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ADS4: Party Animals

Signe Pelne

Signe Pelne is an architectural designer and researcher from Latvia. Her work explores our ability to form relationships with both the natural environment and each other in a non-extractive fashion. Mainly focusing on analysing the historical, architectural, and ecological contexts of different sites and situations, her practice usually involves multidisciplinary work that is founded on socio-economic research and narrative making. Signe is an alumnus of the University of Westminster graduating with first-class honours. She has also studied in Copenhagen and Beijing and has been involved in architectural workshops in Canada, Germany, India, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine. She has worked for a series of London-based practices, including WestonWilliamson+Partners, Hawkins\Brown Architects, LEEP Architects and Studio Multi.

During her first year at the RCA, Signe worked with ADS3: Refuse Trespassing Our Bodies: Metabolising the Built Environment, and developed her project, Future & Post-Soviet Metabolism, where she explored how to enable small-scale polyculture farming through a collective silo and bread culture barn intervention in the disused Latvian agricultural centre of the Future village.

Signe has also collaborated with Neringa Forest Architecture at the Nida Art Colony, where her project, On How the Tree Became a Pellet: Capital Forests of the Baltics, developed into a research piece that demonstrates the link between forest biomass export and the loss of biodiversity within the forests of the Baltics. In collaboration with the Lithuanian Culture Institute, the research has been published in Forest as a Journal. This year she has continued to explore the Baltic forest in connection to her project work. 

She is a recipient of the Karakusevic Carson Scholarship, RIBA Part 2 and Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia Bursary.

By connecting indigenous practices of ritualistic forest worshipping with an analysis of contemporary extraction methods, I aim to speculate on how to de-monoculturise the forest and de-monuculturise the human understanding of forest by means of human interventions. How can ritual and design activate the way humans understand forests and their worth as non-human agents? Can Forests gain agency through these rituals?

My design is a piece of eco scenography, which connects through different design interventions resulting in a 500-year architectural forest performance in a shape of a growing, evolving and performing stage. It’s about creating a ritual of creation and planting, a story and practice that could culminate in new understandings and eco assemblages.

Whilst the audience of the humans partake in the creation and the set design of the piece as well as experience the performance of the forest, the forest is the main designer, director and producer of the outcome. Some trees grow according to instruction whilst some don’t and the outcome of the design is equally dependent on the care and attention given to the growing and tying as well as the adjacency of the trees. In this process, the design is the regeneration and the recovery of the new Forest.

This is a type of eco scenography - the performance of the piece is the growing and evolving of it. Thus instead of taking place on a stage, it develops into one - portraying the performative wonders of de-monoculturalised nature and forcing the viewer to pay attention to the change and adjacency of these eco assemblages, outlining the power of the non-human.

Seeding Shoes
Processional Pot
Seeding Plan

The first intervention is a seed bank, which would be distributed across identified biodiversity hotspots in the nearby area and stand in the landscape as a bank to place seeds. As they mature they would gather in the processional pot which will later be used in the ritual.

Meanwhile, on-site a process of selective cutting of 10 dying pine trees takes place, where after they are placed in the pre-erected drying facility on site. Within a year, these trees are used to make the scaffold that would guide the processional walk and later shape the pavilion.

Designed to connect the participants to the forest, the procession would take place during the enxinoux and be a gathering open to the public to experience a ritual of seeding the pavilion. This walk is organised through 2 meeting points in the landscape where it culminates in the middle.

The procession has a specific choreography of seeding seeds from the mixed seed banks. The front participant makes the layout of the seeding and wears ritualistic shoes that can permeate the ground. The people behind then place the seeds in and the last person covers them with soil.


Unreal Engine, Line Drawing
Selective Pine Drying, Year 0
Scaffold, Year 1
Scaffold, Year 1
Procession in Landscape, Year 1
Year 10
Year 20
Year 30
Year 40
Year 50

The choreography of the procession corresponds to the scaffolding infrastructure that is pre-placed in the landscape and is to support the creation and the shape of the forest pavilion. As the trees and plants would develop they would be tied to the scaffold, each year coming back to fix and change the ties and their location.

