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Outpost 04 : M-Factory

Outpost is a series of teaching studios run by John Wardle Architects. This year’s studio included Master of Architecture students from UoM and ran from July through to November. Held during a period of extended lockdown, the studios were conducted online with design reviews and collaboration held on Miro, a platform used widely by our practice since the pandemic began.

Outposts are speculative by nature and represent a desire to evolve cultural values and experiment with emerging forms of knowledge. Outpost 04: M-Factory emerged from the ideas explored through the practice’s ongoing research into materials and their ecological impact. The studio set out to build a better understanding of the origins, histories, resources, and practices that surround the production of materials we consume within the construction industry – and the important role material selection has in reducing the emissions of a building across its life cycle.

The intent was to integrate this emerging knowledge with the practice’s interest in the application of materials and careful attention to detail and craft. How will the materials of the future affect the skills, tools, and tectonics of architectural application and refinement?

The studio interrogated the potential of alternatives to traditional construction materials such as brick, timber, steel, and concrete. The scope of this research included garnering an in-depth understanding of the production cycle and manufacturing processes of these frontier technologies.

Students explored a diverse and exciting spectrum of potential alternative materials – bio-cements made from mussel and oyster shells, biophilic structural members derived from plant stems, bricks made from loafer plants, and cladding materials made from processed seaweed. Each of which required specialised production methodologies and processes as well as unique opportunities for architectural application and expression.

The relationship between material, production, and research translated into the architectural brief: a strange hybrid of part industry, museum, and tertiary material research facility.

  • JWA Studio Leaders Thomas Proctor and Stephanie Pahnis
  • JWA Studio Contributors Stefan Mee, Meaghan Dwyer, Ariani Anwar, James Loder
  • External Studio Contributors Robert Crawford (EPiC Initiative - Melbourne University)
  • Architecture Students Qinwei Gu, Yuchun Wang, Shengzhi (Steven) Huang, Hui Bi, Saran Kim, Yutong Jin, Qinwei Gu, Yuchun Wang, Shengzhi (Steven) Huang, Hui Bi, Saran Kim, Yutong Jin, Ziyue (Joe) Zhou, Katarzyna (Kasha) Dabrowska, Jessica Broad, Ho Lam (Jason) Leung, George Avraam, Soke Yee Leong, Callan Grima, Natdanai Dan Tantiwatanapisal, Tianruo (Stan) Li

The site for inquiry was the Scienceworks museum in Spotswood – a site with a rich industrial heritage but with a future as a designated cultural, educational, and innovation hub. The site and surrounds have historical significance, and the remnant architectures and artefacts of these lost industries were a focus of the studio. The potential for adaptive re-use and/or engagement with this fabric was an important consideration for each of the projects.

Students were encouraged to take a holistic and innovative approach to design that considered the entire life-cycle of their projects. From the development of pre-fabrication and modularity techniques that could offer disassembly and re-assembly opportunities to allowing for the decay and composting of building material. Each project offered a unique and interesting response to circular design principles.

The studio is a Master of Architecture at the Melbourne School of Design and was led by Stephanie Pahnis & Thomas Proctor.

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