Based in London, John is an architectural designer who approaches the production of space and objects through a fluid practice between making, drawing and film.
While he focusses his personal research on addressing problematic attitudes towards work, value and prestige in the built environment; he is keen to use design, regardless of format, to provoke new, critical means of perceiving and interacting with our surroundings. A recent master’s graduate of the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL; his work has been shown at numerous exhibitions and screenings in the UK and internationally, including the Royal Academy. Eager to reach across disciplines, he enjoys working both independently and as an idealistic, future-minded and pragmatic collaborator.
For more information, including questions about previous work, current ideas, or potential future commissions, please get in touch.
With special thanks to:
The project is part of a two-year investigation into how contemporary ideas of work, craft and ritual can shape perceptions of value in the built environment, applied to create an essay film that follows the delivery of twin public buildings, a town hall and festival hall, as part of an indefinitely prolonged festival of fulfilling work in the town of Rugeley, Staffordshire.
The Arts & Crafts movement saw craft as an antidote to the numbing and dehumanising effects of industrialisation, able to create a highly skilled and fulfilled artisanal workforce. Although early industrialisation may have upset notions of skilled work, industrial communities grew resilient - many towns across the UK still lean on the identity and societies born from their industrial past. However, work present today in the post-digital economy is increasingly disconnected from its site, immaterial, impermanent and increasingly less human. Rather than viewing this as a hopeless, destined future, this is another step in a cycle of resilience for working communities. This is an opportunity for fulfilling work to break loose from precarious labour, and to be placed back into the creation of the loci of spiritual prosperity. This is modern craft. Modern craft seeks to incorporate the skills and techniques of the post-digital workforce. It is impartial in regard to form-finding, material, tradition, and scale; and above all, seeks to embed a meaningful practice of building for the sake of building to create a lasting edifice and appease the mind and soul.
The film is a documentary, following the effects of modern craft on Rugeley over several decades, exploring how it is manifested from when it is ‘discovered’ in 2017, to its blossoming and then to its re-seeding. Sitting among the ex-mining landscapes in the foggy, yet bucolic Trent-valley, Rugeley is a town where poverty runs rife, public space is stale and work is prescriptive. Each November, the incongruously named Amazon fulfilment centre offers jobs that triple the local unemployment rate, and takes them away two months later. The town seeks an architecture of resistance and resilience.
The project is seeded through a ceremonial placement of a model to site – on object that initiates specific ritual acts, which are built up and developed each year, with no set end in mind. This process is intended as a vehicle to provide clear provenance, communal involvement, and spiritual attachment in a context of precarious work and labour, growing into a slowly enacted festival practice through building.
Near the beginning of the project, the site enters gradual motion. Fragments are delivered to site using existing power station infrastructure, utilising and extending existing rail networks. 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.
As the scale of the project was quite extensive, a visual and material language was tested through models of building fragments. Here, a ceramic maquette studies areas within and around a council chamber.
Loose schematic models were also developed in tandem. Here the arrangement of the Town Hall is considered, yet even at this larger scale, ideas around materiality are not forgotten (e.g. earth-cast circulation cores – poured excavated and erected in situ).
Town Hall & Festival Hall
Significantly, the project coincides with the deconstruction of the heart of the town, Rugeley Power Station, and ultimately occupies the same site.
The buildings seek to retain the presence of the power station and negotiates between the scale of the surrounding village vernacular, and the magnitude of the power station. To achieve this, the building adopts the distinctive sweeping geometry of the cooling towers in two key aspects. Belonging to the Town Hall (left), the bell tower reflects a full height 110m slice out of a cooling tower shell. While within the festival hall (right), the void of an inverted cooling tower is dug out and retained to create the concert chamber itself.
Final 1:100 scale models of selected areas within the scheme (a council chamber, the lobby area, interventions within the garden, and the bell tower) are presented in detail, yet also act as physical props which are later stitched together and digitally inhabited through film.
Rugeley in Resilience
T.H. & F.H.