Rania Ghosn’s Blue Marble Circus

2017 Fay Chandler Creativity Grant

An invitation to re-learn, like Atlas, how to carry the world

About the Project

Blue Marble Circus is a monument to industrial humanity’s plastic footprint, which—although at a planetary scale—remains outside our geographical imagination. The installation appropriates Rome’s ancient Pantheon, known for its spherical “architecture of the cosmos,” to take aim at the dissonance between our individual worries and the vast environmental transformations the Earth is undergoing. The geodesic sphere appropriates “Blue Marble,” the iconic symbol of the environmental movement. The blue shrink-wrapped globe is also a camera obscura, an optical device that projects site-specific views of the surroundings into the chamber. All white inside, its plastic material expression invites another planetary imagination, with greenhouse gases and greenhouse agriculture as subject matters for architecture. The blue miniature is hence an aesthetic invitation to re-learn, like Atlas, how to carry the world—and all there is above it—on our shoulders.

The installation was produced for Design Biennial Boston in the summer of 2017. Recognizing architects with innovative practices, the juried biennial program commissions a series of four small-scale installations on the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. The DESIGN EARTH contribution, Blue Marble Circus, engaged the public with an immersive and critical experience of their environment.

Presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).

Further funding is made possible by the Design Biennial Boston and the MIT School of Architecture + Planning Faculty Discretionary Funds.

Work by DESIGN EARTH is on view in the Giardini, Central Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2021 (Venice Architecture Biennale 2021) May 22-November 21, 2021.


Upcoming Events

Biennale Architettura 2021 (Venice Architecture Biennale 2021)
May 22 – November 21, 2021
Venice, Italy

Past Events

Design Biennial Boston
August 8–October 10, 2017
Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy
Boston, Massachusetts


El Hadi Jazairy, Visiting Research Scientist, Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism, MIT

Conceptual Design Aaron Weller, Larisa Ovalles

Fabrication Justin Lavallee, Christopher Dewart, Cristina Clow, Lex Agnew, Rawan Al-Saffar, Ching Ying Ngan, Marc Smith, Sabrina Madera, Michael Epstein, Paul Short, Jongbang Park, Xin Wen

Structural Engineer Paul Kassabian, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Optics Consultant Lee Zamir, Tom Gearty

Facilities and Support Autodesk BUILD Space (Athena Moore, Taylor Tobin, Adam Allard), MIT (Jim Harrington, Jennifer O’Brien, Maria Moran)


Rania Ghosn is an associate professor of Architecture and Urbanism at MIT and founding principal of DESIGN EARTH with El Hadi Jazairy. The design research practice examines the geographies of technological systems to open up aesthetic and political concerns for architecture and urbanism. Ghosn’s work critically frames the urban condition at the intersection of politics, aesthetics, and technological systems—be they energy, trash, or farming.

The work of DESIGN EARTH is widely recognized, including a Young Architects Prize from The Architectural League of New York. Rania Ghosn received the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Faculty Design Award (2017 and 2014), a Jacques Rougerie Foundation’s First Prize (2015), and honorable mentions for their competition entries in City Vision, Organic Skyscraper, Archinect’s Dry Futures and The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards in Architectural Representation. DESIGN EARTH has exhibited internationally at Venice Architecture Biennale, Oslo Architecture Triennale, Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Parsons School of Design at the New School, MIT Keller Gallery, and Sursock Museum in Beirut. Some of their recent writings are published in Harvard Design Magazine, Pidgin, Volume, Journal of Architectural Education, San Rocco, MONU, Avery Review, Thresholds, Bracket, and Perspecta.

Ghosn holds a Doctor of Design from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, a Master in Geography from University College London, and a Bachelor of Architecture from American University of Beirut. Prior to joining MIT, she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Boston University. Ghosn is founding editor of the journal New Geographies and editor-in-chief of NG2: Landscapes of Energy. She is co-author of Geographies of Trash (ACTAR, 2015) and GeoStories (ACTAR, 2018).

More at the artist’s website: DESIGN EARTH

In the Media

Boston Society of Architects: 2017 Design Biennial Boston