Coral Frontiers, Towards a Post-Military Landscape
Coral Frontiers is a proposal for a new infrastructure for coral regeneration on the Island of Diego Garcia. The project stretches beyond the scale of the island, it is also a geo-political intervention into a unique entanglement of military, human rights, and environmental stakes. The project explores how could an architectural proposal result in a shift in the balance of power that has crystalised in this remote island, and support the resettlement of the exiled community of its native inhabitants, the Chagossians.
The Remote Island of Diego Garcia, British territory in the Indian Ocean, fluctuates between the brutally real and the romanticised imagination; between being the biggest US overseas military base and a fantasy holiday destination. In creation of this spatial anomaly, one whole nation had to be brutally ‘swept and sanitised’ and lost one of their fundamental human rights, the right of abode in their homeland. Still today, 40 years after their forced displacement, the majority of 5000 Chagossians in exile are actively campaigning for their right to return.
Today is a crucial time to examine the island. By the end of 2016 the 50 year-long US lease of Diego Garcia will expire. The project explores a speculative scenario where the Chagossian return to Diego Garcia is one of the conditions for the US lease of the island to be extended. Diego Garcia is recognised as a prism, through which a set of contemporary conditions of power and culture can be examined in great resolution. A speculative architectural intervention out there will be used to foster debate here and now about the the (mis-)use of the discursive apparatus of “rights” – be their human or environmental rights – as a support to global power structures. Initially shared between two opposite presences (a military corp and a community of returning exiles), the project imagines the progressive replacement of the former by the latter, through a process of reclaiming water and land.
Coral Frontiers is a proposed infrastructural network for coral regeneration by Chagossian resettled community. The proposal is constituted of strategically located platforms floating in the island’s lagoon. Through employment of military tactics, this phased and ever-changing network acts as an artificial reef and regenerates coral-scared military lagoon, gradually reclaiming the island’s territory. With the gradual retreat of the base, military remains such as scuttled ships and aircraft carriers will be sunk in the lagoon to support the coral regeneration. And once the military power has been completely unplugged, the ‘Coral Frontiers’ infrastructure will be given back to the nature, creating a new coral landscape in the regenerated lagoon.
School of Architecture
MA Architecture, 2015
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