Archive for September, 2020

Factory manufactures new public artwork for Gloucester

During COVID-19 lockdown, the team at KWMC The Factory worked with artist Luke Jerram to manufacture the pieces of a new public artwork that is currently on display across Gloucester.

‘Of Earth and Sky’ is a large-scale poetry installation: excerpts from poems have been painted and installed in 31 parks and public places across the city for people to discover. Poems were submitted by Gloucestershire residents following a call-out to the public and a series of workshops, and the poems on display were selected by local poet JPDL and Luke Jerram.

The Of Earth and Sky project website explains: “the poetry and text respond to the city, the climate emergency and the impact that COVID-19 has had on us all as individuals and on our view of the planet. We hope the words are hopeful, embedding a sense of pride and ownership of the area. After an unprecedented period of lockdown and social distancing, it feels more important now than ever to have creativity in our lives.”

Using our CNC (computer numerical controlled) machine, Factory technicians cut nearly 300 pieces for the installation.

This included 56 1m stencils and 158 50cm stencils in birch plywood – a full alphabet of upper case and lower-case letters and punctuation marks – and 74 letters (and one comma!) from 18mm Marine Ply. These large 1.2m letters were then sanded and painted white.

The stencils have been used to paint temporary poetry onto grass while the large letters have been arranged to form five freestanding phrases.


The Factory team were assisted by Factory member Emily Trott, a graduate of last year’s Making It course and an experienced set builder.

Factory Technician Chris Ingram commented, “it’s been great to work with Luke Jerram and his team. These letters and stencils were the first large fabrication project we undertook at The Factory after technicians were able to return to the workshops following COVID-19 lockdown. We’re glad we’ve been able to put our new CNC router to work in a project that encourages people to explore our city spaces and the natural world, and celebrates the creativity of people in the region.”

Of Earth and Sky is on display across Gloucester from 24 August – 1 November 2020. For more information visit the Of Earth and Sky website.

For more information about CNC cutting or commissioning The Factory please e-mail or call on 0117 403 2306.

Images: Of Earth and Sky

Coming Soon at KWMC The Factory: ReThink, ReMake, ReCycle

ReThink ReMake ReCycle

As part of the Bristol and Bath Creative R&D Inclusion Programme, The Factory will be investigating the scale and impact, both locally and globally, of common household waste materials such as paper and plastics. Together with our Factory community and local residents of South Bristol, we’ll be unpicking the data behind what we waste, and following a process of creative ‘Design Thinking’, prototyping and making utilising digital tools to co-design and test out sustainable solutions and alternatives.

As a response to the ongoing pandemic, we have shifted the way in which this activity will be delivered and have already piloted a virtual ‘Design Thinking’ workshop back in April 2020 facilitated by collaborative and sustainable designer Lisa Cole.

The updated ReThink, ReMake, ReCycle series will now combine digital and physical workshop elements through a series of virtual meet ups, instructional videos and webinars, and at-home family friendly activity packs. Participants of all ages will complete household waste audits for our community generated data sets, gain a deeper understanding of the materials we use on a daily basis, and develop ideas and skills through the exploration of new and recycled materials. We’ll introduce tools such as plastic shredders and sheet presses, laser cutters and digital embroidery machines to inspire and push this exploration further, and encourage ongoing sharing and connection across our online platforms.

This activity will contribute to KWMC The Factory’s commitment to developing sustainable practices across our physical and digital spaces, focusing on circular economy principles and encouraging responsible, thoughtful digital design and making approaches. It will also act as a test bed for future exploration of data and digital technologies in the context of community-engaged digital placemaking.

Watch this space for upcoming workshop dates and how to sign up. To register your interest please email or call The Factory on 0117 403 2306.

Rethink, Remake, Recycle is funded by Bristol+Bath Creative R+D part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme managed by the Arts & Humanities Research Council as part of the Industrial Strategy

Bristol +Bath Creative R+D logo

Exploring new ways to build shared spaces

Knowle West residents have been busy during COVID-19 lockdown, learning to use new digital design and construction tools. 

