Wunderkammer: Geologic Pasts and AI Futures

Fall 2022
2nd year Undergraduate Design Studio: People, Spaces, Experiences, and Politics
School of Interior Architecture, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Millions of years ago, the Appalachian mountains, the Atas mountains in Morocco, and the Scottish Highlands were all part of one land mass - the Central Pangean Mountains. The studio imagined a hypothetical future in which these continents and cultures re-converge. What kind of material and conceptual hybrids would result?

Beginning with research on the geography and cultural history of these three regions, students identified characteristic materials, objects, and spaces, and wrote short stories about “imaginary artifacts”. Using generative AI tools Midjourney and DALL-E, which create photorealistic images from text prompts, students imagined spaces that blur the lines between fact and fiction. Between a shop and a museum, the design project was based on the historical precedent of a wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities: a spatial typology that emerged in the Renaissance as a way to store and display strange, fantastic, or mysterious objects, reflecting a fascination with the natural world and humanity’s place within it.

©Marie Saldaña 2023