5. Lignum Vitae

Sept 2021 

2021, Sectional Elevation, Hand Drawing & Digital Collage. 

A proposal for the Devínska Kobyla Missile Base Competition. The competition concerns a suite of ruined and overgrown Soviet era silos, bunkers and barracks perched upon a hill overlooking Bratislava. Our proposal was awarded an ‘Honourable Mention’ for bringing ‘radical ideas about the program... and deserve recognition for not being afraid to push the boundaries of the imagination and challenge the status quo.’

The brief suggested ideas on future use that we felt were at once uninspired, banal and conventional, even by the standards of architectural re-use. We felt it senseless to feature a monument-museum-cafe complex in a location so remote and of so much natural beauty, especially in a Soviet-era missile base which is not un-common to the region. Some kind of Cold-War memorial should no doubt be reserved for more significant sites in Slovakia.

We chose to look broader and consider instead the wider site history, to go further than the near past and even beyond the human history of the site. To look instead to the history of wildlife inhabiting the place, of which humans are a just a brief flash. By choosing ruin we return the site to this rich lineage. 

Drawing on theories of ‘ruin ecology’ and inspired by ‘post-human’ architects such as Joyce Hwang - we sought to restrict human activity on the site to a narrow path and allow the ruination of the the buildings to support endangered and endemic species of flora and fauna. Site investigations identified Devínska Kobyla as resting on a geo-ecological fault line between three ecological regions, ‘Mediterranean’, ‘West Carpathian’ and ‘Pannonian’, resulting in a uniquely rich bio-diversity. Site analysis produced three areas which could foster the three, respective, micro-climatic zones. 

The intervention itself would be a enormous 1m x 1m x 1m timber space frame stretching the whole missile base. The frame would adapt itself to the different micro-climates, adapting itself to allow the flora and fauna in each region to flourish. Modules would be slotted into the space frame where to necessary to adapt the various structures, launch pads, garages, silos and so on, to allow rare species of plant and animal the inhabit. Taking cues from traditional Japanese joinery, the frame would be constructed entirely without nails, allowing it to eventually degrade and be eaten away by worms, insects and bacteria - leaving no trace. In turn, the tourist path would also begin to crumble away and eventually be too dangerous to walk on - forbidding any human presence.