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Form Follows Corporate

Part 2 Project 2002
Nicholas Moss
Robert Hall
Steve Coster
University of Liverpool, UK
Events, no matter how good-natured (innocuous and/or well-intentioned), can eventually be sourced to someone’s gain in one way or another. Whether through profit, exchange or even nostalgia, architecture is fundamentally associated with and subservient to this reality of human economics.

Form Follows Corporate deals with the present-day reality and locus of urban power. The influence and executive power today is no longer a prerogative of the local councils or the seats of government but shared amongst the anonymous faces of the leading global corporations.

Will a Mr Ken Livingston please sit down.

The project deconstructs the tradition of analysing and constituting corporate space and ultimately, what is usually referred to as “the office”. A concept that has remained static while the systems of global capital accumulation have shifted. As the world economy accelerates, businesses need to be able to adapt to the flux of today’s society. Architecture, inert by its very nature, contradicts a workplace that needs to respond quickly and fluidly to this market. Architecture is beginning to take second place as corporate asset investment has sheared away from buildings to their skilled workforce and virtual infrastructure.

However we still live and work in a physical world. Thus corporations still need to touch down at strategic points in the world. The project uses the northern line on the London Underground as an opportunity for companies to work across space and time through a “fragmented network” rather than the traditional hierarchy of centres.

It is where the corporate meets the community - the global meets the local - that the fun begins. Gestures, exploitation, bribes and spin are all utilised to achieve the corporations’ goal. Working with or against social actors such as planners, councillors and even prostitutes! Always viewed from the corporate perspective, the whole system becomes a superficial game, played by billionaires with victory being the only outcome.

Form Follows Corporate takes the superficiality of this game and packages it into the architectural tool of the “wrap”. Utilising the values of image, exchange and use as the criteria for corporate success the project focuses on a specific site at Camden Town whereby the wrap involves the local Castlehaven Council ward. The corporate wrap develops into an exchange between differing scales of economics and politics, forming a system of design that works with the most important issues facing architects today.

Anybody who objects can wait for Mayday.

Nicholas Moss
Robert Hall
Steve Coster


The thesis project attempts to analyse and design the corporate space from a unique perspective. Not only does it begin from the premise that the real power base within the post-Conservative, post-Industrial metropolis of London has shifted irrevocably in favour of the corporate bodies, but it discovers and attempts to understand the curious games through which this power is established, sustained, capitalised and spatially expressed, both internally and externally. Recent issues emerging from covertly repressive mechanisms of corporate people management were discussed and understood through specific case studies of episodes and encounters. The apparently decent deals with local communities providing them with added value of services, jobs and facilities reveal a story of empty gestures, shady deals, exploitation, bribes and spin. The moral dilemma of the condition is further problematised and magnified by looking at these issues through the eyes of the corporate, where visiting the ‘massage’ parlour or sharing the sauna with the prostitute is part of the perfectly legitimate perks of the successful ‘kid’ climbing the corporate rungs (doesn’t capitalist success always get portrayed as an incredibly innocent, most naturally correct thing to have ever happened!). By choosing to avoid addressing the issue of questionable morality and fair play overtly, the thesis elevates itself to a poetic level where reality is redefined. The stark realities of dominance and exploitation of the individual and the community are simultaneously utilised in developing a logical design process and questioned. Highly sophisticated computer models and graphics put the message across.

2002
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