House? Of Cards

Benjamin Satterthwaite

[email protected]
Modos Hero Benjamin Satterthwaite
Axonometric of the final project - 'The Town Hall'

A pessimist may (rightly) suggest the past two years have painted a rather ugly picture of western political systems. The Brexit Referendum and Donald Trump’s Presidential Tenure, for two, reflect the deeply ingrained -- and orchestrated – social divisions that define the modern political process. The United States in particular demonstrates the miasma that orbits the political realm– and the steady erosion of democracy at its core.

Contemporary political architecture is not only reflective of this social schism between the public and political, but actively sustains its existence. Isolated within the urban fabric, political infrastructure is largely unreflective of democracy's omniscient influence -- and the crucial role the public must play in it.

At its crux, the project seeks to demonstrate how architectural intervention can sculpt the relationship between the public and the political — for better or worse.

Theory I
Ben Sintro2
Ben Sintro1
Theory Iv
Ben S Intro3

Much of this thesis’ theoretical exploration was rooted outside of the built world. Delving into political science and sociology as much as architectural history and theorem, the author deconstructed the relationships between the public, the political and the architectural from a variety of perspectives, eventually constructing an anthology of disparate, yet interconnected theoretical tenors designed in the vein of Black Mirror.  This anthology — one exploring ancient Greek public space, contemporary feminist theory and the weaponisation of architecture among other equally heterogeneous topic — laid the foundation for the final project of the thesis. The scheme designed amalgamates the anthology’s various theorem with the political climate in which it was constructed, specifically that of the United States of America.



Dev I
Dev Ii
Dev Iii
Dev Iv Small
Dev V Small
Dev Vi

As an ode to the holistic desire for engagement and accessibility, collage was activated throughout the project as a means of articulating complex political ideas into broadly understandable, if abstract, forms. More than merely a tool of representation, the method inadvertently revealed itself to be a design driver; The process of layering, combining and distilling would often reveal new relationships between seemingly disparate elements, or uncover revelations concerning existing ones. In this sense, the works tended to generate as much as they condensed.

Given the rather tumultuous political landscape of 2018, the project changed considerably throughout the year, often shifting and adapting in response to the seemingly daily controversies of the US political sphere. The result of this dynamic endeavour assumed the form of an urban-scale scheme in River Falls, capital of the state of Michigan. The project explores the architectural and political qualities of control and transparency, ultimately demonstrating how the relationship between the American public and their politic system can be manipulated by carefully considered political architecture. Largely inspired by the Agora of ancient Athens, the scheme weaves a smorgasbord 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 ultimately intended to strengthen the tethers between the democratic process and the public it serves.


Finished Product

Final I
Final Ii
Final Iii
Final Iv
Final V
Final Vi

Critic's Text

The world after the 2016 US presidential election became a radically different and indeed a shocking one. We are left wondering why and how such populist propagandas that dehumanise women, minorities and immigrants (to name a few) find so many supporters worldwide. We might have moaned often about daily-discovered scandals in the US or even mass shootings, but very few of us take it seriously enough to welcome the challenge of making sense of such events. Ben however takes his anger seriously and deploys the thesis as a medium to directly engage with politics as a discipline in and of itself and more importantly to investigate the political role of architecture. The thesis engages with public space and its role in practicing democracy, employing theories formulated by key thinkers in this field such as Habermas, Arendt and Mouffe.

 At its heart, the thesis highlights how architecture can facilitate the dialogue between the public and the government and shows that there is no a simple answer to this question. Ben beautifully crafts a complex project of a town hall that oscillates between satire and sincere architectural language. The final design of this fictional town hall, was a result of numerous iterative collages, writings, sketches and models that not only informed the architecture of each individual building and the overall landscape, but generated the format of the final presentation as a press-conference. 

— Dr Farzaneh Haghighi, supervisor