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Architecture (MA)

Ming Harper

Ming Harper is a London based architecture graduate. She completed her BA at Newcastle University, graduating with first-class honours. Ming has gained experience working for London practices Carmody Groarke and Andrew Harper Architects and worked on site renovating an Edwin Lutyens house for building contractors CC Construction.

In her first year at the RCA in ADS7 her project explored carbon dioxide removal approaches (CDR), in particular policy change around BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage) and investigated retrofitting natural draft cooling towers to be used as a blueprint for CCS at redundant power stations across the UK.

In ADS6 this year Ming explored digital narratives exploring ‘Restructuring England’s boarder through aquaculture and the Crown Estate’ especially through the use of film, and material experimentation from site visits to the South Coast.

Ming walking around her seaweed hut. Blurred

The design proposes new coastal areas to live in, play in, work in, represent, characterise and occupy.

The thesis will apply the methodology of aquaculture and ask whether we can form a new coastline using the infrastructure of these farming methods. Aquaculture is a farming method that, if practiced sustainably, can have transformative effects on a multitude of economic, environmental and social factors. The project explores how the potential of seaweed can blur perception of the UK’s marine barrier and positively restructure the identity of the coast and seabeds.

The climate emergency is an omnipresent threat. Yet current change is limited, is often at a small scale and a slow rate. New technology and government enforced policy is needed. In tandem with aquaculture the project evolved through investigations into the ownership of the UK’s coastal regions and seabeds, leading to questions on perception of the UK’s national identity and notions of island-hood through symbolic and physical geographical barriers. How can the insular exceptionalism manifested through England’s south coast be modified by changing how people use and inhabit, and consequently, perceive and migrate through the sea surrounding the UK? Through the use of film techniques, material experimentation and a digital narrative, how can political demand grow for policy change around the practice of aquaculture in the Crown’s marine holdings and what could the physical manifestation of this be?

Unseen Migrations II
Hut made out of seaweed
Close up photographs of seaweed hut
4 Images showing life around seaweed; beauty industry, coastline, harvesting, sorting

The film is a conversation between two people; an ageing environmental architect and a younger girl who who lives in a dystopic explanatory world that is characterized by urban heterogeneity. Her society has been experiencing a reorganization and a deliberate redistribution of life around aquaculture and seaweed. The brain drain that once existed around the coast of the UK has disappeared as millennials and Gen Z move away from the cities and occupy the coastlines, turning them into working waterfronts around the seaweed industry. New social archipelagos have emerged, with new lifestyles around seaweed, all organized in a similar homogenous way but more environmentally focused. These communities are producing building materials, food products, biofuels, bioplastics and health products. The physical intervention of these proposals has led to a new perception of national identity particularly in the way people enter and exit countries. The insular exceptionalism once manifested by the south coast of England has disappeared. This is an alternative view of our coastlines and coastal areas.




6 minutes 28 seconds
3 Scale Images (Left: Boat Navigation, Mid: Community Structure, Right: Seaweed Hatchery)
Postcard book of waste
Seaweed under the microscop
Seaweed Petri Dish

Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae and other organisms in all types of water environments. With current land scarcity, conflict over usage and increasing sustainability issues, could alternative farming methods and changing perceptions of the climate be the solution to the seabed surrounding the UK?

UK government reports focus on aquaculture for food production, but the economic benefits and food security are not the only advantage to this process. Advantages also extend to material reuse, building alternatives, bio-stimulants, carbon capture and erosion barriers and there has been a large spike in aquaculture products for the commercial market.

There are a myriad of benefits to seaweed farming and harvesting. For example, kelp soaks up five times more carbon than land based plants which is then permanently stored in the seabed. The kelp filters nitrogen out of the water column and is a form of natural coastal protection and has the potential to manifest its influence from small scale experimentation to large scale infrastructure. These farming and production methods do not produce industrial farming scale carbon emissions. Seaweed is the fastest growing biomass in the world, flourishing without using land, freshwater or fertiliser. However, the use of seaweed is not a new practice as it has been used for centuries in South East Asia, with large industries focused on its production. It is only in recent years that these practices have been taken up in the UK. The West can use these methods as precedents to help aid the UK’s seaweed industry and sustainable scale of production.


Two postcards; arriving and departing the port of Dover, and the consciousness that may go with the crossing of this threshold. Each film is comprised of the same footage, but reversed and with different audio to personify the markedly different perceptions of the varied individuals arriving or departing.

The project began through a site investigation of areas around Dover. These areas comprise of a strip of chalk coastline on the edge of England which is a symbolic marker often subjected to varied verdicts by those arriving or departing. Whilst we all look at an identical physical substance, given experiences vary, ultimately everyone is looking at a different landscape which is dependent on their view of the coast line and what it symbolises.

The coast, and in particular the areas within a mile of land, acts as a motif of migrant consciousness not only through passage of people but through the transformative movement from one state to another. The area is also defined by the materials present on the shore and in the water and what is left behind. Waste and residue, these are words with pejorative connotations. By investigating and experimenting with materials found at the coast and beaches on the south coast I have examined ways to remove this negative connotation.

Coastal Photograph
Coastal Photographs
The Crown Estate

I am interested in the theory of ownership and islandhood, what this means for the coastal areas as they exist now and what the future could hold for this part of the UK. The research primarily focuses on the coast, the foreshore and the seabed. The Crown Estate is one of the largest property managers in the UK administering property worth £14.1billion. This value does not include the potential economic windfall of sustainable development of the Crowns marine holdings (offshore wind potential, carbon capture and storage, aquaculture, aggregates, submarine cables and pipelines, moorings etc.) The Crown owns 55% of the UK’s foreshore and virtually all of the UK’s seabed to the 12 nautical mile limit. The management and conservation of these marine holdings is integral to development of aquaculture in the UK and its development will change the symbolism of the coastline and with it, notions of ownership, statehood, islandhood and the nature of the perception of the ‘threshold’ into and out of the UK. The aim is to imagine the possibilities of a new coastline and a new identity for these areas, not just nationally but also locally and with consequential effects on individual communities. Many seaside towns and their locals government are desperate for reinvention to restrict a brain drain, over reliance on tourism and need long term generational jobs in the area.