Studio Invisible Cities

Tutor: Cith Skelcher

Students of 2019/2020: Clare Timpani, Katherine Dauncey, James Paul, Abbie Verlaan, Holly Madeley, Lydia Whitehouse, Jiaxin Wu, Chris Pate, Krittika Pravinkuma, Dulcie Foster, Michael Neal, Francesca Jebb.

The built environment is largely the creation of white, masculine subjectivity. It is neither value-free nor inclusively human – L.K. Weisman 

Studio Invisible Cities creates a positive and collaborative space to support the development of projects that challenge the damaging stereotypes and power dynamics that programme our cities and frame our lives. Using feminist approaches and alternative tactics we will explore the complexities of the ‘real’ city, overlaying the personal onto the political as a method of brief development.

We have begun this year by developing a shared Ethics of Care, which has informed both our working practice and the positioning and direction of a set of projects that radically rethink the terms on which our social and spatial institutions might operate in a city that celebrates difference. 

Our cities are supported by a hidden network of care. Midwives, streetcleaners and youth workers – these are the people that hold the social fabric of our cities together, along with the shadow labour provided within the home. But the physical urban fabric of the planned city reinforces the inequalities of care through the imposed separation of formal and informal, work and home, public and private.

Studio Invisible Cities has bee working within the Birmingham city quarters of Digbeth, Highgate and the Jewellery quarter. The ultimate ‘planned’ city, Birmingham bought into the modernist vision like no other UK city, its huge post war slum clearance giving rise to a brave new world of high rise living organized around a concentric road system that came to be dubbed the ‘concrete collar.’

The latest ‘Big City Plan’ has broken the strangle hold of the inner ring road, allowing the city’s core to expand and promoting the development of the newly branded city quarters. But even a cursory critique reveals an enduring preoccupation with The Big, The New, The Dazzling.

While object buildings litter the central skyline, neighbourhoods within the city’s quarters lie isolated, communities fragmented by large swathes of ground parceled off for large scale redevelopment targeted at the ‘young professional’.  Working at a finer grain from the ground up, Studio Invisible Cities will question ideas of a ‘normal’ user, challenging assumptions and unspoken hierarchies, considering the sensory and emotional experience of all bodies in space.