Textures of aluminium: Attending to situated entanglements of C21st construction

Ms Anna Tweeddale1

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia


The phenomenon of construction connects a moment of tranquil suburbia with the pisolithic geology of bauxite through refined aluminium. Situated on a plinth of steel-reinforced concrete, the lightweight extension of House A is framed in timber; clad with corrugated steel, plywood, plasterboard, aluminium-framed glazing and polycarbonate sheet; and finished with fixtures of aluminium and steel alongside various polymers, ceramics and cut of timber. Any one of these could be used as a lens to examine the complex entanglements through which a material becomes available for construction. Aluminium’s relatively recent emergence as a construction material is historically contingent with, and exemplifies, affective narratives of C21st modernity – smooth material flows, ultra-lightweight strength, recyclability and polished modular precision. In Australia this gleaming materiality converges geopolitically with the granular textures, toxicity and frictions of aluminium’s extraction, refinement and production. This paper traces bauxite/aluminium through the figure of ‘House A (is for Analogue)’: an iterative research project situated with/in architectural praxis that deploys diffractive techniques to attend to specific material-discursive practices encountered in construction and reveal latent human/nonhuman entanglements. This paper proposes that this work, of attending to situated entanglements of C21st construction, is prerequisite to imagining the context of human habitation as otherwise.


Anna Tweeddale is a practising architect, artist and urban researcher. She is founding director of Australian research design practice Studio Apparatus and has worked in Australia, Europe, China and the Middle East. Anna is a current PhD candidate in the School of Architecture at RMIT University, having previously completed a research Masters in Architecture and Urban Culture at the Metropolis Postgraduate Program (CCCB and UPC, Barcelona). She has taught architectural/urban design, history and theory at RMIT, Monash and Melbourne Universities. Her recent praxis/research identifies contemporary construction as a fertile site of investigation into complex material entanglements.

Email: at@studioapparatus.com

Trace elements: Selenium and its weed across the ‘Badlands’

Ms Amelia Hine1, Ms Maggie-Anne Harvey1

1University Of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia


‘[C]apitalism has naturalized itself to the earth, feeding off the fossil stocks and mineral flows of the substratum’ (Yusoff 2017, 113). In seeking the edges of this capitalist attachment to earth processes, this investigation follows the story of the element selenium, a nonmetal necessary for human and more-than-human health but which can easily turn deadly, in its sympoietic relationship with Neptunia amplexicaulis, or the selenium weed. N. amplexicaulis has been known as a hyperaccumulator of selenium, that is a plant that grows in and absorbs high concentrations of specific metals or elements, since the 1960s but has been largely ignored by the research community until recently. The ongoing process of understanding N. amplexicaulis-selenium entanglement from a scientific perspective requires an examination of Queensland’s settler colonial history through its record-keeping alongside propagation and examination of individual plants. Simultaneously, to understand the marginalisation of N. amplexicaulis despite its global standing as third most efficient selenium hyperaccumulator, requires a consideration of the peripheral nature of the ‘Badlands’ in Central Queensland within the research community itself. Together, selenium and N. amplexicaulis tell a complex story of capitalism-intersected change leading to their combined potential future as the new face of (agro)mining.. or is it pharmaceuticals?


Amelia is about to complete her PhD in the Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University of Queensland. With a background in design and museology, her visual and written practice identifies and builds on arts and science intersections, and her PhD has worked to highlight the central role of landscape assemblages within the mining industry. Find her at a.hine@uq.edu.au or on Twitter @AmeliaHine

Territory and the Archaeosphere: Surface Disruptions at Barangaroo

Dr Andrea Connor1, Professor Donald McNeill1

1Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia


Whilst the ground we stand and build on is often conceptualised as a ‘natural’ terrestrial plane, recent theoretical work across a range of disciplines has begun to re-think this surface ontology.  New concepts such as the “archaeosphere” bring together geology; archaeology and geography in ways that speak to the hybrid and deeply entangled materiality of surface and subsurface. Rather than stable and foundational – ground itself is seen as dynamic and in many cases “manufactured” through human agency, and in the urban context through the intense cycles of destruction and reconstruction that transform cities and create new material stratigraphy. This paper considers the significance of this theoretical shift in the context of one of the largest redevelopment projects in Sydney’s CBD, Barangaroo, a 22 hectare site in East Darling Harbour.  A former container wharf, parts of the site have been extensively excavated and filled in on numerous occasions in the recent past. The legacy of this industrial past now sits uneasily with a post-industrial data-driven ‘green’ future, exemplified by rhetoric around the International Towers in Barangaroo South, and an indigenous ethic of care and custodianship of “Country” now part of the reconfiguration of Barangaroo North.


Dr Andrea Connor is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Western Sydney currently working on the Australian Research Council Discovery Project – Volumetric Urbanism. The project investigates processes of urbanisation and the dimensionality of urban space through the concept of ‘volume’ and its calculative metrics. The Chief Investigator on the project and co-presenter of this paper is Professor Donald McNeill, from Western Sydney University.


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