The City as A Strange Story

Author: Federica Sofia Zambe


Interview with Dominic Dickens


Dominic Dickens_1

Dead Drop City


Who influences you graphically?
Graphically i’m influenced by a mixture of precedents and influences. In terms of visual representations, Neoclassicist etcher Piranesi influences my work through his atmospheric portrayals of Rome and and etchings of imagined city ruins. In this same way, Paul noble designed incredible ruined landscapes. John Hejduk also helped in telling the city as a strange story.

What is the effect and purpose of a monochromatic palette?
The project has sinister undertones and the inhabitants of Dead Drop City could be viewed as either members of a total free society as being ruled by an authoritarian set of principles. The monochromatic palates suits the story of the city.

You approach each project with a similar graphic language, why so?
To tell the full narrative of the project in a clear way you need to have consistent graphic language so the whole project reads as one story.

Babel Border Control

Babel Border Control

How could the language used by the counter culture artists community from in 60’s been implemented to further reinforce the proposal?
I’d probably design a small section of the city around each thought of the the counter culture movement, such as Free Speech or Environmentalism. In a similar way to how the obelisk is a tribute to the work of Edward Snowden

You mostly explore your work through perspectives and axonometric, from subjective to objective what is the reason for this?
The axonometric drawing was a way of capturing every element of the city in one drawings, at 2500mmx 1400m it’s a massive drawing, its monumental size a reflection of the city and its architecture. These and was supplemented by a series os small 148x104mm of perspectives called ‘Postcards from Dead Drop City’ which act as a collection of memories/tales of this imagined community.

Dominic Dickens_3

Babel Border Control

What is your work process in terms of programs used?
My drawings are a hybrid of computer graphics and hand drawings. I modelled the city down to every detail on Rhino and rendered on Vray. For each image there is a an amount of post production in photoshop that adds layers of pen and ink textures and line overlays which give the visuals a rough texture.


Dominic Dickens_2

Dead Drop City

Dead Drop City
“Dead Drop City is society of Crypto Anarchists focusing on political and technological resistance based in East Greenwich. Embedded into the urban landscape of the city, the community hides itself behind an area of existing urban fabric, to retain its anonymity. Proposed in the near future and supported by a consortium of online piracy moguls it functions through both an autonomous society in the city and within the technological realm, producing and installing private technology in which they can operate independently of any government censorship or surveillance. The project is inspired by themes of isolation and discovery taken from Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’. The Crypto-anarchists aims are to protect against surveillance, evade censorship and to participate in counter economics. Technical infrastructure is produced in the advanced workshops and sold on the hidden markets of TOR as well as the physical and more traditional crafts of bookmaking and small scale production of objects such as bricks, and banners. Anarchist goods and propaganda are manufactured on site and distributed to the rest of the city. The ideas of Dead Drop City are a contemporary comment on our individual digital footprints and how we could live outside of the realm of surveillance.”
Dead Drop City is a society of digital and political resistance based in East Greenwich. It proposes an alternative reality of a society that aims to exist in a world against digital tracking or spying. The project has been developed during my Masters of Architecture at University of Greenwich and explores ways in which we could live without intrusion of privacy within the digital world.
The idea is based around the crypto-anarchists, a cyber spacial anarchic group of individuals that set out to evade detection and harassment in the digital world, while sending and receiving data through computer networks in an effort to protect their privacy and political freedom. The project is similarly inspired by ideas of discovery and exploration from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe which Re-enforced the idea of a solitary island.
The secretive society live and work on their purpose built site in East Greenwich, manufacturing a range of goods through a series of cottage industries. The products manufactured range from the Dead Drop City Manifesto in the printing press, radical crypto-anarchist propaganda and and ‘digital bricks’ the building blocks for a new city which contain data information storage on which the Dead Drop City Manifesto is loaded and can be accessed by passers by. Raw materials are mined on site to allow the city to operate and produce these goods independently.
A Series of homages to important figures in this field exist throughout the city. Edward Snowden is particularly revered and a movement exists to him and other symbols and references exist throughout the site such as Stone onions (a reference to TOR).
The name of the project is a combination of a reference to the counter culture artists community from in 60’s America called ‘Drop City’ and ‘Dead Drops’ the method of digital espionage communication where files can be dropped anonymously in a public place.
The project is explored through a series of exploitative drawings, test models and 1:1 prototypes. The project culminated in a large final drawing measuring 3m X 1.7m showing the whole project in one detailed axonometric drawing, supported by a series of postcards moments explaining each individual story in Dead Drop City.

Dominic Dickens_4

Dead Drop City

Babel Border Control
Two centuries into the future and the self governing city-state of Babel has reached crisis point. Itemised production and prefabricated construction has lead to a loss of skills so much so that the city must take urgent action to regain its skilled craftsmen. The self contained citadel of Babel has only one access point, a new border control centre located in the Thames estuary in the historic boundaries of the city.
The Babel Border Centre was formed in response to the lack of skilled labourers in the new micronation of Babel. It is a testing centre of skilled workmen and women and draftsman to help build the future city of Babel. The border of the citadel is the gate to the city where only craftsmen of quality may enter through. Construction skills are assessed through the construction of buildings on site, creating abstracted elements of the city whilst 2D drawing and hand drafting skills are examined in the Draughtsman’s Tower.

Dominic Dickens_5

Babel Border Control

Dominic Dickens_6

Babel Border Control

Dominic Dickens_9

Babel Border Control



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