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ADS6: Make Film Place

Ben Child

Both of my projects at the RCA speculate about a near future scenario and its architectural implications. This project, Ephemeris, explores the ways in which Solar Geoengineering, a proposed method of counteracting the effects of climate change, would have architectural consequences such as vast infrastructure and the manufacture of an artificial atmosphere. In ADS 5 last year, Strata:Ponic proposed housing allotments in an industrial high rise in response to the increasing shortage of available land for allotments and buildings in London.

In both cases, these scenarios prompted an intervention which uses movement as an architectural response to these conditions. In Ephemeris, a giant balloon lifts a pipe high up in the atmosphere to disperse particles which move through the sky. Blades spin around the pipe to generate electricity and to help lift the pipe. In Strata:Ponic, the need to irrigate and to provide different climatic conditions to the allotments created a rotating façade panel which collected and distributed water, animating each elevation.

Previous to the RCA, I graduated from the University of Kent in 2019 and then worked at Atelier COLE, Phnom Penh and Hollaway Studio, London.

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


An Ephemeris is a table which documents the path of astronomical objects. Moving through the air, particles can be seen as a kind of ephemeris. They map the atmospheres movement, where it is volatile and where it is stable. Where it is cool and where it is hot. Where they gather, they create visible changes in the light. The movement of these particles is indicative of something much vaster, the movement and changes of the atmosphere.

The project explores the possible spatial consequences of solar geoengineering, the deliberate, large-scale intervention in the atmosphere through the dispersal of reflective aerosols. 

As warming limits are continuously missed and mitigation measures seem increasingly more difficult to achieve, relatively fast, cheap and simple solutions to climate change such as Solar Geoengineering seem more likely. 

Yet, this ‘solution’ is burdened by many ethical dilemmas. Solar geoengineering would have significant spatial consequences such as impacting the quality of light and air, and in terms of the vast infrastructure necessary to conduct it.

The project seeks to visualise data around geoengineering which currently exists in technical reports and to translate this information in to a more widely understandable media. 

What are the spatial consequences of solar geoengineering?

An animation showing the balloon ascending to its full height where aerosol dispersal begins.

The architectural goal of the project is the manufacture of an atmosphere. The balloon and its infrastructure are an intervention to enable this.

The creation of an atmosphere is inherently architectural as it is an inhabited space in which decisions around the comfort and living conditions of those inhabitants must be made. 

Ephemeris of the Wind
Particle movement
Flying Photographs
Physical / Virtual Composite
Artificial Wind
Interview with Rod ReadI talked with Rod Read, inventor of a flying wind turbine about what he sees as the possibilities of harnessing wind to substitute conventional structures. We talked about Frei Ottos buildings and how many of those structures challenged peoples perceptions of what was structurally possible at the time.

The architectural intervention suggested within the project is a way of managing and dispersing particles. The structure is informed by flying devices such as kites and balloons. It also looks towards Architect/Engineers with an aspiration towards lightness, such as Otto and Nervi, who experimented with physical modelling and and the study of natural forms to create dynamic structures. The project asks if this dynamism can continue through the life of the project. 

The models below explore the question: Can the architecture continue moving, and continue growing rather than being fixed in one specific moment?

Geoengineering Balloon / Living Pod / Dispersal Station
Tether / Pipe / Blades
Ground Station
Earth's Surface

Seeing the site as the sky, or as the atmosphere, I started to consider how small particles of dirt, dust, soot all move through this site also. This particle pollution is caused by forest fires, volcano eruptions, but now mainly through human pollution.

Whilst particle pollution has negative health consequences, the particles reflect the sun's radiation out of the atmosphere and counteract the warming effect of greenhouse gases. This is why Solar Geoengineering, the deliberate injection of these particles in to the atmosphere to manage global temperatures, is increasingly being seen as a way of staying within the 2 degree warming limit set by the Paris agreement.

Whilst it may seem initially like a strange concept, when we consider that the biggest oil companies are on track to spend vast sums of money exploiting new fields of oil and gas over the coming decades, technology which counteracts the negative effects of burning fossils fuels seems increasingly likely. 

The site is Bristol, the ballooning capital of the UK, and where the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering collaboration is located. The project speculates that this is a likely place for one of the Geoengineering balloons to be launched from each year.

The section shows the three main elements of the project and the part of the atmosphere each one relates to:

The balloon sits at the Tropopause, the border between the Stratosphere and the Tropopause. The Dispersal Unit and Living Pod hang under the balloon. The aerosols are injected in to the atmosphere from this height.

The tether of the balloon acts as a pipe, bringing the aerosols from the ground station to the height of the balloon. Blades spin around the tether which harnesses the wind as a source of energy and helps to lift the tether. They also absorb carbon directly from the air, which is easier at high altitudes because of the low temperatures.

The Ground Station is the foot of the balloons tether and is where the aerosols are stored and pumped from. As the particles down to the bottom of the atmosphere, down by the earths surface, they collect in larger quantities and prevent blue light waves from getting through. This means that from the surface of the Earth the sky would appear pale and pink.

The living pod for the Geoengineer.
The Dispersal Station site at the Tropopause.
Blades spin around balloon tether.
The blades generate electricity and capture carbon from the air.
Geoengineering Ground Station at Durnford Quarry, Bristol.
Geoengineering balloon passes over a balloon from the Bristol Balloon Fiesta.