Spatial Ops’ Optical Architecture Engages with Disorientation

Midwest Newsletter
(Courtesy Spatial Ops)

(Courtesy Spatial Ops)

Occupying a room in the abandoned Federal Screw Works factory in Chelsea, Michigan, General Manifold is an immersive environment that aims to disorient as well as engage. The installation is set in an 80,000 square foot factory, founded in 1913, that once employed 250 people. When it was shuttered in 2005, only 37 remained. Spatial Ops, with students from their Meta Friche seminar at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, engage the factory’s history, showcasing the ruin and rendering its inverse. Their insertion is an attempt to cultivate enthusiasm for the ruin and to gain support for its transformation, the first step in a forthcoming master plan for Chelsea Common.

(Courtesy Spatial Ops)

(Courtesy Spatial Ops)

The space is optically distorting with truncated pyramids that explode from a central cavity to the walls of the enveloping room. Serial cuts punctuate the pyramids, casting light and shadows into the space and further complicating the visitor’s sense of depth, dimension, and scale. Inside, spatially localized speakers layer industrial sounds over readings of texts on ruins from the 18th and 19th centuries, including John Ruskin, Viollet le Duc, and Denis Diderot. The installation will remain in place until the factory is razed.

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