Unknown Fields Chernobyl

Unknown Fields Chernobyl

Section 1: Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to Baikonur Cosmodrome

Unknown Fields is a nomadic studio that will set off on an annual expedition to the ends of the earth exploring forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies. Each year we will navigate a different global cross-section and map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures. You will be both visionaries and reporters as the sites we encounter will afford us a distanced viewpoint from which to survey the consequences of emerging environmental and technological scenarios.

This year, on the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight, we will pack our Geiger counters and spacesuits as we chart a course from the atomic to the cosmic to investigate the unknown fields between the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor in the Ukraine and Gagarin’s launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The studio will be launched with an international symposium at the AA in London which will define the themes and agenda for the studio before boarding the plane for Kiev, Ukraine where our expedition begins. Our journey then takes us through the Chernobyl exclusion zone and the abandoned streets of Pripyat, the atomic city. Here, in the shadows of nuclear disaster we will survey this irradiated wilderness and bear witness to a sobering apocalyptic vision of the past. Back at ‘Guest House Chernobyl’ we will begin our series of collaborator led workshops speculating on the possibilities of the future. We will fly to Almaty in Kazakhstan to board the overnight sleeper train that will form our ad hoc nomadic studio. Thundering through the cotton fields of Kazakhstan, we will cross the ancient silk route before alighting on the shores of the cosmic ocean of Baikonur Cosmonaut city. Bathed in the white light of satellites blasting into tomorrow’s sky and under the watchful eye of Gagarin’s Monument to Trailblazers we will visit the launchpads and spacecraft of the Cosmodrome, the hallowed grounds of ‘platform 112’, ‘platform 250’ and test case rocket ‘Proton M’. We will return to Almaty for our final field workshop before flying back to London for a closing event to compile our observations and speculations. In these shifting fields of nature and artifice we will re-examine our preservationist and conservationist attitudes toward the natural world and document a cross-section through a haunting landscape of the ecologically fragile and the technologically obsolete.

Joining us on our expedition will be collaborators from the worlds of technology, science and fiction including the Phillips Technologies Design Probes research Lab and Archis/Volume magazine. Together we will form a travelling circus of research visits, field reportage, rolling discussions and impromptu tutorials. Throughout our journey The Unknown Fields Division will identify opportunities for tactical intervention and speculative invention that will be chronicled in a publication and international touring exhibition. The studio will examine the never-never lands between cultivation and nature and spin cautionary tales of a new kind of wilderness.


Applications are now closed.


The AA Visiting School requires a fee of £650 per participant which includes a £50 Visiting Student Membership, made payable to the AA School of Architecture. As a unique travelling studio Unknown Fields has packaged all costs of our extensive travel itinerary including all flights from and returning to London, internal travel from Chernobyl to Baikonur, all accommodation, entrance fees, permits and workshops into one additional fee of £900. Participants need to bring their own laptops, camera equipment and working materials.

Schedule & Venue

The school runs from 11 to 22 July and will begin at our London rally point before travelling by land, sea and air on a landscape cross section from the Chernobyl Exclusion zone in the Ukraine to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazaksthan. This is an immersive, travelling studio with a fixed itinerary requiring full-time participation. Workshops will be conducted en route at a series of unique venues conducted by an ensemble of collaborators who will be joining us on the expedition.

More Information

Programme Directors: Liam Young and Kate Davies

In collaboration with Volume Magazine, Phillips Design Probes, British Council and Storefront for Art and Architecture.



Liam Young
Kate Davies
Programme Directors

Visiting School Director

Christopher Pierce

T +44 20 7887 4014
F +44 20 7414 0782

Links & Downloads

Publicity card

Programme site


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Visiting School Prospectus


The AA has undergone an educational oversight monitoring visit by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and have received its final report, which is available in full at:


The monitoring visit resulted in the following outcome:

The QAA monitoring team has concluded that we are making commendable progress in implementing the action plan from the Review for Educational Oversight.