Climate Layers

30.09.214 min read

We know that the climate crisis is happening — but how do we comprehend its global effects? We have created the exhibition Climate Layers to visualise how climate stressors are affecting our shared home, the planet.

How can we make the climate crisis feel less abstract?

The climate crisis can seem difficult to wrap our heads around. Could focusing on climate stressors make it feel more tangible?

Climate stressors are events like wildfires, cyclones, floods, and droughts that are exacerbated as a result of human emissions. These stressors are clear indicators of the climate crisis, and they’re becoming more frequent and more severe.

Climate Layers aims to visually explore climate stressors to help us better understand how our local and global home looks today — and how it may look tomorrow.

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Visualising climate data

Engaging with publicly available data sets from the likes of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, we gathered together a team of experts to find ways to visually convey the recent effects of six climate stressors on our shared home.

We collaborated with RNDR, Inviso by Devoteam, and Charles Iceland from the World Resources Institute to transform the data into meaningful visuals. Using creative code, we mapped the data on each climate stressor as a constellation of dots, where density represents intensity.

Each panel depicts an individual stressor — cyclones, drought, temperature change, excessive rainfall, wildfires, and floods — and its impact in 2019. Forming layers of abstract maps, the panels demonstrate that we experience the intensity of climate stressors — and the effects of the climate crisis — differently depending on where we live.

‘Transforming the data sets into meaningful, informative and engaging impact maps of climate stressors was the most complicated element to make. That challenging process makes them even more exciting, and beautiful.’

Kevin Curran

Spatial Design Lead, SPACE10

Materials that do good

To translate digitally stored data into a tactile exhibition, we needed sustainable materials. ‘When creating an exhibition about the climate crisis, we wanted to be very conscious about our material choices to leave the smallest possible CO2 footprint,’ says Curran.

We shaped the exhibition design with architect Kim Lenschow, who brought his in-depth knowledge of clever building materials designed and manufactured with the utmost consideration for the environment. To visualise the different climate stressors, we used Green Cast — 100 percent recycled and recyclable cast acrylic sheets. For the accompanying didactics, plinths, and seating within the exhibition, we highlighted innovative materials such as:

  • Lemix clayboards — composed of clay, earth, wood fibre, starch, and hessian mesh, they combine the advantages of modern, modular drywall construction with the engineering characteristics of clay as a natural building material.
  • Woodcrete wall units — formed from cement-bonded wood fibre material. 90 percent of woodcrete blocks are made from softwood aggregates which are by-products of the timber industry.
  • Søuld acoustic panelling — made by upcycling eelgrass, an overlooked natural material.
  • Lehmbauplatten building boards — made from sand, hemp fibres, and clay, they offer a natural alternative to plasterboard.
  • Amroc — cement-bonded particle board produced from coniferous wood chips and Portland cement, in combination with mineralisation agents and water.

These materials represent a positive, solution-oriented future, both for how we build our homes and cities, and for creative applications.

‘The exhibition design is a material reminder of our capacity to build better without intensifying climate change.’

Kim Lenschow

Architect

Animate reminders

The exhibition includes Rocking Rock by architect and researcher Natalie P. Koerner. This playful object is modelled on rocks that used to travel the globe as part of glaciers. Rocking Rock compels us to consider how climate disruptions shift our planet’s geology — the very ground on which we all stand.

‘Once the climate changed and the ice melted, the rocks were forced to sit still. When we sit on a Rocking Rock and rock, we reanimate it from its stationary life.’

Natalie P. Koerner

Architect

For the window display, we collaborated with Danish multidisciplinary studio Tableau to create an arrangement of roses preserved between recycled acrylic sheets. While the roses were bought from a local flower market, they were grown around the world. Through our research, we learned one rose produces one kilogram of CO2 emissions.

The floral installation offers a beautiful yet dystopian depiction of how we might bring nature into our homes in the future, and stimulates dialogue around the preservation of our planet. Exhibited side by side, the roses from Kenya, Ecuador, Germany and the Netherlands serve as a reminder that even the simple things we buy — like a potted plant or posy of flowers — can have a significant climate impact.

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Lastly, we spoke with two generations of climate advocates: American environmentalist Bill McKibben and Mexican-Chilean climate activist Xiye Bastida, to discuss the current problems we face, and how we can address them together. Xiye and Bill contemplate the power of data, eco-anxiety, and the importance of collective action. Together with the exhibition, the conversation is a hopeful reflection of our capacity to do things differently from here.

Climate Layers exhibited at SPACE10 Gallery from 25 May to 15 October 2021. Watch a walkthrough of the exhibition.

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Credits

Charles Iceland examines the links between water, the climate crisis, and human security, focusing on the developing world. He directs global and national water initiatives at the World Resources Institute.

RDNR is a design studio based in The Hague who use code to create data visualisations, interactive installations, and generative identities. They explore how information and technology transform networks, cultures, societies, including people’s behaviours and interactions.

Inviso by Devoteam is a Copenhagen-based data consultancy working with organisations to blend and visualise data to gain innovative and valuable insights.

Xiye Bastida is a Mexican-Chilean climate justice activist based in New York City. She is an organiser with Fridays For Future and the co-founder of Re-Earth Initiative.

American environmentalist Bill McKibben has written over a dozen books about the environment and is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org.

Natalie P. Koerner is an architect combining artistic and academic research. Besides running her studio, she is assistant professor at the Royal Danish Academy and Copenhagen University.

Tableau is a Copenhagen-based multidisciplinary studio and concept store focusing on set design, curating of art, floral installations, spatial and product design.

Office Kim Lenschow is a Copenhagen-based architecture firm working across scales, centering on the importance of the material as the principal carrier of value in our built environment.

Thanks to Søuld, Havnens Hænder, Mads Vegas, and Cotter.