Fordlandia is inspired by a ghost town deep in the Amazon Rainforest built by the American Industrialist Henry Ford in the late 1920’s to secure a supply of rubber for his automobile empire.

Fordlandia creates a fictional domestic space made entirely of Amazonian rubber and other materials from the rainforest. The installation explores the idea of synthesis between nature and industry, questioning Henry Ford’s attempt to tame nature in profit of his industrial gain.

Fordlandia was created by Henry Ford in 1928 to cultivate and process rubber in the Amazon Rainforest. Over 5,000 square miles of forest was cleared for the cultivation of a rubber plantation however without the bio diversity of the forest environment the trees were ravaged by pests and blighted by disease.

Ford wanted to bring an American ideal town to the tropics, he constructed rows of neat American style weatherboarded houses with a school, a hospital, railway and a dance hall where they conducted weekly square dances. The workers were put on a strict diet and worked from the hours of 9-5. It became more than just a quest for rubber but it had become a social and cultural experiment.

Employee Housing at Fordlandia, Brazil, 1930-1931

Plantation Manager John Rogge with Young Rubber Trees in Fordlandia Terraces, Brazil,1931

Car stuck in mud, Fordlandia, Brazil

After 6 years of failed crops and dispirited workers, the town was abandoned and the land sold back to the Brazilian Government. What is left behind is a time capsule of 1930’s industrial Midwest town overgrown with tropical flora.

The rubber tapper starts at 4am to avoid trekking through the forest during the hottest part of the day. He walks for six hours through forest trails visiting over 100 trees in which he cuts away a small channel of bark. The latex flows into a cup for up to six hours after which the tapper returns to collect it into a pail before it coagulates. Each tree produces around five litres of latex a year. The rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis is native to the Amazon, where they grow wild and can be tapped without harm. A kilo of latex is worth more than a kilo of beef. Buying wild rubber is one way to find value in the forest remaining wild and untouched.

Ebonite is a very hard material made of natural rubber, sulphur and linseed oil. Its name comes from its intended use as an artificial substitute for ebony wood and was widely used before the invention of bakelite. Due to its durability and lustre ebonite is a ideal alternative to the tropical hardwoods which were used traditionally in Brazilian modernist furniture.

Smoked wild rubber ball

Ebonite rods

Ebonite sheet, reclaimed Brazilian hardwood

Field coagulated rubber sheets