Jess Ngan

Advisor: Craig Buckley

MS.CCCP 2013

Speculative Fictions: The construction of artificial islands

 One of the most significant recent events is that of the global financial/economic crisis of 2007-2008, which created the worst recession since the Great Depression, and the European sovereign debt crisis, and so on, which then had a myriad of social and political effects globally.  The crisis was partly brought upon by the bursting of an economic bubble (specifically that of the US housing bubble at the end of 2006) due to risky speculation.  The crisis emphasized the power of speculation, and its prevalent role in economic systems.  This thesis will examine the different modes of thinking on speculation, and the way in which this thinking intersects with architectural thinking.  While speculation will be considered in its economic terms, the thesis will also take into consideration the cultural effects of speculation, and the psychoanalytic terms of desire and fantasy that can be relevant to speculation.

How do we write this recent history? How do we weave together the mechanisms and infrastructures of speculation and those of spatial production?  The aim is not to construct a narrative of how financial speculation has affected architectural thinking and spatial production by seeking out cause and effect relationships between economic and spatial events.  Rather, the thesis aims to arrive at an understanding of speculation and architecture through the new moments and new strata that have arisen.  Thus, the approach to the considering the intersection of speculation and architecture is not by narration, but by considering many different things and connections at once, by montage and collage to create new associations.

This thesis takes the artificial or man-made islands as a way in which to look at the role speculation plays in the organization of space.  These islands are constructed from existing landmass, moved into the sea to create ‘new land’.  While the construction of new islands is not a new practice, there has been a recent influx of large-scale, urban proposals; perhaps most famously characterized by ‘The World’ and the three Palm island projects in Dubai.  While these ‘spectacular’ projects may seem to have quite obvious speculative stakes, other artificial island projects, such as the construction of airport islands, uninhabited islands, and micronations can also be seen to be ‘speculative’ projects.