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Luke Jones Selected as Helsinki Design Resident 2019

Luke Jones Manuela Barczewski

Manuela Barczewski

Luke Jones
Image from 'Square Eyes', 2018 Anna Mill and Luke Jones

Anna Mill and Luke Jones

Image from 'Square Eyes', 2018
Heat Island, Cloud Fossil 2019 Luke Jones

Luke Jones

Heat Island, Cloud Fossil 2019
About Buildings and Cities, 2016 - present Luke Jones

Luke Jones

About Buildings and Cities, 2016 - present
Cordwood Masonry, 2009 Luke Jones

Luke Jones

Cordwood Masonry, 2009

21 May 2019
by Parvinder Marwaha


We spoke to Luke to find out about his work and what he is planning to research in Helsinki in response to this year’s open call theme of The Melting Platform: Material Interactions.

Tell us a bit about yourself; your background and areas of interest.

The primary register I work in is speculative or science fictional, but I’m interested in trying to connect that practice with highly specific investigations of history, deep time and materiality. The work I produce individually is mostly text and audio, but I also draw, model, and design in a collaborative context. 

Last year my partner Anna Mill and I released a graphic novel called Square Eyes — exploring the impact of augmented reality technologies on the material fabric and social use of the city.  I also lecture in architecture and design at the Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in London. 

Since 2016 I’ve been the co-producer and host of About Buildings + Cities — a podcast on architectural history, theory, fiction and speculation. The show gives us the license to explore fascinations with particular issues, figures or phenomena, and to develop them through dialogue. It started as project for our own amusement, but has ended up creating a form of research and creative practice in itself.  


What are you working on or researching at the moment?

I’m working on a pair of projects in connection with the idea of ‘Degrowth’ — one a short comic in partnership with Anna Mill, and one an audio production with About Buildings + Cities. They will be part of the cultural programme for this year’s Oslo Architecture Triennial. 

As part of Heat Island I’m also working on a new collective housing model exploring the integration of loose fit and flexible use, engineered timber construction and energy efficiency. 


Why are you interested in Helsinki and why did you apply for the Helsinki Design Residency?


Finland’s leadership in timber innovation and production — its centrality in the history of plywood, and its continuing investment into new large-scale techniques of timber fabrication and offsite manufacture — create a fascinating starting point for a particular sort of speculation. I’m interested in trying to develop a speculative response to ongoing developments in plywood and engineered timber design and manufacture. 

The broader context is a sense I have that the decarbonisation of architecture seems to be driving incompatible processes. On the one hand, through ‘circular economies’ and suppression of embodied carbon, we might focus on local materials, situated-ness, zero-freight, a new ‘vernacular.’ But at the same time, an ever higher level of desired performance (especially in terms of conservation of energy) tends toward specialisation and scale — larger and more distant plant, serving ever greater areas. The opportunity in Helsinki is to explore this dilemma as a creative dynamic. 


What are you planning to research or produce during your residency in Helsinki?

The research will have two components — a gathering of material and exploration of context through dialogue and visits, and a response in the form of a narrative or set of narratives exploring possible ‘plywood futures.’ 

In many ways the plywood and engineered timber industries are already very ‘science fictional’ — working on vast scales, using robotisation, extreme precision and forms of monitoring of processes. I’m hoping to find out more about this and to develop speculative responses through workshops with other researchers and industry partners. I’m also hoping to document and release some of the conversations we have in some form. 


Luke will take up his residency in Helsinki from 28 May - 11 June and 16 August - 16 September 2019.

This year, we have also selected a Finnish and Russian designer in residence; Luke will be working alongside Anna Burlakova and Jérémy Gaudibert.

We look forward to hearing about how their respective research projects will evolve!