digitised landscapes. A project currently taking shape is in collaboration with Eyal Weizman and his latest project Forensic Architecture, exploring the use of “scientific aesthetics” as testimonial evidence within the context of the court of law. With members of the research team, ScanLAB have travelled through the Balkans capturing post-traumatic sites of WWII concentration camps caught in the limbo of being historically reconstructed as memorial sites but consequently uprooting those who live there in the present.   The conversation continued with the symposium last Saturday, which brought together a cocktail of speculative architects, fieldwork scientists, and environmental activists. Although seemingly disparate, each approach was critically engaging with the idea of the North through the distant and virtual forces that shape its future. Charlie Kronick has spent 17 years working for Greenpeace, and maps the complex relationships between institutions and oil and gas companies, where he believes political activism must infiltrate. His map of the North is about connections, not geography. For Peter Wadhams, one of the UK’s leading sea-ice scientists, the Arctic is a digital odyssey of ever increasing precision as surveying becomes more elaborate. Interrogating the realm of virtual sites is one which Liam Young and Kate Davies investigate in Diploma unit 6 through their undeniably addictive nomadic expeditions in which they chase the ‘unfamiliar’, which is mostly but not necessarily tied to geographical remoteness. These sites of virtual construction are what transport us back to London within the context of the architectural project.   As we witness new realms of architecture, politics, and economy happening inside cyberspace, inside parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and the pixels of satellite imagery, we acknowledge how these datascapes play a more predominant role in architectural production and representation. Having the first laser scan exhibition within the context of an architecture school shows a significant shift in the way we talk about space and sites of design.   For more information: ScanLAB's website ScanLAB Symposium at the AA Samantha Lee Portfolio
[caption id="attachment_725" align="alignnone" width="360"] 3DScanTopSurface Floe006 ArcticSunrise
Image credit: ScanLAB[/caption] [caption id="attachment_726" align="alignnone" width="360"] Frozen Relic Ice Floes
Image credit: ScanLAB[/caption] [caption id="attachment_727" align="alignnone" width="360"] Interior Ice Floe Skeleton
Image credit: ScanLAB[/caption] [caption id="attachment_728" align="alignnone" width="354"] Behind the scenes -  Ice Floe moulds
Image credit: ScanLAB[/caption]