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Architecture (MA)

Daniah Al Mounajim

Daniah is a spatial designer and researcher graduating in 2023 with a degree in MA Architecture from the Royal College of Art. She previously completed a Master in Engineering degree in Architecture and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nottingham. This degree, as well as her Iraqi and Jordanian backgrounds have underpinned her interests in climate politics, corrupt management of resources and land, and the exploitation of local economics, architecture and landscape development. 

This has manifested into a research-based practice that she has established throughout her time at the RCA. Daniah's first year at the RCA focused on exploring the local vernacular and geopolitics of ancient ruin sites along the Jordanian-Syrian border. In doing so, she investigated the changing agricultural and tourism industries, exploring the relationship between natural elements of control, risks of desertification, and the politics of preservation in the light of economic development in the region. Research she has completed at the RCA also includes a study of soil and controlled water management in the Jordan River Valley, in-depth analysis into the development of postcolonial cities in the SWANA region from the mid-20th century to modern day "tabula rasa" digital cities and an investigation into internal colonial and territoriality conflicts in the Mesopotamian Marshlands.

This year, her project studies the effects of the rising global carbon market on human and non-human agencies in the United Kingdom, with a focus on management of public property and policies of land control.

An image of the board game.

Decolonise! Democratise! Decarbonise! is a research-based design project that aims to understand, analyze and critic carbon offsetting policies that have been pushing for the commodification of nature in the past decade. It utilizes the medium of a tabletop board game to create fictitious scenarios of real world spatial elements associated with the offsetting and commoning policies that affect human and non-human communities. In its development, the project asks:

How can a tabletop game facilitate conversations that evoke empathy and inspire democratic processes of land development that move away from ideas of greenwashing and encroachment? and What does a space of collaborative land use amongst humans and non-humans look like?

The proposed game follows five main stakeholders and creates various scenarios for their collaboration and competition, creating a space for unlikely conversations to take place. In doing so, it results in various proposals that aim to: Decolonise current agricultural practices and the relationship of both policy and government to local inhabitants. Democratise the process of land right development through the development of these new fictitious spaces of consultation. And Decarbonise the surrounding atmosphere to achieve a carbon sequestrated environment. 

Under international and national carbon trading policies, carbon offsets give companies, financial institutions and governments the option to spend money on “emissions-saving projects,” instead of reducing their own emissions at source. This was first introduced at the 1995 Kyoto Protocol, after which policies of carbon offset began to emerge in the United Kingdom and the European Union in 2001 under the “Climate Change Levy”. This introduced a climate tax on heavily polluting companies. It presented a method where companies could get a discount on the emissions tax if they elected to make reductions through participation in a new “carbon trading scheme”. This trading scheme recruited 54 sectors of the UK economy, giving participants the decision to take action to manage their emissions, or to reduce their emissions below the target, allowing them to release carbon allowances that they could then sell or save for the future. Markets emerged where participants can also buy and sell allowances from each other. Alongside this scheme emerged the REDD scheme, which aimed to help corporations offset their carbon in developing countries around the globe. 

Not only have these schemes largely failed in their creation of sufficient carbon emissions, they also further the capitalist agenda of forestry and agri-business that has been emerging since the start of the postcolonial era in the mid-20th century.

Image of policies referenced.
These policies have been set up to control the commodification of nature through offsetting techniques in the United Kingdom.
This film reflects efforts by multinational corporations to create offset forests despite international opposition.
This film begins to compare the two realities that exist in this case: one of a city-based corporate existence, and one of the rural Welsh landscape.

Since late 2021, Cwrt-y-Cadno, a village in Carmarthenshire, Wales, has been under threat of being destroyed by the carbon offset market. It is one of many pieces of land that multinational corporations based in London (specifically based in the Shard) have bought up to plant commercial, non-native conifers over existing hillsides in order to sell carbon credits to their financial investors for profit. Thus, farmers in the area are finding themselves priced out of good quality sheep grazing and agricultural land as many can not compete with the new prices. Similarly, natural squirrel and pine marten habitats are being subjected to changing landscapes in favour for more profitable plantations, endangering their existence on rural grasslands and native broadleaf forests.

The main space of conflict here is Frongôch. Through interviews conducted and email correspondence with community members and academics, three main reasons of opposition to carbon offsetting developments were investigated: the first focusing on the importance of Welsh heritage and land being preserved, the second focusing on the importance of food sustenance and the livelihoods of farmers in Wales, and the final looking at preserving biodiversity and avoiding monocultural habitats.