The result is “Block West”, a temporary pavilion that showcases adaptable building systems and people-friendly technology that can help communities collaborate to create the spaces, homes, and places they need. 

Block West is made from a modular building system – called Block Type A – designed by Automated Architecture Labs (AUAR), a research laboratory based at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. Block Type A uses a fixed set of Lego-like lightweight plywood building blocks that can be reconfigured into different designs over time without the need for specialised tools or expertise.

Block West was designed by local residents using a new design app developed by AUAR, following a series of online workshops during lockdown. The parts were manufactured in KWMC The Factory using our CNC (computer numerical controlled) machine, and a crew of local people assembled the blocks into the pavilion in under 10 days in September 2020. 


Block West will be in the grounds of Knowle West Media Centre for one month and is open to the public for booked visits, in line with COVID-19 safety rules.

The pavilion will then be broken down into its constituent blocks and re-assembled into benches, planters, and a stage which will be distributed across the neighbourhood of Knowle West for community use. 


Making Together

The Block West Pavilion is part of the Making Together project, which is a collaboration between AUAR, KWMC and We Can Make Knowle West. Ten Knowle West residents aged 18 to 76 took part in online Making Together workshops over four months between April and July 2020 to learn digital construction skills and experiment with new tech and tools. The workshops were originally planned to be face-to-face but were adapted to be held online because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

By mixing technology, design, construction and community know-how, Making Together aims to support communities to build new skills so they can influence the creation of homes, workspaces and shared spaces in their area. 

Learning from Making Together and the development of Block West is already being applied to We Can Make, which is using Modern Methods of Construction to design homes for micro-sites. Earlier this year, We Can Make submitted plans for the first two homes – designed by architects and families working together. Should planning permission be granted, construction will begin this Autumn.


Melissa Mean, Director of We Can Make Knowle West at Knowle West Media Centre, explains:

“Block West shows what is possible when digital design and fabrication technologies aren’t just controlled by the big developers and instead put into the hands of communities. Empowering communities with the skills and tools to build the homes, spaces and places they need is more important than ever as our hardest-hit communities try to recover from the impact of COVID-19. We can only build better if we build with communities.”  

Mollie Claypool, Co-Director of Automated Architecture Labs (AUAR) adds:

We are breaking down the barriers of privilege, money and power in the housing system by creating opportunities for communities to get hands-on with new forms of architecture and housing. This is a test space for taking a values-centered approach to collaboration with local communities using modular methods of construction and democratising technology so communities are empowered to create the homes they need better and faster.”

John Bennett, Knowle West resident and member of the Block West crew comments:

“It has been amazing to be involved with every stage of this project – from using the design app on Zoom to learning to cut the parts in KWMC The Factory to being onsite making the pavilion. I’ve never done or seen anything like this in my life. I can’t wait to do it again – we could do so much for the community: building homes, workspaces, all sorts… I’m proud to be part of Block West.”

Get Involved

Looking for an outdoor space to have a creative or community meeting? The Block West pavilion is available to book for free for a morning (10-1pm) or afternoon (2-5pm) slot on the following dates:

Thursday 24 September
Thursday 1 October
Thursday 8 October

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Block West is open to the public for booked visits only, with a maximum of six people in the space at any one time. You can book a visit online or by calling KWMC on 0117 903 0444.


Making Together is supported by The Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+) which is funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Construction of Block West was completed by a team of 27 people aged 12 to 76 over 10 days, led by Bartlett Lecturer Mollie Claypool, Bartlett Senior Research Fellow Dr Claire McAndrew and KWMC’s Melissa Mean, with engineering provided by Manja van der Worp and Yoav Caspi of YIP Engineering.

Images by Ibolya Feher
Film by Hatty Bell

Contact Us

Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
+44 (0) 117 903 0444

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