A Controlled Mess

Amanda Kalbuadi (A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning)

Charcoal, graphite and wax crayon on paper

I look up to the sky and all I see is a deep, dark violet with gentle showers of silver stars. Comforting…I thought. Though the night sky is not at all a silent place. It is a scary, chaotic mess full of strange elements and sci-fi occurrences. Blazing fireballs, violent planets and mysterious black holes that can bend spacetime. Everything you can possibly imagine has a likelihood of existing in this universe.

Luckily for humans, we are protected in this perfect bubble we call planet Earth. Everything is just the right temperature and humidity, the perfect distance to the sun, the perfect atmospheric condition. This is something we take for granted sometimes; we carry out our days without even thinking about what goes on beyond our atmosphere.

During the Carrington storm in 1859, the sun produced a flare that affected the Earth’s magnetosphere and induced a large geomagnetic storm. The damage was not severe (telegraphs did not work and beautiful auroras were seen at unusual locations), though if it were to happen today, the storm would destroy our entire power grid system and disrupt important satellites orbiting the Earth. The economic and societal loss would be almost unforgiving. Seven years ago, the same solar storm almost hit Earth. I was out relaxing and sunbathing in Bali that same day, showing just how much I paid little attention to the universe around me.

As an architecture student, I have always admired the art of order and precision. This is because a slight miscalculation of a certain dimension might topple a building over during strong winds, and the wrong choice of material might induce a health hazard to its inhabitants. A successful building is a perfect orchestration between architects, engineers, interior designers and lawyers. The magic of being an architect is witnessing trees, stones, and steel slowly becoming a container and a place of refuge and love to its owners through the hard work of everyone involved.

As I drew this art piece, I marveled over each and every button and cable of the walls of the ISS. Every one of these switches and buttons serves a purpose, just like the people involved in space weather and just like every single element in the universe. Like architecture, keeping the Earth safe from “strange occurrences” requires the work of so many expertise involved: scientists, engineers, astronauts, academias. A slight miscalculation from any of the hundreds and thousands of people involved might lead to the possibility of something disastrous. The magic of being a part of this is witnessing so many complicated elements come together to make sure the Earth has minimal damage from events like the Carrington storm. Just like architecture, they make sure the Earth becomes a place of refuge and love to its inhabitants. I look up to the sky and all I see is a deep, dark blue with small splatters of stars

Through this art piece, I try to express how lucky we are that in the chaotic mess where anything and everything can go wrong, everything seems to be in place and order. We have people who dedicate their entire lives to researching about magnetometers that can help us understand the structure of the Earth’s magnetosphere (for educational purposes or to help us detect events before they occur) and even alternatives of living in a different planet just in case Earth is not safe anymore. A controlled mess is meant to show people just how important the study of space weather is, and how fortunate we are to have passionate people devoting their time protecting planet Earth.

This piece is in response to an Art/Sci Residency.