Working Dirty Preston (What If?)


  • Dr Emma Jackson
  • RMIT School of Architecture
  • Chris Buchhorn


This project arose from a specifically Australian Context; where observations of the built environment and its histories uncovered unseen suburban patterns providing insight into a memory of place.

The process follows a hunch on those forgotten narratives as a strategy for new place-making, where the living room becomes a segue to the campfire but unlike the living room, the campfire is a truly communal hearth that allows for the unexpected and genuine neighbourly interactions.

Its agitative design operations encourages the unexpected, where the act of un-covering generates new foundations that gives agency to new urban possibilities that challenges the status-quo.

Key Features


The urban realm represents the fundamental domain of social participation. Population, environmental and infrastructural pressures requires a considered densification of cities. Identifying these forces and understanding the entangled social systems constitute the elements fundamental to spatial cultivation that demands strategies to encourages open-ended configurations of the public sphere. This submission explores and encourages a more flexible method of creative operations on the built environment that challenges traditional modes and public/private demarcation and distorts homogenous planning regimes through scalable interventions as a tactic for new ways of accessing the urban territories.


Outcomes of this project suggest possible new territories of an unexpected patchwork of collisions that blurs recognisable aesthetic languages of uniformity into fluid outcomes with an established shared character.

This new vernacular poses questions on civic, commercial, and residential adjacencies. Where new formal arrangements that encourages notions of discovery and hybridity from its complex yet familiar results.


Porous streetscape condition, carved out beneath a networked suburban vernacular, where new platforms, verandas, and balconies allow for varied connections that values the external areas as much as the internal spaces, enables moments of relief in its intensity which allows for chance encounters.


The project employs ideas driven digital simulation techniques, embedding into the code an agenda that challenges traditional perceived planning compatibilities. The project suggests that the practice of cultural burning, which utilises fire as a means of managing and organising the landscape based on a detailed local knowledge, can encourage speculative renewal opportunities.

Using the living room hearth as a scalable idea, the simulation spreads and agitates the urban built fabric. The regrowth establishes new fertile testing grounds, resulting in an architecture of loosely bound aggregates characterized by porosity and interconnectivity around the campfire, allowing for new narratives to be told.

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