‘Artisanal’ is a word one hears a lot these days, especially in Brooklyn. Consumers are getting tired of the same old same old and long for one-of-a-kind products, preferably those made by hand. Artisans themselves are looking to escape a mainstream workforce where workers rarely get to take ownership over their own projects.
The architecture student Joanne Chen seized on this trend in an imaginative manner, designing a factory where master craftsmen could work alongside one another. Here, artisans would not only ply their trades, but would also have access to recreational and educational facilities. It is a unique facility designed for those who wish to find enjoyment in their work.
“The project raises a critique on the contemporary view of work as compensatory toil rather than fulfillment and pleasure,” said Chen. “The building adopts an interwoven spatial language, interspersing production spaces with gardens and waterscapes to create a multi-orientational experience while preserving the building’s sense of transparency.”
The proposal places the factory on the picturesque banks of the river Thames in London and includes workshops for stained-glass-makers, weavers, furniture designers and more. Courtyards featuring pensive lily ponds are laced throughout the scheme. Although this is a workplace, beauty is integrated into the functional spaces. Decorative doorways connect rooms with stunning glazed ceilings, and walls are lined with wallpaper featuring intricate vegetal motifs.
“The ornate design is a reaction against the minimalist Scandinavian design that is ubiquitous in today’s homes thanks to furniture manufacturers like Ikea,” explained Chen.
The disenchantment with mass production is nothing new. In Victorian England, members of the Arts and Crafts movement called for an integration of the arts with everyday life. They privileged the handmade over the factory-made and wrote treatises that romanticized the medieval guilds of centuries past, an age in which the products of daily life were built by master craftsmen who honed their skills over a lifetime.
Chen’s project was completed as part of her Masters program at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. She worked in collaboration with the architect Niall McLaughlin as well as Michiko Sumi and Yeoryia Manolopoulou. The plans can be seen in the Bartlett Summer Show 2016.