Speculative Models for the Present




Supporting Institutions

Strelka Institute: The New Normal
ARDETH Magazine
Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism
Hong Kong Design Trust


Khorgos [Kazakhstan]
Shenzhen [China]
Hong Kong


2018 - Present


A developer, Mikhail Anisimov
An architect, Tomás Clavijo
A journalist, Yulia Gromova
An artist, Katya Sivers
A lawyer, Andrei Zhileikin
A drone
A camera


Speculative short film
Interactive installation

Speculating with

Border deterritorialisation
Frictionless sovereignty
Dynamic lawmaking
Fluid citizenship

In the context of

Transnational flows
Infrastructural switchpoints
Special economic zones

Symbolically embodied by

Belt and Road Initiative
Khorgos Dry Port

Overlapping jurisdictions and supranational infrastructures generate an increasingly complex network topology; the design, management and mapping of their interactions is therefore a crucial task. Seiche is a speculative proposal for a platform enabling the definition and management of techno-legal procedures of information exchange between institutions that regulate such systems and the organisations that operate within.

The first iteration of the project was produced over the course of two months in 2018 as part of the urban design think tank The New Normal. The proposal was applied and tested in the form of a speculative narrative set in Khorgos, Kazakhstan; a logistic enclave between two infrastructural and political realities – the cornerstone of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The short movie takes shape as a documentary that defines the problematics of the crossborder condition from logistic, governmental and identity perspectives to then introduce the structure of the proposed model. The clip intentionally stays in a rather dystopian aesthetic that invites to reflect on the implications of intangible systems on the make.

This short clip grant us the invitation to develop the proposal further in a graphic essay format for ARDETH Journal, by POLITO. The essay develops the structural model while putting special emphasis in defining a language and theoretical framework that allows the reader to comprehend and get familiarised with otherwise complex systemic abstractions.

01. Seiche (/ˈseɪʃ/) *A standing wave in an enclosed or partially enclosed body of water.

C[01] Introduction

Citizenship and sovereignty are traditionally rooted in territorial belonging; however, as transnational flows of people, capital, goods and information continue to expand, this conception is undermined.

The above mentioned flows are sustained on infrastructures of supranational scope, thus conflicts over citizenship can, in most cases, be understood as conflicts over such infrastructures. Decision-making regarding flow, access and motility of citizens and goods takes place in very specific places. Borders, customs and other controls are precisely the touchpoints between jurisdictions and infrastructural systems. Decisions rely heavily on techno-legal procedures of information exchange. The deployment of supranational infrastructures, special economic zones, international trade agreements, state coalitions and other economic and political instruments, generate an increasingly complex topology of overlapping nested jurisdictions and cross-jurisdictional interactions. The design, management and mapping of information exchange protocols among these operational institutions and organisations is a vital task.

Driven by promises of automation, increased efficiency and growth margins, data sharing is becoming a frequent narrative in the logistics industry. Diversity of strategies, from centralised options based on co-owned databases, to decentralised systems based on smart contracts and blockchains, are currently being implemented. There is no single solution, but are all based on ubiquitous sensing apparatuses and mobile data storage infrastructures. Such transitions take a slower path when it comes to systems that manage humans rather than cargo. While this might appear to be an eminently technical transformation, reality is far more intricate. The lack of trust due to strategy and security concerns about information sharing is a key factor in stopping procedural automation. This applies to states, government branches, institutions and corporates alike. Extra layers of difficulty appear to coordinate operations among systems that track entities of a different categorical order, use different protocols or simply speak a different language.


The project was developed under the following assumptions: [01.]




The proliferation of sensing infrastructures does not only hold the potential of tracking people and cargo, but also to visualise systems and power structures while moving bureaucracy to the back end.

New levels of control require new rights, and ultimately, new levels of freedom in exchange. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the implications of a system growing at scale, and the relationship with final users.

The way different organisations interact is as important as how they behave within their respective clusters. The interstitial space between well-established actors can be used as leverage to grow as a platform.

C[03]Conceptual Framework

And sustained in four key conceptual pillars elements that allow to understand the interface.

C[04]Seiche: A Design Tool

A tool that enables the design and management of techno-legal procedures of information exchange. Assisting independent legal entities to co-design data exchange protocols and infrastructures to implement them in their own terms. It does so by facilitating:

Design of Automated Procedures
[by interfacing legal and data workflows]

Management of Data Exchanges
[from sensing systems to application apparatuses]

Maintenance of a Techno-Legal Repository
[to accelerate community-driven regulation refinement processes]

More Dynamic Lawmaking
[by shortening the iteration of legislative development processes]

C[05]Seiche: A mapping platform

Once a decision-making process is solved by establishing an information-exchange protocol in the design tool, Seiche mapping platform allows to manage, map and visualise the implemented exchange protocols among individual entities, associations of entities, and complex organisations of a different nature by enabling:

Access and motility assessment
[of any entity or association of entities through a particular procedure by simulating operability]

History of interactions
[of moving entities and sensing apparatuses through the designed protocols which explains the history of sovereign systems an entity or an individual have moved across]

Dynamic network of emergent sovereignties
[where instances of authentication among systems can be registered to visualise the use and evolution in time and space of a particular set of exchange rules]

Capabilities of relevance today, but even more important, as ubiquitous authentication processes and back-end automation progressively replace hard conceptions of border and direct systems interfaciality.

C[06]Technical Implementation

C[07]Case Study