Author : Richard Meade

University : University of Johannesburg

Status : MArch, 2015

Advisors : Lesley Lokko, Craig McClenaghan, Sumayya Vally

Title : STATION #6

“There are three mistakes people commonly make when thinking about the future. The first is to assume that nothing will change, that everything will remain the same. The second is to assume that everything will change, that nothing will remain the same. The third, and most dangerous mistake is not to think about it at all“

Marshall Berman . All That is Solid Melts Into Air

Welcome to Station #6

About 15km east of Stone Town on the island of Zanzibar, near the village of Tunguu, lies the rusting remains of an American Satellite Tracking Station. STATION # 6 was built in 1960s to track and communicate the first American manned space missions. It first functioned during the early ‘Project Mercury’ launches, when astronauts were launched into space in a parabolic arc from Florida in the USA, to the other side of Africa. The station also sits along the ‘earth track’ of most of the lateral orbital missions and thus was a vital part of the tracking and telemetry network that helped communicate with these spacecraft.

My Major Design Project is sited in the future, in 2050 and beyond. It supposes a new, mythical and futuristic dystopian landscape on which an architecture for observation has been designed and constructed. The project investigates different notions of time: past, present and future, as well as different speeds of time: fast, slow, immeasurable, the speed of light. The observation station is created today, made up of fragments of the past but built for the future. STATION # 6 allows researchers to continue their work of analyzing the skies above whilst at the same time surviving the ecological devastation of rising sea levels and a polluted landscape.

The project tells the story of the political unrest that has re-surfaced on the island, following the floods and devastation. Zanzibar is extremely volatile to climatic changes, such as storms and the high rise of sea levels. Zanzibar historian Torrance Royer tells a story of the beachwachers near the American satellite station. He writes: ‘the high tech equipment and the “reach for the stars” attitude intrigued many young Zanzibaris. They learned about the schedules and I remember friends would lie on the beach, looking up waiting for the American spaceship to pass overhead. One friend, who had just heard about this phenomenon, joined the beachwachers . . . only to be disappointed by the small slow moving star-like object that he witnessed.’

The drawings and models build are representations of the project through different ‘series’, from models, which look at landscape, weathering, decay and regeneration, in both a physical and environmental sense, to drawings that speculate on the nature of enclosure.

Interview

S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Richard Meade _ Whilst this is very firmly an architectural proposition, containing many of the familiar elements of a design proposal – site, landscape, program, form and materiality – I’ve made a number of important shifts in my understanding of these conditions. What do I mean by this? Let me begin with ‘site’. The site of my project is both real and fictional. The first ‘site’ drawing, begun after everyone returned from Zanzibar, this was the first important step in setting up the narrative for Station # 6. I never arrived. Neither has the future.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
RM _ All things – Ink, paper, concrete, technology, film and petrol.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
RM _ Question the process and immersive yourself in the making of it.

S//A : Describe your dream project
RM _ One that involves the discovery of the past, in the present and that changes the future.