Project 5: Re:Finery



Catania on the slopes and coast below mount Etna, Sicily, is the territory of the Re:Finery; a project addressing both the cataclysmic and erratic, the mundane and  everyday.

This is a landscape of subtle chance, regular destruction and cyclical renewal: farmland, buildings, forest and roads lost beneath lava flows that replenish nutrients to the rich soil; cancelled flights and the race to bring in the washing ahead of the ash: abundant; merciless, tedious and all consuming.

The Re:Finery an interchange between local resources and community; will be a focus for the transition from “raw to refined” the Re:Finery’s “Production” tapping directly into Catania and Etna’s transitional landscape to make a useful “Contribution” to the city and local “abundance”.  The Re:Finery will exchange local resources, environmental conditions, tools, crops and knowledge, for goods, energy, light, food, drink, and joy, supported by the necessary infrastructure to make it work, to form a critical relationship between people, process, production and place.



The Re:Finery will directly address the local community to cater for an existing need or to identify a new opportunity: the Re:Finery’s purpose and interface with local people will define the program of spaces, activities, processes and appropriate scale of intervention, drawn in part from the choice of site in Catania, and the ideas developed in the Instrument, Terratorium and Migration projects.

3rd students will develop propositions that involve at least ten people and address the local community and wider city.  2nd year students will propose interventions involving three or four people and engaging at a more intimate scale.

Being specific and precise about: the purpose, the client (who the project is for), who works there, will give credibility and definition to the scope and reach of the proposals.



The Re:Finery will occupy a site in Catania chosen while on the Field trip; when the key task is to find, explore and document the chosen site for the Re:Finery through the Di-Section project; and by using your ”Portable Instrument” bringing something your ideas and readings of Oxford to Sicily.

The site, strategy, and purpose of the Re:Finery will be based on an acute conceptual, physical and emotional reading of place and potential within it’s specific site and city conditions; consider:

  • Existing occupation of the site – buildings/landscape/use/people
  • Adjacent occupation of the site – buildings/landscape/use/people
  • Who lives here? who works here? who plays here?
  • Local production: crafts, trades and activities
  • Historical use of the site
  • Historical and mythical connections to the site, city and territory
  • Associations with the site
  • Topography
  • Prevailing weather conditions
  • Environmental conditions
  • Seasonal change of the site
  • The nature of the ground
  • Archaeology of the site
  • Availability and proximity of resources
  • Views from the site
  • Views of the site on the island and from the city
  • Local fauna and flora (what is growing or living on the site)
  • Local harvest (land or sea): cultivation, crops, allotments, fisheries
  • Access to the site and connection to the city, the coast, the mountain


While on the field trip you will need to intensively survey the site and test your observations in order to bring away with you all the material and evidence required to draw a measured site plan and site section through both the idea and fabric of the place.


Spatial Brief:

The core of the Re:Finery brief is “Production”, making, transforming and processing, supported by local Cultivation, and defining the “Contribution”.  The Instrument, Terratorium and Migration projects identified some of the possible starting points, but to define the Cultivation you will need to consider the resources new and existing.  To define the Production, you need to identify the local skills, traditions, crafts, expertise and techniques to establish a method and process of production.  To define the Contribution consider how the local community engages with the Refinery.

Planeta-_-Feudo-di-Mezzo-_-Etna-6 (1)

An intimate knowledge of the production process, timescales, and quantities will be critical to sizing, designing and organizing the Re:Finery both in terms of brief and architectural strategy.  And so an essential step in defining your proposal will be to do-it/make-it yourself, documenting:

Cultivation:  the materials, crop, energy, skill, knowledge or opportunity

Production:  the process, tools, materials, quantities, necessary environmental conditions

Contribution:  the inter-connection to the community

The use of each term: Cultivation, Production, Contribution is deliberately open ended: literal and direct, poetic and lateral, analogous and suggestive.  Harness the power of language to inform and enrich your architecture.


The Re:finery’s connection to the local community is critical to making sense of the proposition: benefiting from proximity to the cultivation and productive processes, and enjoying the produce.

