House? of Cards

Benjamin Satterthwaite

[email protected]
Modos Intro
Axonometric of the the final project - 'The Town Hall.'

We find ourselves amidst a decidedly unique era of politics, one fraught with conflict and defined by division. The United States Presidential Election of 2016, the Brexit Referendum the same year and New Zealand’s General Election in 2017, all quantified long-brewing tensions, each bringing deeply ingrained social division and political disenfranchisement to the fore of public consciousness. What persists is a palpable miasma over a political sphere marred by incessant controversy, and a public increasingly disconnected from the process originally designed to serve them: a dissonance perpetuated by incompetent and shallow democratic architecture. 

The investigation conducted culminates with the design of an urban-scale scheme in River Falls, capital of the northeastern state of Michigan. The project explores the architectural and political qualities of control and transparency, ultimately demonstrating how architectural intervention can sculpt the relationship between a public and their government, for better or worse. Largely inspired by the 'Agora' of ancient Athens, the scheme weaves a collection of public and political infrastructure through a blanket of lush public space in the heart of River Falls. The result is a new rendering of the ‘town hall,’ one intended to strengthen the tethers between the democratic process and the public it serves.

Modos One
Main Perspective of 'The Town Hall'
Modos Six
The Master Plan of 'The Town Hall.'
Modos Three
Axonometrics of 'The Town Hall.'
Modos Five

At least, that is the conceit. Whilst first appearing to be a utopian urban scheme championing political participation, the scheme is really foil for a caustic, cutting commentary of the Trump Administration and its actions. The Town Hall is in fact a dystopian complex of conservative control, veiled in a facade of alleged transparency. Through 15 different structures, the scheme paints a pensive, irate indictment of the contemporary political landscape, employing a sardonic brand of architecture as its brush. Presented from the perspective of the United States government, The Town Hall ultimately balances the satirical with the sincere. The reader is left to ruminate on not only the Trump Administration and its actions, but the critical role architecture can, and should, play in the political process.

Modos Four
Each of the scheme's 15 structures explores a topical socio-political issue, a commentary infused with the political leanings of the author.
Modos Seven
Each structure melds a sincere function with a sardonic execution, one that activates architecture as a tool of commentary.

The final twist of the project is that River Falls does not exist. As the final collage of this thesis, River Falls stitches together a miscellany of urban fabric extracted from numerous cities across Michigan. Carefully and methodically constructed, River Falls can be seen as a hyperbolised microcosm. It accurately depicts Michigan’s real-world conditions, but manipulates them to craft a contextual, fictional narrative. River Falls was constructed to be precisely what 'The Town Hall' required to exist, in both architectural and political contexts. The city is designed to be an architectural manifestation of ‘fake news,’ and is designed to demonstrate the danger of the phenomenon to the audience through their unwitting subjection.