The Book of Wonders: The Caspian Sea is a project to reconstruct the urban historiography of forgotten (and forbidden) islands in the Caspian Sea, the largest inland saline body of water in the world. Rich in Oil and Gas fields (up to $12 trillion worth of petroleum assets), the Caspian Sea has been involved in energy production for the past century. The magnitude of fossil fuel extraction and transport activity in the sea has resulted in irreparable environmental damage. But as oil and gas resources deplete and revenues fall, various post-extraction futures are currently being projected onto these sites: the islands of the Baku archipelago, Pirallahi island as well as Neft Dashlari, the first off-shore drilling facility in the world. Here, architecture and urban design is used to attract capital investment and rebrand the city as a site of leisure, tourism and real-estate.
In such a heightened mode of architectural production, the role of the image resurfaces again, as fiction becomes a tool to generate capital. Inhabited sites “disappear” from Google Earth/Maps, drawings and images of speculative buildings and cities circulate extensively in different professional and social media outlets, and, realistic renderings of unbuilt projects appear in their proposed location on Google Earth, all of which disconnect people from the socio-political and environmental realities in which they live. These images often cover up legacies of human and natural exploitation, and are used to celebrate accumulation of capital in built form.
If fantastical architectural drawings, renderings and 3D animation are used to “opiate the masses” and propagate a false sense of utopia, The Book of Wonders challenges this narrative by producing and circulating countervailing images that reflect our current political and social climate.
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