Steven Christensen Architecture

Steven Christensen Architecture

Santa Monica


General Manifold

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 our Meta Friche research seminar at the University of Michigan.

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 truncated pyramids produces an effect of perspectival inversion, causing the visitor to question the depth, dimension, and scale of this aberrant environment.

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 (by John Ruskin, Viollet le Duc, Bernadin de St. Pierre, and Denis Diderot), performed by 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 poché.

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.

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.


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.

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Status: Built
Location: Chelsea, MI, US
Additional Credits: Jean Louis Farges, Anya Sirota