Manufacturing urbanism: an architectural practice for unfinished cities by Gretchen Wilkins

* Click on the red time-stamp to go directly to each segment in the video

00:10 Chair (SueAnne Ware) Introducing Presentation and the Examiners (Dr Jenny Lowe, Dr Claus Peder Pedersen and Prof Toomas Tammis)

01:10 Presentation begins with situating the work in terms of two streams: manufacturing and urbanism and the ‘core’ emerging space between them

02:50 The structure of the presentation

03:30 Explanation of exhibition layout

04:50 Open-ended, collaborative, project ‘structures’

06:30 The earlier work: Ply Architecture; University of Michigan; Detroit; teaching

05:00 The challenge of presenting a practice not based on artefacts: Discussed through the exhibition' Curated' (1997, West Space Gallery) / How do you exhibit a practice without exhibiting any original work?

06:30 Re-Inventing My Practice: Expiation and arrangement as an interior design practice

08:00 An interest in ‘reclaiming’ industrial materials for architectural production

08:50 Working in collaboration with industry

13:20 Context for work: Detroit (its rise and fall)

15:10 The dispersed nature of manufacturing ‘Feeder’ subcontractor (component) support industries

16:20 A broad constellation of dispersed projects

17:40 The emergence of the two themes

18:50 The design of a project model: University of Michigan Architecture building redesign

22:40 Laminates and the urban furniture project

28:40 Book on Hitoshi Abe, entitled On The Spot

29:40 Future-proofing Schools competition

31:04 GW explains how these projects are similar

31:50 Design studio called the World Architectural Workshop

34:00 The notion of borderlands

37.00 Book: Distributed Urbanism

39:08 Projects: Tankview, Google Cities and Remote control elective

43:40 The Passport project (collaboration with different types of people)

50:30 Urban images: China, Tokyo, Detroit: links and overlays

52:40 Studio Apparatus Practice: Prototyping collaborations

58:00 End of presentation

58:20 (TT) This first question is in fact a series of statements, musings and congratulations. (4 min)

1:05:18 (CPP) A question about the centrality, or not, of RW’s interest in urban decline

1:18:00 (JL) Again this is a very long and various series of explanation, precise, questions and compliments on the presentation and the dissertation. (10 min)

1:36:48 (TT) As above. (4 mins)

1:40:25 (CPP) As above. (3 mins)

1:47:07 (JL) Quoting Massumi the questioner asks: ‘where would you see, in your manifesto for future practice, through Studio Apparatus, its inability to attain itself’?

1:51:27 End and applause

View the full dissertation


This PhD is a reflection upon an architectural practice developed over twelve years, incorporating architectural design, teaching and writing. The practice consists of a variety of projects ranging from full-scale architectural interventions to speculative urban proposals, and includes individually authored work alongside collaborations with an international network of practitioners and academics. Addressing this constellation of projects and approaches, the reflective process of this PhD served to identify two primary conceptual domains and drivers of the work: contemporary industrial manufacturing and urban transformation. The culmination of the research models a vehicle for future practice situated between these domains, predicated strongly on methods of prototyping and strategic incentivisation in the urban realm. A core agenda of the work is a predilection for, and prioritisation of, incompleteness in architectural design, structures of professional practice and urbanism.

The research, presented through a written document and exhibition, is structured in five parts:
1. Staging Practices: case studies in how experimental design practices inform and redefine professional ones. 2. Industrial Practices: experiments with materials and methods of manufacturing in architectural work. 3. Urban Practices: documenting qualities of urbanism between phases of industrial or economic change. 4. Networked Practices: architectural experiments between manufacturing and urbanism. 5. Modelling a Future Practice: a platform for collaborative architectural practice at the intersection of urban/economic and industrial/material concerns.

Year: 2012
Examiners: Jenny Lowe, Claus Peder Pedersen, Toomas Tammis  Supervisors: Professor Leon van Schaik, Assoc Professor Pia Ednie-Brown

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