Carbon Capture Machines as Monuments for Climate Change

Historically museums house precious artifacts, celebrate great cultural triumphs yet also reveal humanity’s darker times. The architecture of a museum intentionally displaces artifacts from the external environment, creating hermetically sealed, controlled spaces to protect and display its collections. Museums of cultural relics are themselves relics of a specific period in history. The evolution of the museum from the safe keeping of rare, decontextualized artifacts, to museum-as-architectural-spectacle further objectifies architecture, drawing focus away from the greater urban and environmental context, from which these artifacts emerged.

Climate change is a complex global issue with a seemingly endless amount of input variables which differ across cultures, nations, classes and economies. A museum to climate change in the form of a building, presenting curated exhibitions of ‘precious knowledge’ is a presumptuous and quizzical solution for drawing attention to the environment. One of the largest underlying factors of climate change is industrialized global trade. The global network of trade has had many iterations arguably starting with the Silk Road which lasted for over 1500 years until the Ottoman Empire boycotted transactions with China, coincidentally on cusp of European seafaring colonialism. Prior to the Silk Road’s demise, the slim region sandwiched between the Taklamakan desert and the Tianshan mountains was the greatest known obstacle along the route to and from China, with oasis kingdoms safeguarding the rarest natural resource in the region: water.

What this region lacks in water, it makes up for in mineral resources, instrumental in the growth of the world’s largest consumer and upwardly mobile population, the Chinese middle class. China’s decades of rapid development have been powered largely by the fossil resources of this region now known as Xinjiang. At the same time, this province is also one of the world’s greatest resources for renewable energy from sun and wind. Unfortunately, renewables are not enough anymore to avert climate change and we now must develop technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Our proposal for monuments for climate action sits at these physical intersections, where vast potential for renewable energy can power the exhaustive demand for carbon capture, situated in proximity to fossil fuel extraction sites with naturally vast underground storage capacity. Sun and wind will power towering structures and immense fields of serial mechanisms drawing down and storing the world’s carbon.

The proposed museum then, is not a building, but a network of the world’s largest constructed technological feats, carbon capture machines of an almost unimaginable scale. By train and by foot, the mechanism of ‘museum’ expands into a journey, whereas large figure technological monuments appear along the high-speed train loop, reaffirming the routes of the old Silk Road and connecting the monuments together in a self-curated touring pilgrimage.

As objects, these future technological relics visualize the transition from fossil fuels to renewable resources. In the future, when fossil fuel is an entirely bygone era, they will serve as historical remains of the infantile times in humanity’s history and embody the ability to overcome seemingly unsurmountable adversity.