The 2017 Visiting School to Chile aims at studying from architectural, urban, and territorial perspectives, a series of infrastructures that since the 1960s have been installed in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) because of its extraordinary strategic location in the South Pacific Ocean. These include satellite tracking equipment, seismology and GPS tools, and instruments for the detection of nuclear explosions, that came to define global technological projects in the island. In particular, the workshop will focus its attention in the Mataveri Airport which – being the remotest runway in the world – was paved in the 1960s by the United States and further extended by NASA in the mid-1980s to become emergency landing for space shuttles launched in polar orbit. The island, in opposition to usual associations to isolation, was instead expedient for the setting of larger technological networks.
While enjoying the extraordinary natural and cultural history of the place, the workshop will explore its technological side, looking for its role within Cold War networks associated to the geopolitical concerns of the ‘space race.’ Complementing the high cultural value of the island, participants will be asked to document these built infrastructures and conceive projects that will engage with a different kind of archaeology. As a design problem, we will reflect on the extension of Rapa Nui’s runway, including its consequences for the tourism industry. We are interested in understanding how seemingly small changes – like an increase in the length of a concrete runway – did produce a substantial enlargement on the connectivity of networks, challenging technical infrastructures and architectonic structures alike, becoming available tools to receive shuttles from outer space. The idea is to spark exploration in similar kinds of projects, tensioning the simplicity of interventions with their high repercussions at a global scale.
The workshop is organised by The Architectural Association School of Architecture, in collaboration with the Museum of Anthropology P. Sebastián Englert and the Catholic University School of Architecture (PUC). The course will be taught by tutors from the AA and PUC, who will offer lectures and seminars within the workshop. The ten-day course is open to engaging students, recent graduates, young designers and architects as well as professionals from all over the world interested in exploring alternative forms of practice.