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On Hold

Strelka Institute

Permanent transiency and automation: on hold in the Arctic.

The Strelka Institute, located in Moscow, Russia, is a highly selective research program that encourages exploration of various disciplines through architecture and design projects. The New Arctic, a short workshop led by Liam Young and Nathan Su in the "The New Normal" project timeline, is comprised of six films set in Magadan, an isolated port town along the Sea of Okhotsk. Read more at the end of the article.

"On Hold" explores a scenario in which the International Organization for Standardization enacts a new policy addressing declining population in regions of stagnation, which in turn benefits Magadan and its residents. The film team - Tom Pearson, Vsevolod Okin, Huey Chan, Yulia Gromova, Konstantina Eleni - focus on the high rates of unemployment in an increasingly automated society, to which they suggest a hypothetical policy allowing Magadan residents to remain and live without working as much, instead receiving earnings from the work the machines perform.

This ideal society is expanded through audio of an unemployed resident calling the ISO line seeking permanent residency, revealing his previous occupation as a crane operator, drawing attention to the effects of automation in the coal, mining and fishing industry. This resident guides us through the positive outcomes of the ISO initiative, including more leisure time for residents, describing how some have taken up fishing or deer herding in their free time. The concept of residents earning money from the machines that have taken over their jobs is a unique one, since it’s a reflection of a future government and society that accepts automation but also provides accommodations for its residents, rather than leave them to fend for themselves. During the Soviet era, Magadan residents considered themselves to live in a state of "permanent transiency" since they participated in seasonal travel between Moscow and Magadan until retirement throughout their lives. Now, it is not necessary to travel for work since residents are choosing to retire in Magadan; the film addresses this phenomenon by supplementing resident income in a newly automated society.

The film format presents shots of the town, homes and ports standing seemingly empty. However, through audio of the narrator’s call to the ISO, it is understood that there are others seeking to remain as well, not ready to move on from their memories and culture. However, the future seems unclear when the operator leave the narrator on hold, concluding the video.

Since its conception in 2010, the Strelka Institute has released new project themes each year centered around urbanism, public space, global trends and emerging technologies. The current theme, The New Normal, is a three-year program that focuses on the proposed connections between urbanism and technology in 2050.

(Story by Pilar Pereyra, The Architecture Player)


Written and directed by: Tom Pearson, Vsevolod Okin, Huey Chan, Yulia Gromova, Konstantina Eleni
Mentioned project: The New Arctic (2018)
Project location: Magadan, Siberia, Russia
Tutors: Nathan Su and Liam Young

Russia 2018
Duration: 4'37"