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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

General Manifold in Chelsea, Michigan by Spatial Ops

May 17th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Spatial Ops

General Manifold is an immersive architectural environment installed in the abandoned Federal Screw Works factory complex in Chelsea, Michigan. This installation was the centerpiece of a collective exhibition organized by the architectural collaborative Spatial Ops and students from their Meta Friche research seminar at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Image Courtesy Spatial Ops

  • Architects: Spatial Ops
  • Project: General Manifold
  • Location: Federal Screw Works factory complex, Chelsea, Michigan
  • Year: 2011-2012
  • Scale: 700 s.f. inserted into 80,000 s.f.
  • Photography: Peter Smith Photography and Spatial Ops
  • Project Team: Steven Christensen, Jean Louis Farges, Anya Sirota (leads), Virginia Black, Melissa Bonfil, James Chesnut, Peyton Coles, Nathan Doud, Joey Filippelli, Bruce Findling, Brittany Gacsy, Jeeeun Ham, Kyung Jin Hong, Jennifer Komorowski, Jordan Johnson, Brandie Moses, Brian Muscat, Chris Reznich, Michael Sanderson, Ash Thomas, Catherine Truong
  • Software used: Maya for schematic design, Rhinoceros to panelize the surfaces and prep everything for the CNC router.

Image Courtesy Spatial Ops

General Manifold reacts to the derelict context of the former industrial site, providing a moment of surprise and punctuation to the event. A mysterious magenta void is carved from the perceived solid of the factory’s central work area, generating a space of geometric complexity, chromatic contrast, and optical distortion. A series of precise cuts in the conjoined truncated pyramids produces an effect of perspectival inversion, causing the visitor to question the depth, dimension, and scale of this aberrant environment.

Image Courtesy Peter Smith

Inside General Manifold, the visitor encounters a 6-channel soundscape consisting of spatially localized and syncopated industrial sounds layered over readings of seminal ruin texts from the 18th and 19th centuries (John Ruskin, Viollet le Duc, Bernadin de St. Pierre, Denis Diderot). The soundscape was produced in collaboration with Playboy TV/radio host and cover model Brandie Moses.

After experiencing the interior and exploring the other areas of the factory, the visitor is guided to the exterior of the inserted pavilion and allowed to see the space turned inside-out, an unanticipated opportunity to inhabit the poche.

The project was produced with support from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan, along with Magellan Properties.

Image Courtesy Spatial Ops

Following is the exhibition text:


The contemporary fascination with representations of decay is frequently denigrated as ruin porn, a moniker meant to render explicit a character of exploitation and scenographic abstraction. In the collective optic, oscillating between fetishism and lament, ubiquity and monumentality, engagement and distanciation, a state of being and coming undone, the ruin has resurfaced as a site of symbolic appropriation, chimerical exploration, material contestation, and fabricated desire. Welcome to Federal Screw Works.

Federal Screw is an installation that proposes an alternative way to read ruin porn. Can the self-reflexive cultivation of enthusiasm for the ruin help build support for its transformation; can the pluralistic reimaging of ruin help concerned constituents speculate about alternative futures for a derelict site? In consideration of these questions, Federal Screw stages an event and collective exploration, a first step in a forthcoming master plan for Chelsea Common.

Image Courtesy Peter Smith


The Chelsea Screw Works was founded in 1913, and merged into Federal Screw Works in 1928. The 80,000 square foot Chelsea plant once employed more than 250 people. At the time of its closing in 2005, only 37 employees remained.


The Federal Screw Works complex is slated for demolition. The General Manifold installation will remain on site until the building is razed along with the insertion.

Additional information is available at:

Image Courtesy Spatial Ops


Spatial Ops is a collaborative, exploratory platform conceived by Steven Christensen, Jean Louis Farges and AnyaSirota. We specialize in architecture and design. We investigate urban imaginaries and tactical interventions. We like to learn from other disciplines. We work with nostalgia-free salvage, landscape, scenography, making the best of constraints. Sometime we are shamelessly utopian. Other times, we crunch numbers.

Image Courtesy Spatial Ops


Steven Christensen is a Los Angeles based architect and educator. He teaches design studios in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA, and has previously taught courses in design, freehand drawing, construction technology, and alternative practice at the University of Michigan. His research is broadly directed toward contemporary responses to the question of individual liberty in architecture and urban space.

Image Courtesy Spatial Ops

Jean Louis Farges is a photographer, designer, project manager, and polemicist. He is interested in critical ethnomusicology, post-colonial landscapes and appropriations of the picturesque. Born in Paris, France, he has spent the last decade in the United States of America, and is now fully adjusted to the idea of nominal scale.

Anya Sirota teaches at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Her current research on emergent urbanities includes the exploration of interim uses, scenography, ephemeral practices and digital networks. Her cross-disciplinary interests stem from her backgrounds in architecture, film, and semiotics.

Image Courtesy Spatial Ops

Image Courtesy Peter Smith

Diagram (Image Courtesy Spatial Ops)

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Categories: Art Studio, Maya, Rhino, Urban Design

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