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Metropolitan Works 06.02.09

Written by 

words Anna Bates

"There might be nowhere more important tonight than this building," said Deyan Sudjic at Metropolitan Works' opening party for its new £4.5 million site. High praise indeed - so what exactly is so important about the creative centre's new facility?

The new building, based at London Metropolitan University, will allow London designers to wander into the workrooms with an idea and then materialise it using the centre's quite incredible collection of machines for a range of functions including five-axis water-jet cutting, five-axis CNC routing, 3D scanning, laser cutting, and rapid prototyping. Previously Metropolitan Works' centre only had enough room for the technicians, but now designers will be able to use the space as a workshop, paying per use and potentially saving them from having to rent studio space.

It's an important space because it's one of few manufacturing resources for designers working in the city, who often have to go abroad to see their projects formed. "All of the stuff in the Far East is challenged by this set-up," said London designer Tom Dixon, who also spoke at the event. "It challenges the whole way we make things. Finally designers and manufacturers can challenge the idea that manufacturing doesn't happen in the UK." With even Established & Sons talking of using India to make future products because local manufacturing is too expensive - a dramatic turn around from its "British-made" ethos - this facility is genuinely exciting for designers who want to produce on their doorstep.

But it's hard to accept that the Far East could be challenged by it. Metropolitan Works is not a mass production facility, but a new space for craft; something that was evident in the work on show in the Digital Explorers: Discovery exhibition. Metropolitan Works invited a group of creatives including Antony Gormley, Committee, Tord Boontje, Timorous Beasties and Michael Marriott to produce work using the machines. Michael Marriott's beautifully simple stools were a 3D milled version of African Ashanti stools, but Marriott is keen to point out the process was a combination of the machines and "human interpretation". Committee exploited their naivety of the machinery to create their Lost Twin Ornaments. Starting with shapes from two found objects, the duo used the CAD modelling purposely heavy-handedly to make "irrational compositions", joining the shapes and creating forms in the process. Boontje made the most of non-invasive 3D scanning to capture the exact form of insects, leaves and flowers. He then used the shapes to adorn his speakers, formed using direct metal laser sintering.

While digital technology can be used for small batch production, the centre's technicians are more excited about the potential for using the technology to make custom-made and bespoke objects. Down the line, they hope to have a facility that will allow designers to sell their work, turning the creative centre into a shop of sorts.


top image Antony Gormley’s Core, 2008 made out of iron using CAD-milling

image by Pelle Crepin



image One of Committee’s Lost Twin Ornaments

image by Pelle Crepin


image Tord Boontje’s Allegro Crescendo speakers

image by Pelle Crepin


image Timorous Beasties’ laser cut bricks

image by Pelle Crepin


image Michael Marriott’s Sunsum Stool

image by Pelle Crepin


image Architects Cartwright Pickard designed the building

image by Daniel Clements


image London based designer Tom Price designed the laser-cut panelling

image by Daniel Clements

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