Rugeley in Resilience

Rugeley in Resilience

Imagining how the proposal and delivery of public architecture can tie practises of fulfilling work, craft and ritual to resist the impact of creeping precarious labour.

Essay Film | Work, Labour & Ritual

The project investigates how contemporary ideas of work, craft and ritual can shape perceptions of value in the built environment, applied to create an essay film that imagines the delivery of twin public buildings, a town hall and festival hall, as part of an indefinitely prolonged festival of fulfilling work in the depths of Staffordshire.

The town of Rugeley sits among an ex-mining landscape in the foggy, yet bucolic, Trent Valley; and has long been defined by its coal-fired power station which in 2016 was faced with demolition. Like many towns reconciling their industrial pasts, Rugeley is weighed by endemic issues of raised poverty levels, poor employment opportunities, and stale public space. The power station’s imminent destruction was set to mark a major turning point in the town’s history, as the local identity and culture had previously been fostered by nearby major industrial sites. With the power station going, the adjacent Amazon fulfilment centre was in line to pick up the mantle; the town would imminently be shouldering the supporting structure of the modern digital economy, where work is disconnected from its site, immaterial, impermanent and increasingly less human.

Here, the proposition of a community-led, major public building project is explored as an opportunity for fulfilling work to break loose from precarious labour, and to be placed back into the creation of the loci of cultural and spiritual prosperity.

For:
MArch Architecture Thesis (RIBA Part II)
Year:
2016 - 2018
Sound Design:
Kevin Pollard
Special Thanks:
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The timeline of the project is centred around a cyclical festival scenario, where ritualised acts of building are expanded upon each year and tied in with communal celebrations, with no set end in mind. This process is intended as a vehicle to provide clear provenance, community engagement, and spiritual attachment to the architecture prior to the project’s completion, while simultaneously offering a chance for local skilled workers and craftspeople to exercise their abilities.

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Construction on site is centred around providing spaces to fulfil this ritual action each year, starting off ad-hoc and experimental, they become increasingly programmed, and resolved into two clear civic bodies, as well as open public space around it in flux. For example, foundations are temporarily fitted as play and dining areas; while modular ceramic bathing spaces begin their lives as large-scale test pieces (by local bathroom fixtures company, Armitage Shanks) and  later become repurposed as box seating in the festival hall chamber.

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A continuous process of model-making not only helped develop the material language of the project, but also became a backdrop for casting fragments of the building forward through time. Here, a ceramic maquette studies areas within and around a council chamber, considering Gottfried Semper’s Four Elements of Architecture.

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Larger, 1:100 fragment models were later developed, becoming stitched together and inhabited through film to express their origins, placing attention on the project’s restless delivery over its finished form.

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The main buildings seek to retain the presence of the power station by negotiating between the scale of the surrounding village vernacular, and the magnitude of the industrial structures. For example, the bell tower of the town hall is a full height 110m slice out of a cooling tower shell.

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1080 x 1080 / 30 fps