This as a practice is inspired by the ancient art of tree shaping. When bent and regularly secured to the scaffold the trees would create an independently standing architecture. For the stage, the tree seeds are selected and combined to compliment each other whilst the surrounding landscape is planted unselectively letting nature do its course.

Within this scenario, the performance is the stage that shapes into place as the trees develop and the scaffolding disintegrates over the years. In the 50th year, it is removed fully, letting the structure stand and evolve further independently.


Unreal Engine

Through centuries of Silviculture practices, forests were cut in managed patches. As one develops it is clearcut, the ground is harrored and planted with tree seedlings, after they are thinned and then clear cut again. The majority of the Baltic forests have been treated to such practices leaving only around 1% as primary forestland. Once covered in a mix of different tree species around 75% of the territories are now covered by just the 2 most profitable - Scots Pine and Spruce.

The site of the project is a clearcut. An eco-assemblage where most of the carbon and fungi have been uprooted by violent practices of timber logging, leaving the soil bare and without any of its intended purpose of the Forest. Left to either slowly regenerate through long processes of recovery or most commonly quickly replanted with pine saplings, in neat rows forming what will soon be another monoculture to be extracted, the site of a clearcut is a place of potential - a man-made tabula rasa. A space in time to break a perpetual circle of extraction.

Over the last decade, there has been an almost twofold increase in logging within the Baltics. This is not circumstantial and can be explained by Europe’s insatiable appetite for biomass, which accounts for ¼ of the total extractions.

Biomass has somehow created an idea that there is a greener kind of carbon - one that’s emission is less harmful to the environment. Carbon neutrality is a fairytale. It is a fictional way of streamlining nature’s solutions for the gain of not changing existing human practices. Humans have gained the imaginary perspective of simply continuing exploiting the forest for energy without understanding the complexities and the stable nature of naturally occurring eco assemblages. Classified as renewable energy, in reality, these landscapes are burned.

Aitvaris & the Folkkin
Aitvaris & the Folkkin
The Social Tree
The Social Tree

Instead, the human could be an agent that multiplies, speeds and ensures the existence of regeneration within selected eco assemblages. It’s about using the environment for enabling larger living systems to thrive, whilst selectively establishing de-growth economies that are not fit for extraction. The film speculates the outcome of the project. It flows through the existing site, following what the forest was, and what it became as a result of human extraction.


Cinema4D, Unreal Engine
Baltics - Forest Cover, Natura 2000 and Primary Forests
Veclaicene Site, 1980 to 2020
Veclaicene Site, 1980 to 2020

Through my personal attraction to the area as well as the realities of the rapidly declining biodiversity, I based my research on the Baltics.  Although the proposal is meant to be condition not site-specific to be able to replicate across all clearcuts, I found a site near Veclaicene that is both protected by Natura 2000, classified as under threat of biodiversity decline and has had major and recent clear-cutting interventions.

Left to either slowly regenerate through long processes of recovery or most commonly quickly replanted with pine saplings, in neat rows forming what will soon be another monoculture to be extracted, the site of a clearcut is a place of potential - a man-made tabula rasa. A space in time to break a perpetual circle of extraction.

The project is a clearcut that in the long run will not serve the capital gains of extraction, yet fully serve the biodiversity of the all-around Forest. As the stage develops the ground of the clearcut is changed and evolved. Through new roots and fungi networks, these sites mitigate the patchiness of the existing biodiversity. 

As the scaffolding dissolves and the trees develop the project is a stage to eventually become a myth, hopefully forgetting its original human-care origins and making its viewers speculate its creation. Through the eyes of the beholder, the new Forest gains non-human adjacency and is celebrated and monumentalised. Wild unaesthetic and unprofitable - it serves the non-human instead.

Karakusevic Carson Scholarships