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Critical Infrascapes

Part 1 Project 2014
Laurence Flint
University of Nottingham, UK
‘Critical Infrascapes’ refers to the critical point that we are at in determining the future landscape of communication. As a society we have already shifted towards a culture that communicates on a continual basis. Phone calls, text messages, tweets, blog posts and chat rooms are an intrinsic part of our society and as Michael Foucault summarises “We are in the age of the simultaneous, of juxtaposition, the near and far, the side by side and the scattered.” As communication possibilities become a global carpet of coverage ‘Critical Infrascapes’ proposes a new ideology for maintaining the last parts of our privacy, negating an ‘Orwellian’ surveillance state and opening this up as a discourse among architects.

Inspired by Edward Snowden and the NSA scandal, the project creates a sanctuary from the digital world; off-grid spaces, spaces in which we can communicate freely without surveillance, spaces of complete privacy. Trying to piece together the impact of digital communication on physical architecture has created overlaps in design where free information becomes free space and where privacy and communication are materialised. The building provides an uneasy interface between the people and government surveillance, offering the opportunity for citizens to view personal files and regain some lost privacy.

Fundamental to the project is the concept of common ground, a space driven by our rights, In this case the right to private conversation as well as political sanctuary and refuge for whistleblowers. Ultimately the project asks questions about democratic communication and what architecture’s relationship with this might be. The project sits within a series of territories defined by connectivity. The first being that of the medieval notion of sanctuary and then becoming increasingly more private as one progresses through the building according to different levels of privacy defined by the material nature of Faraday cages. Whilst offering a new privacy the building also proposes a new voice for the people. It includes space for broadcasting, inspired by the pirate radio heritage of East London, which provides a platform for protest and festivals within Shoreditch Park.

Laurence Flint


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