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seth gottlich


dissolve | evolve: in pursuit of stability within the extreme


johannesburg mining belt

dissolve, evolve, stability, dust, ark


When faced with the relentless might of the extreme, only two choices are available – to dissolve or evolve. This is the arena where instability and stability collide in determining the trajectory of life. Where unique adaptations and the will to live astound; but also, where death and demise preside.

Stability is the carrot at the end of the stick – a desirable realm that has driven decision making throughout history. On the horizon, though, lurks the unstable, forever ready to jeopardise our desire for stability. Bubbling under the surface within our zones of ‘perceived’ stability, a new form of instability has emerged. These extremes, dubbed as subnatures by David Gissen posits the frightening realisation that the extreme now lives among us – it has become unavoidable.

Situated within the investigation on the notion of “survival” under the extreme condition of the subnature of dust, this research seeks to redefine the position of architecture as an agent in pursuit of stability. To exist within a landscape of dust requires the dissolution of fortified boundaries of defence and the adoption of an attitude of evolutionary flux. To adapt is to change and to find stability, instability need be embraced.

To embrace instability en-route to becoming stable is to create an ark of existence - a new typology that welcomes the extreme within. Similar to the construction of Noah's Ark, an ark of and within dust creates a vessel of life in pursuit of a stable existence within the extreme. The South of Johannesburg has, over the decades endured its own equivalent of the great biblical flood, however instead of water, the landscape is that of dust emanating from the tailing spotted landscape. Residents living along the dusty shores of the tailings are being overwhelmed by dust -dissolving the normalities of life as it evolves its presence.

Just like the extreme of dust is jeopardising the life of those living along its dusty shores, it itself is at risk of extinction. As of late, the landscape is being dissolved through concerted re-mining efforts, leaving a scarred remnant behind -few tailings remain. Intervention is required - the dust ark is born.

The dust ark sites itself at the base of one of the remaining mine tailings, aiming to venture into the extreme, catching dust, directly protecting those living behind. It is an architecture in constant flux - never settled or immutable - always becoming


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