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ADS4: Party Animals

Alba Imeri

Alba Imeri’s work is situated within botanical research, staging and installation. Presenting ideas and questions centred around forgery and narrative, with an interest in natural history dioramas, her work addresses concerns of taxonomical methodologies through the queer botany and the extinction of botanical species. Through biological and sensory research, the work attempts to present the forgotten and extinct human and non-human agencies. The work attempts to ask broader questions on the value of authenticity, the violence of samping, and the material tangibility of dioramas.

Situated in London, Alba completed her undergraduate studies in Architecture at Central Saint Martins, followed by a professional background including residential, conservation and community engagement projects, she often looks at the way architecture can serve as a meditative and interactive body. During her time in practice, Alba also participated in competitions such as Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust’s 18-mile marker for the London Marathon as well as a scholarship to the AA visiting school at Hooke Park working on a collaborative project based in the Dorset Wildlife Trust where she learned fundamental methods of making. 

In ADS4 Party Animals, her project focuses on unravelling existing modes of interpreting nature through dioramas, archives and scientific discoveries.

Show Location: Kensington campus: Darwin Building, Upper ground floor

The project, Queering Botany is a research project mapping extinct flora and fauna species and exploring the nature of knowledge systems, museum collecting and museum dioramas to highlight and renarrate the violence of extractive histories on the planet and the ways we live to foster new forms of engagement with these histories.

The thesis project began from investigating the following thesis questions:

What is left out when learning about past histories?

How does representation lead to binary and extractive tools of classifications? 

How do we break a binary experience? 

How can approaching plants from different points of view help us understand them as species in their own right, and how have tools and experts shaped the way we perceive them?

Taking inspiration from Mark Dion, the practice approaches architecture by shadowing scientific enquiry, engaging with fieldwork, expedition material and specifically looking at the architectural infrastructures of Kew gardens temperate house that support these botanical processes. My work questions the concerns of the culture of nature and its existence in urban space as well as how it is managed and controlled. 

Dioramas act as a spatial prism to narrate natural history, Donna Harraway implies ‘they are actors in a morality play on the stage of nature, where the eye is the critical organ’. Originally born from the desire to protect fauna and flora, dioramas became a design interface normalising the violent processes of curation. The project proposes to re-evaluate the present architectures of natural history museum dioramas by designing an alternative form of a diorama, taking the core principles of the traditional diorama, scale, actors, time, framing and environments to present stories from unheard actors who last bore witness to globally extinct botanical specimens. 

Network Diagram
Disrupting the traditional diorama
Queering Composition
Queering Landscapes
Queering Scale
Queering Vegetal Life

Queer botany weaponizes ways of interacting with classifications by investigating data and raw material to reinterpret the role of the illustrator, botanist, greenhouse, archive, herbarium sheet and extracted environments.

Queer botany follows four conditions ; 

1. To expose the violent methods of preservation and classification, 

2. To speculate hidden narratives

3. To experience the diorama through the perspective of the character that last bore witness to the extinct botanical specimen. 

4. To encourage a new form of interaction and engagement toward the plant specimen.

The ambition of the project is to explore our role in learning about natural infrastructures in the context of our accelerating planetary extinction. By redefining a diorama, a fundamentally binary tool that tells natural history narratives, I am using queer methodologies as a tool to subvert gaze into the unknown and speculate on hidden voices in history.

3D reconstruction of Nesiota Elliptica
Botanical Illustrated reconstructed into a animated character
Nesiota Elliptica, Diana’s Peak, 1658
Nesiota Elliptica, Diana’s Peak, 1994
Diorama 01, Visiting Kew

St Helena Olive, also known as Nesiota elliptica, 

last seen in 1994, identified extinct in 2003. 

Location: Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean

Nesiota Elliptica, also known as St Helena Olive, last seen in 1994 was identified as extinct in 2003. The species became extinct as a result of human’s colonial activities taking place over the course of 300 years, including timber plantations, land clearing for fuel, deforestation, and over-collection by botanists. The establishment of a permanent colony with the East India Company is the key event that began the plant’s decline in 1658. 

No information is known about the identity of botanical illustrator, Alice Elizabeth Louisa, her role in the discovery of St Helena Olive specimen is undocumented with only her illustrations credited under ‘Mrs. J. C. Melliss’ in the 1875 journal, ‘St. Helena: A Physical, Historical and Topographical Description of the Island, Including the Geology, Fauna, Flora and Meteorology’.

Diorama 1, Nesiota Elliptica, is a film where i embody the undocumented 1800’s botanical illustrator, Alice Elizabeth Louisa and interact with the physical samples at the economic botany collection at Kews Gardens. This diorama works from the point of view of a day in the life of the botanical illustrator, reinterpreting her movements and her relationship with the plant through data stored on her husband at Kew.




