From necrotopias to thalassopias: designing spatial (dis)continuities in Calatrava’s Museum of Tomorrow
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The Museum of Tomorrow is a neo-futurist architectural creation and an educational-touristic landmark erected in an abandoned and crime-infested port (Porto Maravilha) of Rio de Janeiro before Rio 2016. Situated in a heritage site that brings together the city’s past and future legacies, it was intended as a problematisation of humanity’s survival in the context of climate change and unrestrained capitalist development. Its principal conception by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and completion with audio-visual installations by an international artistic contingent, including American artists and Brazilian filmmaker and ceremonial director Fernando Meirelles, showcase the complexities of global imaginaries of mobility.
As a multi-scalar initiative featuring local, state and international partners, the Museum showcases the ways concerns over ecosystemic erosion are addressed in performative/artistic ways. I argue that its artistic/architectural creators call into being a dual utopic method: as an artistic practice and a form of recreation of life from death. First, I speculate how, by enrooting the Museum in Rio’s built maritime environment, local heritage conservation and spatialized social inequalities, they enact a ‘choreotopographic tour’, a ritualistic journey through cultural sites for global visitors. Second, I examine how its installations produce dark travel through the mobilisation of technology: a haphazard esoteric audio-visual journey that concludes with a potential return to humanity’s roots, Nature. Combining embodied (walking around the Museum’s heritage environs) and cognitive mobilities (speculating humanity/earth’s end and potential ‘beginnings’ in the Museum’s interior, through its audio-visual installations/artefacts), the Museum produces utopian meta-movement. With industrial modernism as its core, this meta-movement compels visitors to oscillate physically, emotionally and cognitively between necrotopic scenarios (environmental erosion, slum pollution, Brazil’s submerged slave heritage) and thalasso(to)pic fluidity (tourism, the possibility to attain good life, hope).