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ADS3: Metabolising the Built Environment

Charlotte Bonnie Toro

Charlotte, born in Chile, grew up between Barbados and Scotland. She graduated from the Glasgow School of Art with a BA in Architecture where she was nominated for the Scottish Ecological Design Association in her final year. After this she completed a year working in practice in Amsterdam at Office Winhov working on a range of projects. On returning to complete her MA in Architecture she went to the RCA where she was tutored firstly by Rotor on sustainable practices of re-use in her first year, when she designed as a protest against current rates of demolition. In her final year she was tutored by Cooking Sections where she focussed her Thesis on ways of reading and designing for the landscape through more-than-human perspectives; understanding a substance and its metabolic pathways as the starting point for a project. Her dissertation focussed on political ecology and the first plant species, Manoomin - a wild rice, to be granted Rights of Nature. 

Her thesis: Walking Through Topographies of Sulfur: Four Yellow Ziggurats,  considers the substance of Sulfur and responds to the idea that substances are not only constructing new environments, but also "challenging the boundaries of the spaces and skins we thought we were inhabiting". As a response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the whole project has been curated into a website. 

Please visit this website to view the whole project:


Walking Through Topographies of Sulfur: Four Yellow Ziggurats

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Degree Details

School of Architecture

ADS3: Metabolising the Built Environment

Learning from the First Nations of Alberta Canada who engaged in a series of Tar Sands Healing Walks against oil extraction, the project proposes a path on the site of the prospective decommissioned Syncrude Oil Company. Along the route are five interventions each based on collaborating with nature in the bioremediation of toxic landscapes. The research focused on the inhabitants, now erased and displaced, of a site faced with extraction and destruction, from human to more-than-human dwellers. 

From the long colonial history of the site tied up within oil production, First Nations and other indigenous communities have faced violent exploitation. As a result the tar sands projects are considered to be ‘a slow industrial genocide’ against first nations bands and tribes, as well as Metis and Inuit populations. The project understands this through three main aspects; the forced removal of indigenous dwellers from their lands, the subsequent destruction of these lands and lastly the false promise of their treaty rights for a right to clean air, water and access to their lands. 

Along with the colonization of the indigenous humans, is the total destruction of the these habitats for all other organisms. The site, previously a healthy ecosystem almost untouched by anthropogenic industries, is part of the Canadian boreal ecosystem one of the world’s largest carbon reservoirs. The project considers the landscape as the architecture, and these dwellers as both the clients and stakeholders. As well as this, the project relies upon methods of bioindication. Through understanding the limits at which life can thrive, survive or cease to exist, and how to read individual organisms along this spectrum, bioindication becomes a language with which to read the landscape. 

The project proposes a 20km long path, taking around 5 hours to complete, with 5 interventions along the route from West to East. More-than-human perspectives have driven the design from plant, to animal to substance. Each intervention allows the participant to perform a different mode of walking through topographies of sulfur, moving Up, Within, Through, Around and Over.

Launch Project

Photo: The Sulfur Ziggurats of Syncrude

BioindicationHuman RightsLandscapeMetabolismMore-Than-Human DesignMulti-Species DesignPost-ColonialPost-industrialSubstanceSulphurToxicityWalking

Site, Topography, State and PH

A Path and Five Interventions

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