Test Unit — Material Flows

Cities are made up of overlapping material flows. At a time of rapid urbanisation, these flows are getting ever faster, denser and more complex. The construction industry accounts for 38% of total global emissions. Waste, water and air-borne pollution exacerbate existing spatial and social injustices and store up environmental problems for generations to come. In this context, it is increasingly urgent that we radically reassess how we relate to the material world: how we extract, process, distribute and dispose.

Through discussion, collaborative research, design and construction, Test Unit 2019 invited 26 multi-disciplinary contributors to consider our relationship with materials, along with the ecological, industrial and technological systems that bring them into being.


We opened this year’s programme with a lecture delivered by Aude-line Duliere (ROTOR Deconstruction, Brussels/David Chipperfield Architects), who talked the group through her in-depth research into the construction methods and supply systems in the global film industry – suitably setting the scene for the week’s exploration of material use and reuse.

The week followed with an introductory movement workshop lead by Sinead Hargan and Anya Bowcott  and a group surveying and building exercise to familiarise participants with available materials surrounding on surrounding sites in Speirs Locks.

The group was then sorted into 4 Units, lead by Toby Paterson & Raydale Dower, Lizzie Malcolm & Dan Powers (Rectangle Studio), Amica Dall (Assemble) & Neil McGuire. Over the course of the week, each Unit examined different types of ‘material’ – both tangible and immaterial – and their respective flows, to produce outcomes that varied from recording performative walks using GPS technology to the production of a sonic ‘landscape’ that questioned our relationship to context and community.

Alongside group work, we also ran a public programme of talks: a Pecha Kucha talks event and a keynote lecture delivered by Richard Sennett. The week ended with Saturday School, a day of workshops, food and music.


A Feral Studio
Toby Paterson & Raydale Dower


Research partner:
Theatrum Mundi

Talk from:
Richard Sennett

Test Unit is a project produced by Agile City with invaluable support from partners and funders.