ADS4: Plots, Props & Paranoia – How Architecture Stages Conspiracy

Alexander Findley

Alex’s work explores the influence of digital technologies upon societal behaviours. He uses fiction as tool to critique the real world and to challenge existing ideas of the city. His work often uses a variety of media to explore such topics, using hand sketches as a key design tool. He uses digital illustration to add a vast depth to his visualisations, that when interrogated provide multiple layers to the worlds he creates with nested stories embedded into the fabric of the imagery.

In 2018, Alex was gratefully awarded the Burberry Design Scholarship by the Burberry Foundation and the Royal College of Art, which has supported his studies throughout his experience of the RCA.

Previously having studied at The Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, Alex has since worked in numerous architectural practices, including Hawkins\Brown Architects, DSDHA and Hutchison Kivotos Architects, gaining a wide range of experience across a variety of schemes and all stages of architectural design. During his time at these practices, Alex has worked on both small-scale and large-scale residential developments, 

After finishing his studies at the RCA, Alex looks forward to pursuing his interest in 

With a passion for illustration  



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Schrödinger’s City imagines a post-Brexit scenario in which a new form of 'Cakeist' architecture emerges in the heart of the City of London. The project simultaneously manifests the paradoxes of the Cakeist attitude that has characterised the Brexiteers' response to EU negotiations, and exposes the illusion of a singular national identity in the 21st century.

In Britain, we have recently witnessed an an ever growing appetite for the paradoxical, described by many as the "irresistible rise of Cakeism", whereby a contingent of the population wishes to see the strengthening of borders, the reinstatement of power to the nation state, and the protection of a nostalgic idea of British identity, whilst simultaneously wanting Britain to continue to act and trade globally under the present conditions provided by the EU. Epitomised by proposals for a "Schrödingers border" (where a border simultaneously both exists and does not exist) as a solution to the Irish backstop, the Cakeist seeks to have the benefits of both national isolationism and global connectivity. In other words, to have their cake and eat it.

Using fiction as a critical tool, the project explores a future scenario for London in which the financial sector looks to use the mechanism of the Stock Connect (a cross-border investment channel allowing the UK to trade across different time zones) to erode geographical distance and compress time, undermining newly strengthened borders in an attempt to retain its global financial position.

Within this scenario, London creates stock connects with both the New York and Shanghai stock exchanges, resulting in near continuous trading leading to the creation of a truly 24-hour city. National identity is sacrificed in pursuit of economic security as the City inevitably becomes three cities at once - The City of Shanghai-London, The City of London-London, and The City of New York-London; overlaid and out-of-sync, in which little is left unaffected.

The redevelopment of the St Helen’s skyscraper sees the emergence of a new type of serial architecture. Not as a series of discrete iterations, but as a single building that exists simultaneously as three versions of itself. The proposal looks to activate the latent spatial potential of the City in order to satisfy the requirements of work, rest and play for its 24-hour inhabitants.

Played out to its logical conclusion, the scenario reveals how Britain's desire for national isolation and sovereign control might conversely lead to the very opposite: a mongrel city that in fact reflects the contemporary urban condition.

Three-Way Duck-Rabbit — Inspired by the ambiguous illustration in which people either see a duck or a rabbit, the design embodies the Cakeist approach by rejecting the singularity of conventional typologies. The building is conceived as a three-way duck-rabbit, that simultaneously satisfies the overlapping requirements of work, rest and play. The lobby-gallery space depicted here shows the rigorous application of a series of imposed rules resulting in the collision of three architectural styles - US Modernism, Art Deco and Neo-Gothic.

Theatre-Fitness Centre-Office — Challenging existing conventions and typical segregation of use classes, the design takes the plan form of a running track and the section of a theatre in order to generate a new typology. By terracing the track a stepped auditorium is formed. The stage at the centre doubles as a badminton court, carved out of the existing core with the elevator shafts providing the wings of the theatre.