The intertwining of Cultivation, Production and Contribution needs to be captured in a single drawing or model documenting all the processes, sequences and adaptations to become a visual brief for the project, which is spatial-ized at the scale of your proposal and brought to site.

Your proposals will include spaces for:

  • Receiving, storing and processing the harvest ready for production
  • Production spaces, transforming the harvest and dealing with by-products
  • Distribution or sale or enjoyment of the produce
  • Care for the people who work there

The spatial organization and spatial experience of the Re:finery will be defined by the activities, the people, the seasonal response, the city-scape, the weather, the materials, the machinery, movement, noise, smells, and atmosphere.


The architecture is expected to reflect the activities, seasons and their inter-connections with place to establish a critical spatial dialogue between the proposal, the city, and Etna’s transitional landscape.



As a sustainable 21st century building the Re:finery will need to address the question of autonomy:

Autonomous:    Grow, harvest and produce it’s own energy, water, and resources


Community:      Sourcing, and encouraging local productivity as part of a wider network


Linking the Re:finery to it’s “terroir” and sense of place, will the materials and methods of construction, which may be a hybrid of local and homespun, self-grown and harvested, permanent, temporary or experimental, or deliberately alien introducing something new, each as you deem to be appropriate to your definition of an Architecture where “necessity is the mother of invention.”


In William McDonough’s and Michael Braungart’s “Cradle to Cradle” the analogy is to a cherry tree, which produces a natural abundance in excess of necessity in response to the changing seasons and conditions: each process positively contributing to further abundance in the next process, benefiting both the cherry tree and other local and associated organisms – there is no waste.


Your response to the materials, construction, structure and environmental design of the Re:finery will be in parallel and intertwined with conceptual spatial design process, to seek to be a synthesis between production, bye-production, performance, people, and place.



The Migration project will help inform the proposed activity for the Re:Finery linked back to a conceptual reading of Oxford and its transitional landscape through the Terratorium intervention.

Jennie Schneider 11022543 Wreck Diving Centre

The Di-section project will establish the location and capture your conceptual, physical and emotional reading of your chosen site.

Your site documentation will translate into a highly tuned site model, a site to develop your proposals.

Your documentation of the intertwined activities of Seasonal Cultivation and Production will develop into a 3-dimensional spatial brief and strategic organization informed by personal exploration of the production processes (DIY), intensive research and your reading of site.

The opportunities and building activities will develop into a conceptual model informed by the development and research behind the spatial brief and your reading of the site.

Isobel Taylor-11011827-Autiotupa Section_edit

Negotiating the strategic spatial brief with a strategic response to the site and your technology concept model will bring you to a complete proposition to be presented at the Interim Review.

From your proposition you will need to work:

Inwards through models and drawings to test and develop the final arrangement of spaces in terms of spatial experience, process and occupation

And          Outwards through models and drawings to test and develop the final relationship to the transitional landscape and the city.

And          In parallel to test and develop your final ideas for the materiality, structure, construction and environmental design, to inform your architecture

Jonathan_Lakin_semester 2-262

The complete project and essence of the design process will be presented in no more than 20no. A1 (Or equivalent) Hybrid Sheets integrating constructed, drawn, rendered and photographic elements into each sheet including models, materials and samples.  The iterative design process will be documented in a bound “Process Folio” read in parallel with the Hybrid sheets.

Timescale and Key Dates:

Wk 1     Mon      2nd Feb      Studio Tutorials start

Wk 2     Mon      9th Feb      Di-Section Review and Re:Finery 1st pin-up

Wk 4     Mon      23rd Feb    Negotiated Section Workshop (Technology)

Wk 6     Mon      9th Mar     Re:Finery Interim Review

Wk 8+1 and      Wk 8+2     Easter Break

Wk 9     Thur      16th Apr    Y3        Cross Crits: Re:Finery Final Review

Wk 10

Mon      20th Apr    Y2        Cross Crits: Re:Finery Final Review

Fri        24th Apr    Y3        Technology Drawings Submission


Wed     13th May    Y2        Portfolio Submission

Thur      14th May    Y3        Portfolio Submission inc. Technology drawings

Re:Finery Brief: Unit_G_Refinery_revD



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