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Living Totems

Following the global food crisis of 2007-2008, there has been an exponential amount of large-scale land acquisition in Africa. Foreign “land grabs” are redrawing the global map of farmland ownership as foreign direct investments continue the legacy of colonization. Western, Chinese, and Middle Eastern companies are leading a 21st century land rush in African farmland Where more than a 100 million acres are under a 99 year-lease. 


Through the consistent extraction in labor, capital and land, the global south is consistently compromised to supply European and North American markets. Foreign corporations are vehemently irrigating rural corners of sub-Saharan Africa, displacing local smallholders from their land to secure stable supplies for the rest of the world. 


The project operates within this socio-political and economic backdrop. Greenhouse colonies are architectural representations of this unequal exchanges fostered by global capitalism. The project is an investigation of geopolitical conditions, where architecture is utilized as a lens to expose and respond to current labor-power exploitation. 

The production system of Kenyan floriculture is a complex web of biological, mechanical and socioeconomic relationships. The former British Colony is one of the biggest suppliers of bouquets to Europe. Heavily monopolized by Dutch corporations, the multi million-dollar cut-flower industry accounts for 35% of all flower sales in the European Union. However, as 90 percent of the farm operations are foreign owned, these flowers represent a capitalist process of neo-colonial exploitation. The sheer scale of mechanized agro-production has shifted the identity of an individual farmer to a ‘factory worker’.

Living Totems is a research-based project on rural development and systems of resiliency. Built in phases of geographical expansion, the smart tech platform connects local farmers to a larger co-operative base. In Phase 1, Architectural icons are sprinkled on a "loose" grid and serves as a physical connection point that decentralizes development. In Phase 2, parasitic prototypes manipulate existing greenhouse structures to provide housing and tourist facilities. At the micro scale, the assembly process in the Agro-factory (breed-grow-cut-pack-waste) is exposed and mediated through digital agricultural devices. At the macro scale, social farming and relational trade is implemented to form a regional Flower Cooperative that rejects the current plantation model. This is a project of utopian realism, and re-imagines labor operations as an architectural spectacle within the reality of global capitalism.

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