Architectures of Fire

Simon Twose, Anastasia Globa, Jules Moloney, Lawrence Harvey

Expanded Drawing research project
New Zealand

Large scale natural phenomena such as earthquakes, storms and bushfire hover at the edge of human perception and appear almost sentient in their capacity to shape-shift and morph, as they envelop terrains and evade our urgent responses. Sophisticated scientific modelling and analysis is able to rationalise such phenomena, but it doesn’t capture their almost-human dynamics. This project explores the architecture of fire, specifically the 2020 “Black Summer” bush fires in Australia. Space is generated through dynamic spatial sketches of bush fire phenomena, which becomes viscerally inhabitable in VR, as an immersive visual and sonic environment. The work asks: what are the architectures of the Black Summer bushfires? How might the fires themselves draw space? What might we learn from being within such spaces, in fire’s dynamic, irresolute and dangerous architectures? The Black Summer sketch environment is created in Unity 3D, where, in effect, fire dynamics are caused to author architectural sketches through digital generation. Atmospheric qualities in analogue fire sketches and sound recordings are intensified through procedural manipulation that causes sketched marks to propagate spatially in fire-like ways: marks unexpectedly shift in scale and form, rampage across vast distances, flare and seed other volatile spatial conflagrations. These dynamic worlds, sketched by characteristics of fire, become bodily inhabitable within immersive virtual reality (VR). Black Summer is part of ongoing research into experimental architectural drawing, exploring abstract possibilities in the open sketch: Expanded Drawing. The work is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Simon Twose, Anastasia Globa, Jules Moloney and Lawrence Harvey. This project is the first development of the VR and sonic components of the Black Summer sketch environment, exploring the intangible, yet engulfing unpredictability of its architecture.