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How will migration influence architecture and the city?

Photo: Poster

Samuel Penn

On the same journey we drove inland passing small lakes and then turned to the coast through what seemed like land-locked islands, up and down into dips and valleys where small microclimates had formed. These oases impressed all the more for being surrounded by barren hills. I marvelled at spindle-bone-like purple trees, lush ferns, twisted figures, the unrecognisable animals and strange birdsong. I’m not in the habit of being overwhelmed anymore, but it made me think of the world, of the exotic places that must still exist somewhere. I imagined finding a place like this and settling there, getting to know it intimately, never leaving and dying there. Then I tried to envisage the kind of human being that would inhabit this landscape, how they would dress and behave, and it made me happy to think about the details of their garments and jewellery. For some reason I thought of the Iowa tribes who roamed the Great Plains of America and whose colourful shirts I saw as a child at the museum in my then hometown. Growing up these distant people fascinated me, not because I thought them primitive, but because I perceived in them an instantly recognisable intelligence and precision. Claude Levi-Strauss talked about this in The Savage Mind. I discovered in their weave the same stitches and patterns of my pullover. In fact there is no difference. Both are simple and joyous expressions of function and technique. It’s easy to romanticise otherness. Things always seem extraordinary from a distance but invariably transform into something familiar as they draw near. It’s this unavoidable familiarity that makes me question my place in the world; the inevitability or otherwise of home; the way I ought to live; and the sophistication and opacity of the modern world.

Samuel Penn works and lives in the UK. He opened his office in 2016 and has taught at the University of Dundee, Robert Gordon University, Newcastle University, Wuhan University in China, the EPFL in Switzerland and at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. In 2011 he co-founded the AE Foundation, which has achieved international recognition in events, exhibitions and publications.