ADS4: Plots, Props & Paranoia – How Architecture Stages Conspiracy
Alex’s work explores the potential implications of emerging technologies upon societal behaviours, with a strong interest in the compression of space and time due to our ever-growing relationship with the digital. He uses world-building and fiction as a tool to critique the real world and to challenge existing ideas of the city. His work often uses a variety of media to explore such topics, using hand sketches as a key design tool. He uses digital illustration to add a vast depth to his visualisations, that when interrogated provide multiple layers to the worlds he creates with nested stories embedded into the fabric of the imagery.
In 2018, Alex was grateful to be awarded the Burberry Design Scholarship by the Burberry Foundation and the Royal College of Art, which has supported his studies throughout his experience of the RCA.
Previously having studied at The Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, Alex has since worked in numerous architectural practices, including Hawkins\Brown Architects, DSDHA and Hutchison Kivotos Architects, gaining a wide range of experience across a variety of schemes and all stages of architectural design. During his time at these practices, Alex has worked on both small-scale and large-scale residential developments, civic projects and commercial schemes.
Alex is a member of the interdisciplinary design collective +44 with a number of other RCA students, whose work about the potential implications of geographically located data entitled “Null Island” was exhibited at the SLUICE gallery in 2019.
After finishing his studies at the RCA, Alex looks forward to pursuing his interest in the relationship between the digital and the physical and looks forward to working with the +44 collective on upcoming projects. He also is looking to develop within the professional sphere of architecture by joining a practice with similar interests to his own. In his own time, Alex looks to develop as a keen illustrator continuing his interest in using fiction as a critique of the real world.
Schrödinger’s City imagines a post-Brexit scenario in which a new form of 'Cakeist' architecture emerges in the heart of the City of London. The project simultaneously manifests the paradoxes of the Cakeist attitude that has characterised the Brexiteers' response to EU negotiations, and exposes the illusion of a singular national identity in the 21st century.
In Britain, we have recently witnessed an an ever growing appetite for the paradoxical, described by many as the "irresistible rise of Cakeism", whereby a contingent of the population wishes to see the strengthening of borders, the reinstatement of power to the nation state, and the protection of a nostalgic idea of British identity, whilst simultaneously wanting Britain to continue to act and trade globally under the present conditions provided by the EU. Epitomised by proposals for a "Schrödingers border" (where a border simultaneously both exists and does not exist) as a solution to the Irish backstop, the Cakeist seeks to have the benefits of both national isolationism and global connectivity. In other words, to have their cake and eat it.
Using fiction as a critical tool, the project explores a future scenario for London in which the financial sector looks to use the mechanism of the Stock Connect (a cross-border investment channel allowing the UK to trade across different time zones) to erode geographical distance and compress time, undermining newly strengthened borders in an attempt to retain its global financial position.
Within this scenario, London creates stock connects with both the New York and Shanghai stock exchanges, resulting in near continuous trading leading to the creation of a truly 24-hour city. National identity is sacrificed in pursuit of economic security as the City inevitably becomes three cities at once - The City of Shanghai-London, The City of London-London, and The City of New York-London; overlaid and out-of-sync, in which little is left unaffected.
The redevelopment of the St Helen’s skyscraper sees the emergence of a new type of serial architecture. Not as a series of discrete iterations, but as a single building that exists simultaneously as three versions of itself. The proposal looks to activate the latent spatial potential of the City in order to satisfy the requirements of work, rest and play for its 24-hour inhabitants.
Played out to its logical conclusion, the scenario reveals how Britain's desire for national isolation and sovereign control might conversely lead to the very opposite: a mongrel city that in fact reflects the contemporary urban condition.
Schrödinger's Cat-Dogs — For the Schrödinger scenario to operate with effect there must be a psychological shift towards an embrace in the illogical possibility of multiple incompatible things existing simultaneously. With the intention of promoting acceptance of a pluralist mindset, a series of hybrid objects are produced by combining competing cultural artefacts in order to satisfy opposing preferences simultaneously. The Cakeist is both a dog person and a cat person.
A New Serial Architecture — The overall strategy for the building looks to create a serial architecture existing as 3 versions of itself, a London version, a New York version and a Shanghai version, through applying the cultural spatial values of Feng Shui and New York’s cartesian finance of land values, applying the New York Zoning laws of Wall Street to the site. The application of these cultural spatial values determines two new structural grids upon that of the existing site.
A New Serial Architecture — The design purposefully borrows prevalent architectural styles from each of the three cities in order to highlight the fact that national identity is a product of a history of imperialism and colonialism, wars and trade agreements and expose the illusion of national identity in the 21st century. With the existing building, referencing US modernism, which itself was a development of Europe’s International Style, the New York version of the building borrows from New York’s Neo Gothic architecture a style heavily influenced by British Gothic Revival. The Shanghai elements also expose the colonial influence upon national identity, designed in the Art Deco style that emerged in Shanghai during France’s rule over the city.
Like the serial architecture of Hejduk and Eisenmann that went before i), the proposal is derived from a series of rules each followed through rigorously as well as informed by the technology of the day. Where the serial architecture of the past was originally born out of the advent of mass production in the postwar period, the new form of serial architecture that arises is the product of digital technologies that have led to the compression of space and time.