Form Axioms: Design Strategies in South China Sea

by SUTD Architecture and Sustainable Design | Prof Eva Castro & Federico Ruberto

The studio takes on the challenging task of rethinking the area that circles around “South China Sea”, its geopolitical and material ecology through the reconceptualization and design of large scale infrastructures and localized-material assemblages.

Augmented Nature

Southeast Asia’s coastal communities are sinking, and climate change is only one of many manmade factors contributing to their impending demise. Man’s relationship with nature has always been a parasitic one, to the detriment of our own long-term survival. In Mekong River Delta, acres of mangroves are deforested to make way for shrimp farms, leaving the land vulnerable to erosions, sea level rise and typhoons. In Jakarta, groundwater extraction has reached its breaking point, causing the ground to sink lower and lower below sea level. The developments of coastal communities, whether urban or rural, have proven to be damaging to the very environment that sustains their livelihoods. Yet what if there is an alternative; a community that is neither rural nor urban? What if instead of removing resources from nature, we add on to them and augment them? This project examines the possibility of a community that creates nature out of synthetics, living off their environment while rebuilding and modifying them at the same time. More about this project here.

Project by Nabila Larasati Pranoto

Black Strata

Looking into the start and end points of the Capitalocene, namely the extractive processes involved in obtaining minerals to fuel contemporary lifestyles, and the intensifying amounts of scrap produced by the obsolescence cycle of these consumer goods, Philippines provides an interesting paradigm as both state with significant potential in untapped mineral resources, as well as related infrastructure and industries existing in a state of uncertainty. Shifting topographical landscapes, political agency, and the segregation of municiplicities and patchwork communities (not to mention the physical isolation inherent in an archipelagic state) brings forth layers of complexity to the situation at hand. This project aims to use such opportunities to design prototypical infrastructure that redefines the processes of extraction, production, and re-use, and to speculate on the relationship between man, nature, and the machine post-capitalism.

The black strata exists through its non-existence. To seize the post-material future, and to redefine the axiomatics of the capital machine, patchwork communities, led by an organized intelligence, adopt complicit & subversive black-structures in the struggle to define Anthropos’ place in a post-capitalist _topia. To speculate: the ground holds the territory, the nomos in which countless inscrutable forces are organized upon. Then, the (under)ground is (un)territory, a veiled tabula rasa that remains undefined by sovereignty and agency. To mould the subterranean is to mould the roots of emancipation itself. This is an exegesis of such.

Intro: The age of Anthropocene is here! Capitalism is stronger than ever, brandishing its commodification of media with nihilistic glee while the doomsday clock ticks on amidst the din of our progress-fueled festivities. Our gleaming smart-cities and smart-devices mask the abject horrors that take place to conceive it: the scarification of Gaia led by rapid deterritorialising fluxes of capital (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980) and the relentless extraction of minerals and metals to feed our voracious consumerist appetites. So how do we stop it? Perhaps it is already too late. But what we can do, and what this work attempts to, is to speculate. Groundbreaking technologies still at their nascency have yet to be purposed under the capital or authoritative framework. Contemporary infrastructure, that organizes and activates, begs for a bottom-up readaptation. With an increasing urgency to find man’s place in an increasingly automated (yet schizophrenic) world, and nature being cast aside as a benign entity that we should preserve out of goodwill, can new paradigms be formed that redefine the trinity of man, nature, and machine?

Project by Ho Jin Teck (Daryl)


Many of the world’s coasts are becoming increasingly urban, with two-fifths of cities with populations of 1 million to 10 million people are located near coastlines. Coastal settlements have always been attractive due to its provision of critical inputs to industries , despite the many threats — floods, typhoons tsunamis etc. it brings. With the South-east Asian market expected to become the 5th largest economy by 2020, migration from rural to urban areas is set to increase, putting a strain on existing infrastructures within the cities. One of which is the solid waste disposal and recycling infrastructures within these SEA’s developing nations. Inadequate waste disposal management has resulted in poorly managed landfills with waste being washed into waters during the rainy seasons, jeopardising the environment and local communities (typically the most vulnerable) that depend on it. This project hopes to explore the nature of plastics, whilst creating an infrastructural network that varies with environmental conditions in order to create resilience in the coastal region.

Project by Chow Khoi Rong (Clara)


The increasing volcano eruptions seems to be one of the few remaining issues that has yet to be architecturally tackled. How could mankind adapt and evolve through the unpredictable natural changes caused by such occurrences? And what could be done to develop an economy that mediates in balance with such an unpredictable ecology? This project examines planning and architecture reactions to such harsh environments, experimenting formally to adapt to the condition, to ultimately terraforming urban spaces that adapt and predict volcano’s moody reactions. The research is primarily based on infrastructural studies that could mitigate and mediate the hazards nature of volcanoes.

Project by Peng Haonan

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