DS18_2014/15: Architecture, Energy, Matter 2, Semester 1 – Fracking the Karoo

DS18_ 2014/15, University of Westminster

Tutors: Lindsay Bremner, Roberto Bottazzi


“What we have then, is a kind of ‘wisdom of the rocks,’ a way of listening to a creative, expressive flow of matter for guidance on how to work with our own organic strata.” DeLanda, M. (1992). “Nonorganic life.” Zone 6: 143.


As a way of extending the DS18’s interests in relations between energy, matter, space and architecture, Architecture, Energy, Matter 2  was designed as a response to the proposal to introduce hydraulic shale gas fracturing in the Karoo, an arid semi-desert inland region of South Africa. We were interested in exploring the Karoo as a complex, lived environment, with powerful significance in South Africa’s cultural and political history and how this might change as energy pressures were brought to bear on it.

Brief 1a: Material Flows: DS18_2014:15_Brief 1a_ Material Flows

We began the studio with abstract, computational modelling exercises to model and visualise dynamic processes using the fluid simulation software RealFlow. Students selected one of the four elements (earth, air, water or fire) and simulated the its behaviour in dynamic processes such as: erosion, deposition, sedimentation, compaction, condensation, eruption, shrinkage, swelling, contraction, evaporation, lamination, turbulence, freezing, thawing etc. The site for the simulation was an abstract cylinder 3m diameter x 10m high. This produced the beginnings of design and aesthetic sensibilities to be cultivated later in the studio.

Student work samples:

Emma Swarbrick: Explores how pressure, stresses and strain impact solid materials, causing them to act and flow as liquids.






Michael O’Hanlon: Simulates a wax cylinder melting.

mike A2 print (2)

Andrew Baker Falkner: Simulates pollutants being separated from air.

Air Pollution Visualisation Lines_small

Cheryl Choo: Simulates a sandstorm.


Brief 1b: Energy Economies: DS18_2014:15_Brief 1b_ Energy Economies

At the same time as investigating the behaviour of energy and materials in RealFlow, students were required to familiarise themselves with South Africa’s energy economy. The task was to build an archive of data and documents regarding the energy resources of South Africa and to represent this data graphically on a single board. This provided the context for decisions about the Karoo and its ecological patterns and processes as energy resources.

After these research driven exercises, we went on a field trip to South Africa. In Cape Town, we attended a 1- day symposium on fracking hosted by the Law Department at the University of Cape Town, and where numerous experts, ranging from lawyers to hydrologists to anthropologists and planners spoke. This was followed by a 4-day road trip into the Karoo, staying in one of its former frontier towns, Graaff Reinet. Here students met citizens, activists, lawyers and farmers and gauged their opinions of fracking and the changes it might bring, as well as having some fun going on game drives, having sundowners on the rocks and enjoying traditional South African braaivleis. On return from the field trip, students were required to adopt a position on fracking, and in  groups of 3 or 4, to develop a Strategic Energy Masterplan for the Camdeboo, the municipal area in which Graaff-Reinet is located. They were required to use energy resource/s they considered appropriate and explore the urban and architectural potential of their energy infrastructures.

Brief 2: Energy Urbanism: A 2030 Energy Strategy for Camdeboo, the Karoo, South Africa: DS18_2014_Brief 2

Student work samples:

Camdeboo Solar Park (CSP): Andrew Baker Falkner, John Cook, Michael O’Hanlon, Ben Pollock

South Africa is within the top 3% of countries world wide in terms of solar irradiance. Through an analysis of this solar resource as well as an understanding of the existing economy, infrastructure ad demographics of South Africa, a national energy strategy has been devised, which hopes to provide 55% of South Africa’s energy through solar power by 2050, bringing it in line with global long term mitigation scenarios. This involves the large-scale roll out of 5 solar power plants around the country, of which the Camdeboo Solar Park (CSP) is one.

150117 - Portfolio [TEST]8

150117 - Portfolio [TEST]10





Future Research for Experimental Energies (FREE): Cheryl Choo, Matthew Hedges, Shiue Nee Pang, Iulia Stefan

FREE aims to transform the Camdeboo Municipality into a research hub for future renewable energies. It plays an important role in providing a significant link between the spiritual history of indigenous people and a scientific future. It acts as an agent that integrates science and technology into the everyday lives of the people of Camdeboo.


Townships of Tomorrow (ToT): Jessica Hillam, Natasha Khambhaita, Anna-Maria Papasotiriou, Jack Thompson

Townships of tomorrow focuses on energy poverty in the township of Umasizakhe in the Camdeboo Municipality of the South African Karoo region. Though a careful analysis of the history of Umasizakhe and its geographic location (sun surplus, water shortage), it proposes a series of strategies to re-claim the township as a sun-scape and a water-scape, forming a stronger sense of community.

ToT1 ToT2jpg ToT3 ToT4 ToT5



Waste Integration Initiative (WII): Jared Baron, Sophia Fuller, Alice Thompson

This strategy proposes to overcome the segregation between town (Graaff Reinet) and township (Umasizakhe) through the implementation of a co-operative grass roots program for effective waste management, focusing on the three r’s – reduce, reuse, recycle.


Waste Integration Initiative_Page_20


Waste Integration Initiative_Page_27

Waste Integration Initiative_Page_28

Waste Integration Initiative_Page_29


General Bibliography

Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant Matter. A political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. DeLanda, M. (1992). “Nonorganic life.” Zone 6, Incorporations, 129-167. New York: Zone Books. Gissen, David. (2009). Subnature: Architecture’s other Environments. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.Harrison, A. L. (2013). Architectural Theories of the Environment. New York: Routledge. Kwinter, S. (2011). “The Computational Fallacy.” Computational Design Thinking, 211-215. Chichester: John Wiley. Menges, A. and Ahlquist, S. (2011).Computational Design Thinking. Chichester: John Wiley. Morton. M. (2013). Hyperobjects. Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Palmer, E.(1966). The Plains of Camdeboo. London: Fontana. Richard, W., Dean, J. and Milton, S.J. (1999). The Karoo: Ecological Patterns and Processes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Varenne, F. (2001). “What does a computer simulation prove? The case of plant modeling at CIRAD (France)”, Simulation in industry – ESS 2001, Proc. of the 13th European Simulation Symposium, Marseille, October 18-20th, 2001, ed. by N. Giambiasi and C. Frydman, SCS Europe Bvba, Ghent, 549-554.

Sponsor: DS18 would like to thank the Reinet Foundation for sponsoring the field trip to South Africa.


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