Are we part of nature?
This speculative design project is about the human impact on earth.
In an imagined future, novel rocks – originating from human activity – will be mined. Three material samples foster speculation about potential future substances: Are they “natural” or “artificial” materials?
sample no. 1
The Anthropocene is a term widely used since Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer proposed it for labeling the current geological epoch in which humans are the primary cause of planetary change. Humankind has become an expert in transforming the earth’s resources customized to its needs. Raw matter has been exploited, shaped, and transformed into new materials.
The human being is the creator of potentials but likewise responsible for destruction. The results are synthetic materials such as plastics. Being shapeable into any form for low costs, they have revolutionized the world of production, the world of objects. In return, however, this means an insane increase in waste. A huge amount of plastics ends up in landfills in other parts of the world or in our sea. This has reached such dimensions that we can now talk about the plastification of our planet.
But when and why does an object turn into waste? What makes us perceive an object, a material as useless and ready for the dump?
If we would challenge the notion of waste could we then achieve a more deliberate and longer usage of primary valuable resources?
Exploring the anthropogenic traces of humankind on this planet, I got curious about how materials of our time, e.g. plastics, would look like once humans are long gone. Would they still be perceived as worthless waste products?
In several experiments, I generated rock strata out of the most distinctive artificial materials of our time: plastics, aluminum, and concrete.
The resulting artificial rock samples represent the geological formation process of metamorphic, magmatic, and sedimentary rocks.
sample no. 2
For this purpose, I imitated the powers that form the rock strata, such as heat and high pressure, as they act during the formation process of metamorphic rocks, for example. With simple tools, I mimicked the transformation brought about by centuries of climatic effects and geological processes. Therefore, I layered and fused plastic refuse to imitate the Earth’s strata.
sample no. 3
The three samples stimulate thinking about our impact on the environment.
How can we affect our surroundings for a life-friendly future?
Or does the planet already affect us?
The planet can regenerate, we cannot. It fosters debate about what is synthetic and what is already natural?
These artificial materials, our legacies, will be witnesses of our time.
Speculative Design Project
University of Applied Sciences Munich
Prof. Ralph Ammer