The Duck-Rabbit Park — The semi-internal park learns from public space in each of the three real cities. It provides a localised private/public space, akin to London’s community gardens, an internalised public space similar to all of New York’s lobbies, which are deemed to be public space rather than private, and a space for collective public takeover, often seen to occur due to the mass gatherings of China’s middle-aged public dancers. The undulating form applies the principles of the designer of Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, who deemed that the landscaping should be juxtaposed to the orthogonal blocks that surround it.

Baseball-Karaoke-Office Stadium — The upper floors of the redevelopment take two cross-culture forms of entertainment, Karaoke and Baseball and pulls out the compatible elements and combines them. The opportunity to sing in front of a crowd prior to a game is determined to be the ultimate karaoke experience. The space creates a baseball driving range where the pitcher spot becomes the stage whilst socialising in the stands and enjoying food and drink with friends becomes the most important aspect of the space.

The Dog and Duck-Rabbit Teahouse-Diner-Pub — The Dog and Duck-Rabbit Teahouse-Diner-Pub takes the archetypal spaces of eating and drinking in each city, which are often imported into the other cities, and combines them to create a space which takes the form of a traditional Chinese teahouse and creates it from the elevation view of a typical British pub, with the left over form constructed out of the stainless steel of the American diner. The result is a distortion of form, space and materials which provides for multiple readings of the space and the merging and collision of national spatial identities.

By adopting the techniques of the graphic illustration of the duck-rabbit, which embodies the plurality of the Cakeist mindset by allowing one person to see the image as a duck and another a rabbit, the design rejects the singularity of conventional use classes in favour of the three-way duck-rabbit, a hybrid space which can be viewed and used as one space or another and both at the same time.

Schrödinger's Cat-Dogs — For the Schrödinger scenario to operate with effect there must be a psychological shift towards an embrace in the illogical possibility of multiple incompatible things existing simultaneously. With the intention of promoting acceptance of a pluralist mindset, a series of hybrid objects are produced by combining competing cultural artefacts in order to satisfy opposing preferences simultaneously. The Cakeist is both a dog person and a cat person.

The "Have Your Cake and Eat it Machine"

Heads-Tails Coins





The design reveals a new form of Serial Architecture, evolving out of the Schrodinger Scenario existing as multiple versions of the building simultaneously, but as a single building rather than as serial distinct iterations.

Like the serial architecture of Hejduk and Eisenmann that went before, the proposal is derived from a series of rules each followed through rigorously as well as informed by the technology of the day. Where the serial architecture of the past was originally born out of the advent of mass production in the postwar period, the new form of serial architecture that arises is the product of digital technologies that have led to the compression of space and time.

Dinner by Daylight — Those who adopt alternate timezones early on still look to live their lives as they normally would. For the early adopters, having a candle-lit dinner out at 11am, means drawing the blind and finding anywhere that has decided to take advantage of the increased income by offering an all day dinner menu.

Schrödinger's Crossings — Four rush hours now occur and different parking restrictions apply to different people at different times of the day. In order to allow people to be able to act in accordance, the road crossings and markings are redesigned, being able to be read as the public infrastructure of each real city at the same time.

New Public Infrastructure — The City's postboxes, news stands, newspapers and signposts, are designed to reflect the multiple realities that now exist in the city, being able to be read as that of each real city at the same time. The street maps now update throughout the day responding to the 24 hour nature of the city.

As the potential of the increased flow of capital begins to be realised, little is left unaffected as more and more people adopt the scenario. A demand is placed upon the city’s public services and infrastructure to adapt to those living in alternate timezones.

Schrödinger's Borders — Post-Brexit, farmland that straddles both sides of the Irish border will sit within two different jurisdictions, both with their own agricultural regulatory bodies, therefore requiring the manifestation of a border condition. The three models exhibited explore a series of alternative border typologies to the conventional wall or fence to enable farmers to access the opportunities of operating within two markets, whilst controlling which jurisdiction their livestock sits within. Through changes to the border at three different scales— the scale of a building, a landscape, and the intervention of an element into a transport infrastructure—borders are created that exist for livestock whilst simultaneously not existing for the farmers who must access both sides. How might the literalisation of our attitude towards borders lead to udderly ridiculous, absurd, or impractical—yet ultimately useful—scenarios?

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