1920 x 1080
3D reconstruction of Acalypha Wilderi
Botanical Illustrated reconstructed into a animated character
Point of view from Kew’s Temperate HouseAcalypha wilderi, last seen in 1929, identified as extinct in 2011 Location: Cook Islands, South Pacific Ocean The plant was discovered on the Cook Islands in 1899. The vicinity of Avarua and Arorangi where the species were found were heavily modified as a result of deforestation for agriculture and plantation forestry. Through the botanical research and collection of Acalypha wilderi, Royal Botanical Gardens has five dried and pressed specimens in the Kew Herbarium.
Stills of Diorama 2, Digitally generated greenhouse
Stills of Diorama 2, Digitally generated greenhouse
Simulation of Diorama 2, Digitally generated greenhouse

Diorama 2, Acalypha Wilderi is a digitally generated Victorian greenhouse inspired by the form and structure of the Temperate house. The diorama is from the point of view of the greenhouse, to discuss its ability of simulating the climate of acalypha wilderi’s native climate, Cook Islands and its overcollection that led to its global extinction. The simulation operates by replicating the controlled environment of a greenhouse through the understanding of L systems, simulating algorithms found to create the forms within nature. 

In aims of finding a alternative way of viewing vegetal life and artefacts, the project was inspired by queer archaeology which challenges normative, especially heteronormative, views of the past by taking the rigid rules of excavation and providing a space to critique these assumptions by looking at the present ways attitudes, values and beliefs today influence archaeological reconstructions of the past and try to reinterpret these artefacts by speculating alternative scenarios and relationships . 


Houdini Simulation


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3D reconstruction of Lepidium Obtusatum
Site of expedition
Point of view from Herbarium sheetLepidium obtusatum, last seen in 1893, identified as extinct in 1950 Location: Wellington, New Zealand Native between Seatoun and Point Dorset, eliminated through a combination of habitat destruction as a consequence of gravel extraction, weed invasion and over collection by botanists. Through the botanical research and collection of Lepidium obtusatum, Royal Botanical Gardens prior cuttings have gone missing in the Kew Herbarium, with only stored digital copies.
Stills of Diorama 3, VR of the expedition site
Stills of Diorama 3, VR of the expedition site
Diorama 3_Lepidium Obtusatum

Diorama 3, lepidium obtusatum is a VR experience set to reimagine the role of the expedition from the point of view of the herbarium sheet on the site of extraction at Point Dorset, Wellington, New Zealand in 1895. The diorama is a VR experience since the herbarium sheet has since disappeared from Kew’s archive, emphasising how fragile the methods of sampling can be. The VR headset provides an immersive visual audible experience. In addition to this, I also looked into the use of AR in the form of instagram filters to encourage a new form of interaction and engagement toward the plant specimen and break the binary of the diorama. The digital ghosts of the plants are accessible outside of the botanical architectural infrastructure growing out of the frame as well as providing information on the specimens.


Virtual Reality


4000 x 2000
3D reconstruction of Leucadendron Spirale
Iteration of Game Design
Point of view from the alien plantWolseley Conebush, also known as Leucadendron spirale, last seen in 1933, identified as extinct in 2020 Location: Western Cape, South Africa Native to South Africa (Western Cape) was lost due to timber plantations and agriculture. Where plantations no longer expanded, it left remaining habitats of the conebush densely infested with alien invasive plants with little chance of survival. Through the botanical research and collection of Wolseley Conebush, Royal Botanical Gardens has two dried specimen.
Stills of Diorama 4, the arcade game
Stills of Arcade Game
Stills of Arcade Game
Gameplay recording of Diorama 4, the arcade game

Diorama 4, leucadendron spirale is a arcade game exploring the population evolution of the plant once a series of conditions affect the land, first plantations clearing the land, then alien plant invasion. My game’s style and plot is inspired by the native land of the plant, Western Cape close to breede River and Mathematician John Conway’s Game of Life. 

Botanical taxonomic systems are hetereo normative by nature, they inflict a binary understanding on to vegetal life based on human attitudes toward gender and sex, skewing our view of nature. Carl linnaeus, Botanist, termed the father of taxonomy and classification, formulated the modern system of naming organisms in the 1700’s, anthropomorphising plants by describing them being in “marriages’’ and that more than twenty “husbands’’ share the same “bed” with the female pistils. His classification system completely ignores the intersex nature of plant specimens.This attitude is violent as it propogates anything outside of these realms as unnatural. 

More and more institutions are using games as a way to raise awareness of conservation and the environment as touched upon in Natural History Museum’s playful nature event where I had a conversation with game creator David Huerta about his open world game focused on conserving wildlife. 

The intention of the project is to experience the density of natural history collecting systems and to use the overwhelming accessibility of the digital to create new frameworks to learn and question past histories. There is a wider conversation happening on the re-education of natural history in and outside of institutions. In April 2022, a GCSE in Natural History was confirmed, providing the opportunity to create a more rigorous framework to learn about local wildlife, environments and ecosystems. Each diorama presents a different scientific enquiry I explored and tested using queer botany, including recovering unknown figures, opening up access beyond these institutions, and undoing violence of the binary of existing dioramas. My methodology of queering dioramas is an architectural tool of demonstrating ways in understanding binaries and different positionalities fracturing existing orders of viewing and proposing designs that are more accessible and spatially immersive.


Arcade Game