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The Global Institute of Genetics
Drawings, plans, elevations
The Global Institute of Genetics is located at the intersection of a number of different conditions: between the river Ribeira Grande and the town of the same name; at a point where ocean meets land; Salt water and freshwater converge; the old dock/quay where the first human genome appeared in the form of Portuguese settlers who landed ashore. Cape Verde is one of the world’s most diverse creole cultures. The Islands are seen as a microcosm of an increasingly global situation; the growing genetic diversity of the human race. DNA is a molecule that carries the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms. Although the unique material properties of DNA application in architecture has largely been confined to its physical and material properties, in this project, history, philosophy and literature as base disciplines have inspired and shaped the design. The built proposition –the Institute– is comprised of four major ‘moments’ or spaces, which derive their siting, programme and formal properties from an imagined timeline of Cape Verdean history. These are: The Entry-Chamber, a series of inter-locking paths in the landscape that are inspired by the ever-multiplying and diversifying genes present in the Cape Verdean population. This portion of the project is largely landscape in nature. The Slave-Registry is a national archive in which the genetic codes of Cape Verdean citizens are stored. It looks to the material properties of scarification and cicatrices that are present in many West African cultures as its source formal inspiration, looking at ways to inscribe history into the ‘skin’ of the building, mimicking many traditional West African art practices. The Rupture is a series of woven landscapes and shelters, which investigate the ways in which disease and damage cause mutations in DNA, sometimes killing off a damaged gene before it has a chance to replicate. The Rupture has no programme; it simply is. And finally, The Sampling-Chamber investigates one of the new theories of genetic evolution now emerging amongst leading paleo-anthropologists who argue that there isn’t a single gene or isolated moment in history, but rather a series of woven and often overlapping coincidences which has been labeled the ‘braided stream of evolution.’ The Sampling Chamber marks the end point of the Institute and is itself is a woven/braided structure. The architecture of this project can be read in both biological and structural terms, consisting of overlapping layers of bone, muscle, tissue and skin. The Decomposition Series, looks to the future, decades from now, when parts of the building have started to decay. The only portion that is still intact is the Slave Registry, where the scar is not only the site of the wound, but also of its healing. The healed scar is the only moment left after the process of decomposition. Cape Verde is no longer an isolated condition; it is now a contemporary global identity. The perfect hybrid.