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Environmental Architecture (MA)

Will Gibbs

Will’s research interests are focused on agriculture and food - understanding it as a critical frontline of engagement between humans and their environment. It is a space that continues to become ever more important within the context of the current climatic and ecosystem breakdown. His research aims to engage with the actors who inhabit these conditions. These spaces encompass those working the land itself to the wider labour-relations outside of the field and extend to the many non-human entities who blur the various cosmological distinctions embedded within this current age.

Conceptualised by the machinic as methodology, his work uses film, photography, sound and performance as a means of navigating environmental ruptures. In so doing, these machinic images construct speculative narratives and dream-like imaginaries that become places of conversation to provoke new ideas and understandings of environmental conditions. 

Image of community organisation, Associação Terra Sintrópica. "Cá Dentro Inquietação, Inquietação..." marked on the wall.

o som da terra

Working in collaboration with Isabel Palacios-Macedo Aguilar, the research project is an investigation into the contemporary sound of labour in Alentejo. Predominantly through sound, it works with its texture in order to create speculative places of conversation surrounding labour relations and how sound can offer an alternative insight to these conditions. It is materialised through a live broadcast between Hyde Park and the Royal College of Art, a series of collaborative radio broadcasts with partners in Alentejo and online archive of sound.

The assembly of these sounds positions the work, through its conceptualisation of the machinic, as a collective memory, which can be used as evidence of environmental ruptures constituting the larger metabolic rifts that exist throughout space and time in Alentejo, Portugal. Specifically, the research focuses on the relation between changing labour conditions and between historic and contemporary realities impacted by the intensification of industrial agriculture in the region. 

Three lines of inquiry of greater specificity have been outlined orbiting the concept of polyphony: signal, frequency and interference. These form the series of broadcasts and help us to unpack the labour-relations on and beyond the ‘field’ and demonstrate them as being intimately environmental concerns. What is more, labour’s manifestation through the materiality and physicality of sound allows for an insight into the role of translation and communication of realities and resistances to them as well as a broader understanding of labour in the Alentejan context that extends to the many non-human realities that exist in their own right.

A series of flyers in 3x3 grid each with a radio tower 'emitting' text in 6 different languages.
Launch Project
A Tua VozFlyers and WIP Material. A5 / misc. Paper, tracing paper, pencil, graphite.


We want to listen to your voice and experience on the land. We are looking for audio recordings of personal reflections, the sound of your work, stories, poetry, music, singing... to be broadcast on radio and create a collective sound of labour. If you want to contribute to the radio send your send your audio recordings to Whatsapp: +44 7426 482 170

The sound of workers themselves is central to the project. These flyers are written in 6 different languages reflective of Alentejo's contemporary population with a focus on migrant communities: Hindi, Portuguese, French, Arabic, English and Spanish. The open call was intentionally broad in what it refers to as the sound of labour. It expands its definition beyond the extent of the field and into what can be deemed socially necessary. The flyers have been distributed in collaboration with partners in Alentejo, who are engaged with ongoing labour-relations in the region.


Live signals. Drawing on a methodology developed around the idea of the mechanic image, sonictextures is a work-in-progress broadcast of the many sounds of labour gathered under the project’s umbrella, arranged and machined into an emission for the airwaves. It sets out the project’s overarching ideas, aims and research lines as well as intent for further progression most notably a further dissection of what is meant by labour. How does one engage with this through sound and how might that in turn allow us to redraw certain boundaries and distinctions of who and what is engaged in, exploited by and exploiting labour-conditions in mono-crop agriculture seen through the specific conditions in Alentejo.

This will take the form of a low-powered broadcast, emitted from Hyde Park within range of the RCA Darwin building. Subsequently, it is to be extended and shared with a local radio contact in Beja, Alentejo.

Early stage radio broadcast performance. 9'43"
osomdaterraradioOnline archive interface. Screen recording of website. 00'31"

Collective Memory

The online archive acts as a collective memory of sound and the broadcasts. Not only will it store these radio-spaces, places in which to refer back but also become an environment in which to directly engage with the unrevised sounds of labour themselves whilst continuously being revised itself. 

The sounds - field recordings, testimonies, audio files submitted to the broadcast open call - are categorised according to their speed of sound at the time of recording. This categorisation is inherently environmental in its engagement with ongoing and ever-changing conditions such as geography, temperature and weather events. Just as with sound, so too is the categorisation reflective of the project’s framework; radio. Climatic events, solar conditions and conditions within the upper reaches of the atmosphere all affect levels of interference and thereby encourage one to be aware of the many translations and material changes sound undergoes from emission to reception. 

8 Sonographs of selected field recordings in 4x2 grid, annotations at the bottom.
Comparative SonographsSonographic comparison of 8 field recordings from Alentejo, Portugal. x8 1'00" excerpts

Graphic Sound / Field Recordings

Conceptualised through the polyphonic arrangements seen in Cante Alentejano, a form of music originating from Alentejo, polyphony has become a lens through which the project explores the sound of labour. It engages with a diversity of types of sounds such as testimony, field recordings and the sounds of non-human actors in its attempt to critique the homogenous landscapes of irrigated mono-crop plantations that conversely result in forms of monophonic arrangement.

Below are two recordings of contemporary labour practices. One defiantly manual and complex, the other mechanised and monotone.

Cork HarvestField recording of cork harvest near to Alqueva, Alentejo. May 2023, 5'15"
Pesticide spraying in Super-Intensive Olive PlantationField recording of pesticide spraying near to Pisões, Alentejo. October 2022, 00'51"
Machinic AbundancePerformative lecture, projection, overhead projection 20'58"

Research Methodology

Machinic Abundance is a ‘performative lecture’ exploring the machinic as an experimental methodology of using various media such as film, audio, drawing and writing to investigate environmental ruptures. 

Through film, writing and drawing the work explores the use of language and testimony to generate a dialogue between different voices, both human and non-human, as well as personal interpretations of them in order to assemble a complex of narratives. With this machinic image it is positioned as collective evidence of the metabolic rifts that exist throughout space and time in Alentejo.

The work focuses on the changing water currents of the region that affect and are affected by the soil, social makeup and climate. It delves into the mechanics of production, agricultural labour-relations, plant breeding and ecosystem services and in so doing the distinctions between, environments, resources and infrastructures.