The word Podunk is defined in Wikipedia as
a kadigan, which is a placeholder name and of itself represents
any number of different places. In the USA, the word Podunk
particularly represents a stereotypical back-blocks town in
the middle of nowhere; a small, remote and unimportant place.
Having previously worked with the shipping
container as an international transient architecture for the
C.O.T.I.S. (Cult Of The Inserter Seat) project, KIT
were invited to undertake a new project in Manchester. The
‘Digital Summer’ festival is a yearly event which
commissions off-site projects for contemporary artists living
in Manchester. In 1998, a major theme of KIT projects –
transient architectures – was being realised through
the structure and proposed ideology of the shipping container.
It is an international unit of space which retains the same
proportions all over the world due to shipping and loading
In front of the gothic architecture of the
Manchester City Council building in England, lies Albert Square.
An open space traversed by many of Manchester’s inhabitants,
it offers a good location for an off-site project with the
promise that thousands or people will see the project every
day. After debating with the City Council, the project is
given the green light and another off-site project begins.
Off-site projects have always been important for KIT to realise
as they force the collaborative to rethink the relationships
between artistic practice / production and the space that
it is realised for, and perceived in by others. Viewing artworks
outside of galleries is thus seen as an essential strategy
to keep the process of undertaking projects at all, a reflexive
4 shipping containers are rented for a 2-week
period and are delivered to the square. Each container is
painted white, with navy blue borders and the word ‘Podunk’
painted onto the side of each one. Inside each container a
different environment will be constructed which will allow
passers-by to come into the portable spaces and explore the
possibilities of transient city dwelling. The references to
Archigram’s ‘Plug-In City’ cannot be ignored
here and it’s of credit to them that they foretold so
accurately the increased movements of city’s inhabitants
in the capitalist age of what David Harvey calls ‘flexible
accumulation’. Not only movement from city to city,
but movement from country to country offers urban identities
an ever changing structure.
Podunk offers small, remote spaces
that are the same everywhere, in the shape of the shipping
container. Ultimately functional, the four units offer responses
to contemporary urban dwelling and movement. What follows
is a short description of the interior of each mobile structure:-
Container 1: Utopian digital landscapes are
printed onto canvas and wrapped around the interior of the
space to offer a respite from concrete and glass.
Container 2: Furnished with speakers and
nothing else. Audio landscapes are produced for this space
which can be experienced only by entering the container.
Container 3: Fully upholstered in Denim,
this space is proposed as a living space and Includes storage
space, shelving and lighting for a convenient, comfy and simple
Conatiner 4: An office space completely covered
in white flocked wallpaper houses a table, chairs and a computer
information point where interested parties can make enquiries.
Shelves full of Souvenirs are made available here, including
T-shirts, keychains, pens, mousepads and postcards.
Podunk exhibits at the
following site –
1998 Albert Square / Digital Summer Festival