A collation of emails sent by myself and community members on site. Through these emails, I began to better understand the frustration of the community members with various multinational corporations, governmental agencies and third party investors, who were not properly community their plans to the community.
Four meetings were held between the multinational corporations and the community members. The first meeting was held outside the Cwrt-y-cadno Chapel under the rain, the second was held through video conference, the third at the Neaudd Centre and the final one through one-on-one house visits. During all these meetings, community members expressed their concern at aa lack of empathy presented by the corporation representatives as well as the lack of use of a proper democratic process of decision-making.
Image of planting design proposal.
This image presents the proposed development, which looked at foresting the entirety of Frongôch into a monocultural conifer plantation that would affect the farmers, community members, sheep, and squirrel populations.


Film, Images, Text
Renders of Gameplay

This game aims to mimic the land and carbon trading laws in its rules and challenges the limits of these policies in its play, aiming to unpack the complexity of land rights in the UK and explore alternatives to the normative land ownership policies. 

It introduces five main characters, based on site and policy research: the Corporate Officer, the Farmer, the Sheep, the Pine Marten and the Squirrel.

The game begins after all characters are given their allocated money and placed in their starting positions. Following this, players go around in clock-wise movement around the site as players are able to buy, sell and forest land (using money developed for the game), where they are able to chose from either conifer or broadleaf trees for their lands.

Rules that control the human players (corporate officer and farmer) are determined by the anthropocentric policies that are highlighted in legal documents and policies. On the other hand, rules that govern the non-humans (the sheep, squirrel and pine marten) are extracted from news articles and journals that explore non-human actions, as well as writings by Morizor, Latour, and Marcuso.

The spatial phenomena explored here is thus that of the forest versus the plantation. What makes a forest that suits all stakeholders in this fictional site? Giving control to the "players" has allowed the exploration of the symbiotic relationship between the human and non-human in a rural setting.

Other stakeholders of the game are brought in through the strategies of play that the game presents, looking at utilising “Risk”, “Lobby”, “Policy” and "Commining" stops on the board to includethem into the conversation. 

Diagram of stakeholders
Characters and rules of the game are based on the stakeholders in Cwrt-y-cadno and the upper Cwm Cothi valley who are affected by this.
Top view of the game.
Images of the board game.
Smaller board game.
Additionally, a smaller game is developed to be utilised for stakeholder interaction in transit.
Gameplay inspires various different solutions to the problems reflected in the aforementioned policies. Through it, I was able to understand dynamics created through various stakeholders on site, looking at creating empathy between various stakeholders that would otherwise not be in alliance together.

Through the interviews conducted, two sites of further exploration have been identified in the game. The first site being explored is Frongôch. This site lies within the drawn boundaries of the new plantation. It is also adjacent to the Cwrt-y-cadno Chapel, where the first meeting was held between the local community and multinational corporations.

Site 1
The site slowly transforms from a conifer monocultural plantation into open grasslands, which can be used by up to sixteen farmers throughout the year.
The farmer, corporate officer, sheep and pine marten all meet at the Cwrt-y-cadno Chapel. Here, they debate over a solution to the planting of Frongôch. As the site is very close to farming developments, it is decided to not forest this site in favour of a schedule for sheep grazing that can be used by up to sixteen farmers at a time. This thus begins to move away from capital rewilding schemes and colonial farming models.


Animations, Images, Text

The second site explored is that of Hebog Hill. This land, while outside the drawn borders, has been deemed unfit for grazing. Its proximity to existing woodland however make it ideal for a reforesting of the entire site with both conifer and broadleaf species.

Site 2 on the game.
The site slowly transforms to include mixed broadleaf and conifer forests that can inhabit squirrels and pine martens.
The farmer, corporate officer, squirrel and pine marten meet. Here, they debate over a solution to the planting of Hebog. As the site is in close proximity to larger forests, it is proposed to forest the entirety of this space, moving beyond the borders and gates drawn by policy control, and reintroducing endangered species back on site.


Animations, Images, Text

As the game is played by various characters, a more ideal plan for the valley is presented where the site is shared by all characters, based on agricultural patterns of the farmers, the goals of the corporate officers, and the daily and yearly scavenging and hibernation patterns of the sheep, pine martens and squirrels. This design proposal begins to explore the potential results of this game, building on observed subjective play between stakeholders and residents with a direct connection to the site, and players that are disconnected from it and thus more objective. Through this medium of exploration, various people with opposing agendas can begin to experiment with their site and spatial surroundings in a fictional space.

Original planting proposal.
Proposal based on game.


Images, Text