Initiative & Institution

Saturday, 08.03.08, 11.00

build publics
trigger talks:
marianne mueller (mueller kneer),
jonathan mosley, sophie warren & robin wilson
kathrin böhm (public works)


Jonathan Mosley, Sophie Warren & Robin Wilson

Jonathan Mosley, Sophie Warren and Robin Wilson are collaborating on the project ‘Planning for Utopia’ which has been awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant over 2007 & 2008. The project is based at Bristol UWE where Jonathan is Senior Lecturer in Architecture. For this trigger talk the collaboration will be represented by Jonathan Mosley, who will discuss key questions relating to this practice-led research project (the Manifesto of which is below).

Sophie Warren and Jonathan Mosley collaborate on projects that explore the realm between art, architecture and urbanism. Their work examines perceptions of architectural and urban space and the articulation of an environment by its inhabitants. The collaboration intervenes in an improvised way within the city landscape and generates gallery, print and event-based work in response to it. Warren and Mosley actively investigate places on the point of change and examine aspirations for the built environment alongside realities. Their work has been shown at Gasworks (London), Frederieke Taylor Gallery (New York), The Armory Show (New York), Station (Bristol), The Architecture Centre (Bristol), Centre of Contemporary Art (Glasgow), 58th Berlin International Festival & 4th International Biennale, Armenia; and published in Critical Architecture (ed. Jane Rendell) Routledge 2007, Surface Tension Supplement No.1 (ed. Brandon LaBelle) Errant Bodies 2007, and the architectural and art press. Over the past few years they have been in dialogue with Robin Wilson who has written extensively on their work.

Robin Wilson completed a PhD at the Bartlett School of Architecture in 2006. He is a London-based critic and curator of art and architecture, and is a teaching fellow at the Bartlett and visiting lecturer at the Bristol and Nottingham schools of architecture. He contributes regularly to architectural journals, such as The Architects’ Journal and Blueprint on issues of art, architecture and landscape. His recent projects include ‘Dark Season Botany’ (Copenhagen Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Garden History, London), a collaborative project documenting urban vegetation in Copenhagen; and he is co-author of Calais Vu Par, a book based on a documentation of the urban terrain of Calais published by the Museum of Calais.


Manifesto of The Framework and accompanying by-laws

Also known as The Vertical Common
Also known as Smithfield Stile
Also known as the Smoothfield Tower
Also known as Rahere’s Cliff

‘If the City of London ever possessed any common lands of its own […] they disappeared so long ago that no trace of them remains.’ (W.G. Hoskins and L.Dudley Stamp, 1963)

The Framework occupies the void of that traceless history of the ‘so long ago’. See, how when darkness falls around it, it is irreconcilable: the lone structure; an island.

The Framework is the embodiment of a question: how would an urban, architectural common land function?

In their purest form commons are not made, they are received fragments from the landscapes of prehistory; they are terrains in which ancient rights and timeless human practices have been stubbornly perpetuated. Vital to the economy of the feudal system as sources of food and fuel, commons now have value more as quiescent land, open and indeterminate. We wish to provide an architectural support for the concentration and propagation of common instincts and gestures in the urban environment.

The Framework expresses a desire for a different way of inhabiting and participating in the city. It is an architecture, an ‘art of systems’, conceived to announce this demand.

The Framework is not a building, but the art of a system for renewing our social contract with the space of the city. It is conceived to be the ‘first move’, and is expendable as a physical form.

By-law: This is the shape of a piece of land, which it is no-persons duty to fence.

The Vertical Common is to be positioned in the South West corner of London’s Smithfield Market, on a small triangle of land, the site of a derelict toilet block.

The Framework found its site when one of our number engaged in an urban meander, travelling from Bishop’s Gate in the City toward the Charing Cross. The Framework is the result of a journey, and will welcome all urban way-farers, all those who make urban journeys.

By-law: All pedestrians of the city are permitted to enter through common channels of access and mechanisms of elevation.

Enter the Framework and you will be in-common. You own nothing here and all. Your coat is not your own; it is a resource – like that bloodied plastic bag drifting up from the remains of the day’s meat sales thirty feet below. No law of the common will take it from you, but you will be expected to use it well!

