CAT Making Laboratory
Starting from experimental making with a limited range of materials, learn to make building elements which fit loosely together to form buildings which sit appropriately within the slowly changing physical and institutional topography of the city.
Since 1985 over 100 week long courses have been run, by Maurice Mitchell at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales. The course aims to provide students with the opportunity to design and make buildings using materials found on site or available locally. Skills are site based, focusing on those of mason (wet trades) and carpenter (dry trades). Many of the research led live projects in the ARCSR area have extrapolated building elements and research methods which have emerged from this course.
A hands-on construction project runs throughout the 5 day course. This involves all students in a cyclic process of experimentation and focused group criticism followed by modifications to the original proposal. As the course progresses and the skills, ambitions and interactions of the students become clear, a built form evolves which is quite unique. The final product, which is left standing as students leave is more a large-scale model than a finished building. Its form, never predictable at the start of the process is a way of learning about the process by which technology and human agency are transformed into a culture of making with a civic and ethical content.
The seeming triviality of the objects being made is banished within the group as the work proceeds by constant self-conscious communication and iterative endeavour. Meaning is attached to the building elements being made by clearly identifying prototypes and other precedents. This consolidates the learning process. The end of the course is marked with a review conducted by the students in which lessons learned are made explicit.