Jeremy Till


Imagine you are standing knee-deep in a flowing river. Let’s call it the river of architecture. You are looking downstream, towards the river’s flood plain. Recently the waters in the distance have risen alarmingly, but this presents to you not an obstacle but a stimulus to your imagination. You are an architect. It’s what you do. You solve problems. You project your inner creativity onto this landscape, gathering the pure waters of past architectures to create your version of the next. Buildings and infrastructure rise in your mind, shrugging off the floods. They are gleaming things – dams, towers, structures, channels, dykes, bridges – which will shape a brave new world. Determinedly facing forward, you are lost in this vision of the future.

But then you feel something tugging at your knees. You look down and see strands of filth wrapping round your legs; worse, you skin is getting stained. You turn the other way, and there upstream you see the past. In the distant hills are the sites of colonisation where man’s disdain of nature and of the stewards of nature triggered the ecological collapse. The Plantationocene. Closer in are smoking chimneys, cement works, tarmac surfaces, soil grey from petrochemicals – all of which stand as witness to extractavist greed and growth. In the shadow of these carbon crime scenes are the hidden sites of production, where now forgotten labour was once sweated.  

It is raining upstream, and the water running off the landscapes of the past and into the river is poisoned. It is not the pure river of architecture but of architecture’s guilt, architecture’s dependency. As it flows downstream you are distraught to see all your shining chimeras of the future stained by the residues of toxic histories which flow irrepressibly through the present. And you recognise your impotency, as your presumed solutions are revealed as no more than very partial band-aids that barely patch the underlying wounds.

You start twitching, head swivelling to look first one way and then the other, and in this repeated movement you understand that any viable future downstream can only be found by understanding and intervening in the systems of power and capital upstream.

It is lonely standing in this river, so you look sideways, and there cutting through the sediments are other rivers and multiple heads bobbing back and forth, upstream and downstream. And you find hope in this collective movement within the now, because futures are multiple and found in the gaps in the present.


A text written by the research collective MOULD