By law: Always indulge in desirable behaviour.

The Framework is oblivious to the ‘interests’ of the various groups currently expressing concerns over the future of this Smithfield site and its derelict structures. The utterances of this ‘contentious’ dispute dissipate into the Framework without trace. Fragments of paper baring petitions and business plans, the hopes of conservation and commercial development alike can be found now and then around its base, mixed up and torn to shreds in the eddy winds and down drafts that whip the city surface in its shadow.

Bloodied plastic and a crumpled planning notice: your common resources are growing.

We perceived in the market complex of Smithfield a rare urban condition. Most of its workers having concluded their daily tasks by the early hours, its day-time life is scant in comparison to much of the open spaces of the city. Folk traverse it rather than linger and there is, we sense, a certain unease about how to occupy it, and who to occupy it with.

Ownership and purpose is indeterminate in this corner of Smithfield. Let us grow and explore this pocket of indeterminacy!

By law: You are free to take responsibility for yourself.

The Framework is an architectural free-space. We establish its ‘First Build’, a first phase. Perhaps this will be the only build. But equally it might be a gate to a new city (the Smithfield Stile). It can grow, then. It is an architectural weed, but as yet we can only guess at its physiology, or the means and voracity of its self-propagation.

Dispense with visions of fields and copses amid the city fabric, this is not a park but an architecture conceived to support common urban practices. Think neither of the tendency toward vegetal architecture in current architectural practice – planted roofs, facades and the like. Technologies will not define the life of the Framework, but human praxis.

By law: Exercise your right to be ‘keeper of the common’.

We write of ‘human praxis’, but all beings will be in-common on the Framework. The common life encompasses all species; the reassessment of the relationship between species will be one of its many projects.

The Framework is not just a destination; it is a journey, and a journey within journeys. It is a city stile, the Smithfield Stile, a crossing point that is also a detour.

By-law: Be restless; this is not home but a common place.

The Smithfield Stile is the gate of endless views; it ceaselessly frames and re frames the city within its grid.

By-law: Obscure no-view.

The Smithfield Stile is the apparatus of a detour from city street to the aerial view. It is the Tower of the Smoothfield, a common frame for creating paths above the city and allowing journeys to cross horizons.

By-law: Leave no-person behind.

The ‘first build’ incorporates a ‘game’; a game of counters, a counter-game. Clusters of ‘equipment’ and ‘tools’ festoon the structure and are available for use in-common.

By-law: Take no-thing from the Framework.

The counters enable cooperative movement throughout the Framework, the creation of routes, detours, platforms, viewpoints, meeting points. They are also the ornamental apparatus of life in the vertical common; delicate, practical, deadly, precious tokens conceived to help mediate the transition from the city of habit to the architecture of the indeterminate.

By law: Always adhere to established systems of play and invent your own.

Harvest on the Framework is perpetual. The Framework is a ‘filter’, a ‘net’, capturing matter for the benefit of its commoners; for essential use in-common; for their amusement.

By-laws: Harvest what you find for use in-common. Waste no-thing in-common; all is resource.

The Framework requires no external energy source other than that of its animate life, of those in-common. Common energy must be stretched and made available to all.

By-law: Burnish as you go.

Seasons pass in minutes on the Rahere’s Cliff; twilight lasts for months. Guard yourself against haw frost on wakes through the white-light of summer nights.

Warning: Land requisitioned for ‘Vertical Common”; reservation land for first build; beware subsidence.

Robin Wilson, Sophie Warren, Jonathan Mosley


For further information please contact us:
Jonathan Mosley – /
Sophie Warren –
Robin Wilson –



What do we have ‘in-common’?

‘Contemporary Architecture is operating in a theoretical vacuum’ (Reinier de Graaf, Office for Metropolitan Architecture, 2006). How can the imaginary and experimental infiltrate the institutions that build our cities?

Initiative and Institution: How is it possible to remember and forget from where we originate?


Categories : /presentation, archive, contributions, symposium