Formlessfinder: Future of the past

One of six installations for the digital exhibition by winners of the 2020 League Prize.

Building the future seems incompatible with preserving the past. It’s not just that new construction too often entails the physical destruction of historical sites and structures—it’s a matter of different priorities as well. Preservation is bound up with complex questions about culture and heritage, while development tends to be focused on more tangible problems of logistics and construction. Yet both archaeological excavations and new construction start with a hole in the ground. Seen through this lens, both projects are grounded, literally, in the same brute reality of moving vast volumes of earth.

Our proposal for the Sabbiyah Highway Archeology and Infrastructure Research Center takes confluence as its starting point, proposing that building new infrastructure and excavating ancient sites are fundamentally related processes, appearing to be in conflict only when not properly coordinated. Today, many of the greatest archaeological treasures of the Ancient Near East are scattered across the museums of Europe and North America because many of the first archaeological expeditions in the region were undertaken by colonial powers in the 19th century.

But the recent discovery of important ancient sites on the north coast of Kuwait Bay offers an unprecedented opportunity for Kuwait’s 21st-century development to unfold in parallel with the discovery of its ancient past. Accordingly, the Center integrates elements of operational infrastructure with facilities for archaeological research and the display of ancient artifacts, offering a case study that could guide future development across the region and around the world.

Project Team: Garrett Ricciardi, Julian Rose, Alekya Malladi, Gesthimani Roumpani, and Yanrong Yang.