Unit: ERA

Unit Leader: Professor Rachel Sara, BCU   |  Unit tutor: Aine Moriarty, Mitchell Eley Gould

‘We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. We are in a life or death situation of our own making. We must act now…We must radically and immediately begin reducing emissions and improving carbon absorption, drawing it down and locking it up again…Let’s make a better world.’

 – Extinction Rebellion [1]

Unit: Extinction Rebellion Architecture (ERA) is a studio that takes extinction rebellion’s call to action as its starting point. In a state of climate emergency we cannot simply carry on designing ‘business as usual’ buildings. We need to radically rethink in order to develop a new architecture that does more than merely minimizing environmental impact. We need to rethink what architecture could and should be.

This unit sought to push the boundaries of architectural production to explore architecture that aims to be an active part of the solution to the current climate crisis – a restorative architecture. We developed experiments with new carbon-absorbing materials, designs which restore the environment in a variety of ways including intensifying biodiversity,

creating spaces which clean the air, clean water, recycle materials and generate renewable energy, provide intergenerational housing, bring human activity back into the skyscraper, challenge the way we build and more.

Projects are located in a range of sites around Digbeth, Birmingham. The non-masterplan approach is to propose a series of independent small-scale projects which knit into the existing fabric and act as a catalysers for subsequent incremental change. In the spirit of XR we have worked as a collaborative, participatory and inclusive unit that aimed to be supportive and nurturing.

We began by producing a manifesto for the unit, undertaking research into the most radical emerging

responses to the climate emergency, as well as developing an evidence base to identify the most pressing concerns. We exhibited our work at Birmingham Friends of the Earth as well as in a public exhibition at the Custard Factory, Digbeth, in order to respond to our ambition to work with real communities where possible as ‘to be truly visionary we have to root our imagination in our concrete reality while simultaneously imagining possibilities beyond that reality.’[2]

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1 Extinction Rebellion (2019) https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/the-emergency/ [accessed 11.09.19]
2 bel hooks (2014). ‘Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics’, p.110, Routledge.
Acknowledgements: Birmingham Friends of the Earth, John Christophers (Associated Architects)

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