MArch Unit 12 : Storytelling to Save the Planet : Tutor: Rahesh Ram, Lucy Sanders, Kieran Hawkins

Image: Beatrice Cernea

Only Our Imagination Can Get Us Out Of This

We are living in a time of one of the most dramatic changes the planet has ever experienced. Covid, social injustice and the climate crisis has led to an atmosphere that sometimes feels overwhelming leading to feelings of helplessness.

However, if we take a different attitude, in this moment where when we are reevaluating the way we live our lives, we can see this time as an opportunity to reimagine the world as we would like it. Architects can be an agents of change and be part of the revolutionary action required to save the planet. David Graeber made an important observation of the relationship between creative practitioners and social revolutionaries:

If artistic avant-gardes and social revolutionaries have felt a peculiar affinity for one another… it is both have remained committed to the idea that the ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we can make and could

just as easily make differently.”

To start thinking about the remaking of the world we need to find a way to think about new possibilities. So, Unit 12, inspired by modern thinkers, such as Donna Haraway and Umberto Eco believe that to ignite this revolutionary action we need to tell new stories of the way we want the world to be. This requires some imaginative thinking as it will be our imagination that will get us out of this.

Donna Haraway in her book ‘Staying with the Troubles’ utilizes storytelling as a way to speculate on her conceptually radical idea of humans forming new relationships (making kin) with other species in an attempt to change the way we think and live in the context of the climate crisis.

“The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connections as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present (….) and in these times of urgencies we need stories”. She went on to write the Camile Stories in which humans form family ties with Monarch Butterflies through empathetic practices and genetic modification.

Dylan M. Harris, understood the power of storytelling:

“To tell a story, in some cases, is to speak into existence alternative worlds and ontologies’


A powerful category of storytelling Unit 12 is interested in is fiction. If instrumentalized it can enable world and architectural speculation. It is a form of thought experiment where we can fabricate a world and speculate on architectures that inhabit it.

Umberto Eco stated on Fiction:

‘We explore the plurality of possibilia to find out a suitable model for real.’

Architectural fiction can be used to speculate about how the future could be or how we can change the present to change the future. It can also investigate political, social, cultural, or environmental tensions through the conduit architectural fiction.

With optimistic fervor we will be asking students to tell stories and reimagine the world through their proposals.

The ethos of the unit is optimistic, and we will use the utopian method. Ruth Leviats defined this method:

“as mean to encourage and endorse this (Utopian Method) as a legitimate and useful mode of thought and knowledge generation. To think about utopia is to think where we might want to get and what routes are open to us.”

Ruth Leviats – Utopia as Method (2013)     

  Stories as Projects & Projects as Stories

  1. Student’s projects will be based on what they are interested in (this could be anything from exploring the student’s personal heritage, their gender, their sexuality, students’ political interests, philosophical interests, environmental interests or simply something they enjoy)- all will be subject to revolutionary rethinking.
  2. All projects do not necessarily have to be directly about climate change, social justice, or utopias BUT all projects must respond to the climate crisis and must be developed through ethical practice.
  3. The architecture created should tell stories within itself and tell the story of the world it inhabits.
  4. We want to take architecture back to when it was a tool for storytelling.

Stories can be told though sections, plans, elevations through decoration and forms.

  • We believe in optimism – no dystopic projects.
  • We believe is maximalism – not minimalism (How will this idea work in the age of the climate crisis)
  • We believe that architecture is a magical object- a dream machine not just a pragmatic utility.
  • We love typologies of storytelling: Mythologies, Fables, Children Stories etc. and their association with our real-world stories.
  • We encourage using art & literature as references to trigger the imagination and influence architectural ideas.
  • We believe in research that substantiates your project. Every idea must be supported by research.  No superficial projects .i.e. NO form making for the sake of it.



 An interest in expressionistic architecture & the belief that architecture is much more than its physical object and is much more of a story telling machine.