At a time when climate change is affecting the entire planet, global connections using natural materials are important to explore for solutions.
Narratives of Soil is the brainchild of UK designer, Eliza Collin and Malaysian architect turned multidisciplinary artist, Wendy Teo. Their research project, Narratives of Soil, explores the cultural and artistic significance of mud in design.
“As a designer, I see it as my role to dig deeper into our understanding of materials and translate them into a sustainable vision for the future. The process of working with mud is a humbling one and a time in which all involved will learn more about their landscape and local soils. Through comparative study we will get to see what soil can reveal to us, contextualising our landscape in relation to its history.” - Eliza Collin.
Beginning in January 2021, Wendy and Eliza collaborated by initiating conversations globally with practitioners working with soil. In Borneo, Wendy and her team collected soil samples, jared them, studied their contents and began experimenting, whilst Eliza researched, organised an online workshop, and spearheaded preparations for the online interactive forum. They tested and analysed the texture of the soil in Borneo, recorded conversations in the UK, and engaged participants around the world while hosting online discussions with the intention to promote soil as an environmentally friendly alternative in design and learn from current innovations.
By working closely with other soil lovers such as Sean T Ross (United Kingdom), Aayushi Bajpayee (India/United States), Thom Bindels(Netherlands), I Yao Chuang (Taiwan), Erez Nevi Pana (Israel), Unknown Fields Division (United Kingdom), Think & Tink, Borneo Laboratory (Borneo Malaysia) and more, Wendy and Eliza researched the uses of mud beyond architecture such as textile (Toraja) and energy production (Bristol/London), each showcasing that a humble material such as mud holds so much value for the future of the earth when utilised properly.
The rich exchanges and interventions were documented each step of the way, using tools such as filmmaking, writing, virtual photography and sketchfab to 3D render the soil samples which can communicate the textural differences of the samples. The research project findings were then assembled into an omnichannel exhibition consisting of podcasts, videos, forums, publications, workshops and an exhibition that is available virtually for audiences worlwide.
Since February 2022, Narratives of Soil continues to bring awareness to the potential of mud as a safer, environmentally-friendly alternative in construction, architecture, and energy production to audiences in Kuching, Malaysia through partnering with Think & Tink, an experimental gallery exploring the potential of art, living and growing. Think & Tink provided the research project with a space for the making-of and continues to host the project exhibition in Kuching, Malaysia.
Wendy Teo is a ARB/RIBA (UK) Chartered Architect and founder of Wendy Teo Atelier and Borneo Laboratory, a multidisciplinary practice based in Borneo Malaysia. Teo is also a visiting scholar in Feng Chia University (Taiwan) as an Assistant Professor. In Teo's Research and pedagogical direction, she and her team focuses on embedding social-culture dialogue in forming architectural innovation.
Born in Borneo, Teo received her M.Arch(Dist.) from Bartlett, UCL. One of her notable exhibitions is the 2013/14 Archilab 'Naturalising Architecture' exhibition curated by Pompidou Centerdirector Frédéric Migayrou and FRAC Orlean Director Marie-Ange Brayer. Teo was nominated by the British Council as a fellow in the 2018 Woman of the Future’ South East chapter organised by AVIVA group.
Eliza Collin is a designer, researcher and graduate of MA Material Futures. Her research includes bioremediation, circular systems and the valorisation of waste as well as current explorations into insensible worlds. Notable exhibitions include ‘Verdant Futures’ Nov 2021, D-Contemporary, London. ‘United Matters 2021 Showcase’ Oct 2021, Dutch Design Week, Eindhoven. ‘Pandemos’ Oct 2020, Studio Rizoma, Palermo, Sicily. ‘The Everyday Martian’ Nov 2019, Design Museum, London. ‘Material Connections’ Sept 2019, London Design Festival.
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