Matthew Story

Matthew Story

Brooklyn, NY, US


Leaks and Accumulations: A Report on Decatur, Illinois

    Welcome to Decatur, Illinois where the air smells like money being made. It is a site of the leaks and accumulations of industry, agriculture, and global capital. Lake Decatur was created through the maneuvers of industrial blackmail when corn and soy processor, A.E Staley, required that the city expand its water capacity “to that of a Niagara” leading Decatur to become the “Soy Capital of the World”. Archer Daniel Midland, the agribusiness giant which operates 270 processing plants all over the world, has made Decatur its world headquarters. The Lake is an industrial input, a reservoir, and a site of recreation.

    The lake and its city are the site of production for the haze of boundary-less surplus, and receptacle of its excess in its bodies, air, soil, , and water. The lake collects of the leaks and accumulations of capital and environmental violence. The banks capture real estate. The water captures fertilizer, pesticide, and factory effluent. The lake bed captures sediment from the farms that make up 85% of the watershed. The air captures the noxious smell of fermenting cereals and lungs capture the particles carried by steam plumes from the stacks. 

    The Sponge, The Houses, and a Zoo are hybrid interrogations of how the environment is technologized and its contamination mediated and camouflaged over an expanded temporal field. How is this leaky evidence mobilized in a miasma of dispersed causation? Architecture authorizes the optics of rational correctives, but in a state of triage, any monopoly on epistemological knowledge is suspect, and can therefore be deconstructed. These interventions position themselves as the fulcrum of camouflage between violence, remediation, and the banal consumption of amenities.
Leaks and Accumulation: A Report on Decatur, Illinois, investigates evidence, its aesthetics, and narratives of remediation in contemporary urban and ecological crisis. This design research undertakes this task through the creation of an operative, yet fictional bureaucracy and other constituent actors through which space and architecture’s agency is seen through constellation of entities that precipitate into buildings.  Through the layering of “real” evidence, such as environmental reports, legal documents, and housing data, with speculative yet surreptitiously 

plausible scenarios, objects, graphic artifacts, technologies, and buildings, parallel readings of the Decatur, its history, and its future begin to emerge and provoke hardy, but nuanced critique. I believe that this speculative strategy which places what is known and what is unknown in conflict in order to stabilize and destabilize generic stories of correction and problem solving. It is a design and research project that looks to confront the fundamental anxieties surrounding the practice of architecture in the in complex and complicit situations.

The thesis eschews many of the trappings of a traditional architecture thesis. The final presentation materials appropriate the aesthetics of a intelligence dossier complete with bureaucratic organizing forms and labeling conventions. Instead of exacting renderings stretched out along the wall, LEAKS AND ACCUMULATIONS matter of fact-ly pins up the report gracelessly, and in its entirely, a document of facts and fabrications shown in the same way, both the evidence and the speculatively evidenced. 

What this means is that, just like the violence it is working to represent, the project is also difficult to represent as it actively subverts my authorship by supposedly reporting on found conditions. To this point, in order to present the project I needed to do so in character, as a character who helped assemble the fictional dossier instead of the designer who fabricated the institution, some of the evidence, the structures and inventions, and who puts forward the critique. 

To come forward and announce a critique would miss the point about the ability of violence and modernity to camouflage itself and its remediation. So to adopt the tone, language, and aesthetics of that which is being critiques allows both the critic and the viewer to be complicit and vulnerable, thus be in a position to reflect on what architecture says it can do in the world.

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Status: School Project
Location: Ann Arbor, MI, US
My Role: M.Arch Thesis
Additional Credits: thesis advisor: Rania Ghosn