Dirty Work(s): A Mighty Good Totem

n_space architectures
910 Laurel Drive
Vidalia, Georgia 30474
Neal Robinson

Project Location: Sandersville, GA
Completion Date: 06/15/2015
Owner: n_space architectures

Builder: Unbuilt: Fabrication of components by n_space architects and community volunteers

Builder Address: n/A

Additional Team:
Fabricators:  Julie Simpson (j.simpson79@gmail.com)  William Liow (william.liow@gmail.com)

Ceramics Consultant: Abigaile Murray (abigailmurray@gmail.com)

Project Description

“To break ground is the first architectural act.” – Peter Waldman (architect), citing Gottfried Semper (architect), on sighting the primitive hut.

“…and by breaking open the idea of ground, all Hell is loosed. There’s a reason Modernism wanted to float above it.” (name of author/architect redacted)

It is in the grotesque production of fundaments that Dirty Work(s):A Mighty Good Totem takes hold as a celebratory instrument of “white gold” as part of the annual Kaolin Festival in Sandersville , Georgia. These totems mix geographies of modern culture (pseudo-scientific precision, whiteness, thinness, denial of gravity) with agencies of rural craft (quilting patterns, communal production, animal logics, material sensibility), in an effort to strike a dialog that positions (the architect’s) “work”, as having the primary responsibility of structuring social metrics through conscientious constructions. Providing evidence and strategies for accomplishing this is ultimately independent of form and independent of the hermetics of building. Using “good dirt” from the rural veins of middle Georgia, this “Dirty Work” takes up colloquial earth as both building material and re-calibrated “promised land.” Kaolin—a dense, white, hard-working mineral that is also ingested as part of geophagic medicinal practice, becomes host to the architectural inquiry. This work then games with the perceptual alignment of dirt with mass, density, dankness, and mute weight and trades it in favor of light, thin, and fleshy. Operating somewhere between the aerial expertise of a dirt dauber and the evangelic side of Shakespeare we practiced with tacitly informed understanding, relative tolerance and literal material slip as assets to discovery instead of a more exacting, clean and arguably remote conceptual practice. Giving figure to form in this way—with surface, line and dimension—produces a material anxiety that squared us between informed hunch and all-out faith. While neither fine art nor pure craft, these constructions witness a polluted, more homeopathic approach toward design.

We kind of dig it.