• Elephant in the Room, and Other Fables
    Design Earth:
    Rania Ghosn &
    El Hadi Jazairy

Design Earth, "Elephant in the Room," 2021. Digital drawing. Courtesy the artists

The series of fables addresses the elephant in the room—the climate crisis—by animating charismatic figures from natural history museums. Calls for climate action and environmental justice have brought museums to reimagine their cultural mission all while reckoning with their own environmental and political entanglements. This design research identifies and leverages figures from the collections all while unsettling the museum apparatus—the devices, archives, histories, and audiences. Some such figures include a taxidermy of an African matriarch elephant, the skeleton of a stranded blue whale, and a composite structure of a Diplodocus carnegii. The fragmentary remains of such creatures are animated, brought back to life, so to speak in rhyming verse, colorful imagery, and with some poignant humor. In short films and a picture book, these speculative afterlives stir up potent trouble on the breath-taking capture of life in the Anthropocene to ask how cultural institutions may be responsible to calls for decolonization and decarbonization.

DESIGN EARTH is an architectural research practice that deploys the speculative project to make public the climate crisis. They are authors of Geographies of Trash (Actar, 2015); Geostories: Another Architecture for the Environment (Actar, 3rd ed. 2022 [2018]), The Planet After Geoengineering (Actar, 2021), and Climate Inheritance (Actar, 2023). Their work has been exhibited internationally, including at Venice Architecture Biennale, Bauhaus Museum Dessau, Seoul Biennale, Oslo Architecture Triennale, Milano Triennale, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Matadero Madrid;and is in the New York Museum of Modern Art permanent collection.

DESIGN EARTH is directed by Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy. Ghosn is associate professor of architecture and urbanism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jazairy is associate professor of architecture and director of the master of urban design degree program at the University of Michigan. They are recipients of the United States Artist Fellowship and the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers, amongst other honors.