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La Biennale di Venezia

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Igneous Tectonics

Carbon to Rock: Geology and Technology at Work for Design in the Age of Climate Change

  • TUE - SUN
    22/05 > 31/07 
    11 AM - 7 PM

    01/08 > 21/11
    10 AM - 6 PM
  • Arsenale
  • Admission with ticket

Cristina Parreño Alonso (Spanish, b.1978) and Sergio Araya Goldberg (Chilean, b.1971) of Igneous Tectonics (USA, est.2017), in collaboration with Matěj Pěc (Czech, b.1984) of Pec Lab at MIT (USA, est.2017)



When Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen, proposed that humans have become a geological force, he was pointing at the collapse of the human-nature divide. But perhaps more importantly he was proposing a new point of view of the role of humans in shaping natural systems. CarbonRock_Patagonia highlights the possibilities the materiality of these volcanic lands offer. It creates a space for researchers with minimal means to reinterpret geological forces and indigenous vernacular systems. It also brings awareness to basaltic rock as a possible, sustainable, contributing solution to climate change, through its potential for carbon capturing, setting up a small pilot infrastructure for CO₂ absorption.
Carbon to Rock _Venice is an immersive architectural installation. It’s a volcanic, inhabitable space that reenacts Carbon to Rock_Patagonia bringing awareness to the problem of global warming. Carbon to Rock is a small-scale project with global-scale impact that imagines new ways in which architecture can integrate space, material, tectonics, and cutting-edge technologies of CO₂ absorption with volcanic rocks as new material strategies for design in the age of climate change.

Biennale Sneak Peek

Image 1 – How will we live together?
In the context of this project, living together means understanding our role among other species and ecosystems in the larger carbon cycle of our planet. We propose a new tectonics of CO2, sequestered and embedded into resilient, sustainable, renewable rock constructive systems.

Carbon to Rock is strategic when environmental tactics are essential. Carbon to Rock incarnates a reversal, remedial, reformative mobilization of resources, technologies and human will to right a wrong, to turn our polluting excesses into second-chance resiliency.

We create tectonics of igneous nature, new tectonics of emergence and subduction, of untamed yet synthesized magnitudes. Molten, hardened, extrusive, compressed, sharp, polished, porous, smooth, darkened, reflective, massive, light.

Vestigial evidence of the rise and decay of civilizations, traces of our past and still thriving history can be found extant in rocks. We can re-learn from our past, lost material wisdom and constructive proficiency, now that our modes have driven us to the ledge. We can activate our ingenuity by repurposing and reorienting our methods and our goals, to work with our environment, not despite of it.


Image 2 – Sneak peek of the project
Carbon to Rock proposes a new relationship between humans and the planet; one that expands our perceptual time frame enabling us to tap into tectonic timescales that work with the Earth Cycles. Carbon to Rock moves beyond recycling our consumerist waste, aiming instead to capture decades of atmospheric poisoning that will be repurposed to cultivate the most stable and abundant form of carbon of our planet: igneous rocks.

The remineralization of air-released-carbon in the form of carbon dioxide, may not only reduce current emissions but also contribute to the removal of the current CO2 excess in the atmosphere as a way to mitigate climate change. Turning carbon back into rock, back where it belongs, is the most stable way of storing it for millennia, while transforming volcanic rock into a new resilient material, ready to be harvested by new paradigmatic architectures.

Carbon to Rock is the confluence of ancient material knowledge with current technologies of fabrication. Every rock block used in this project represents CO2 removed and trapped; it represents a flattening of the curve; it presents a new opportunity for architecture to shift away from the anthropocentric perspective, requiring from us more agency, not less; more deliberate design, not less. Carbon to Rock speaks for an architecture where humans, who have become a geological force, are both accountable for the decline caused by technological achievements but now also capable of stopping and reversing climate change.

Carbon to Rock is a position, a stance on discipline and practice to be able to continue living together.


MIT International Science and Technology Initiative _MISTI
Center for the Art Science and Technology at MIT_CAST
Council for the Arts at MIT_CAMIT
Cuellar Stone Company
Ministerio de las Culturas, las Artes y el Patrimonio_ Gobierno de Chile
Filantropía Cortés Solari
Fundación Meri
Spanish Government – Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda
Acción Cultural Española (AC/E)

Production credits

Design: Cristina Parreño Alonso & Sergio Araya Goldberg
Fabrication: Cristina Parreño Alonso & Sergio Araya Goldberg with Cuellar Stone Company
Installation Concept and Design: Cristina Parreño Alonso & Sergio Araya Goldberg
Videos and Samples on Basalt CO2 sequestration: Pěc Lab and Carb Fix

Video CarbonToRock sneak peek
Concept: Cristina Parreño Alonso and Sergio Araya Goldberg
Assistant editor: Ruth Blair Moyers

Models and Drawings on Basalt Cycle and Carbon Cycle Concept: Cristina Parreño Alonso and Sergio Araya Goldberg.
Contributors from Sergio and Cristina’s studio “Igneous Tectonics:
CarbonToRock”class (Spring 2020)
: Tayloe Boes, Daniel Griffin, Melika Konjicanin, Florence Ma, Ana McIntosh, Jitske Swagemakers, Carolyn Tam and Lynced Torres.

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