Author : Dominic Dickens

University : University of Greenwich

Status : MArch, RIBA II, 2015

Advisors : Max Dewdney, James A. Craig

Title : Dead Drop City

“Dead Drop City is society of Crypto Anarchists focusing on political and technological resistance based in East Greenwich. Embedded into the urban landscape of the city, the community hides itself behind an area of existing urban fabric, to retain its anonymity. Proposed in the near future and supported by a consortium of online piracy moguls it functions through both an autonomous society in the city and within the technological realm, producing and installing private technology in which they can operate independently of any government censorship or surveillance. The project is inspired by themes of isolation and discovery taken from Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’. The Crypto-anarchists aims are to protect against surveillance, evade censorship and to participate in counter economics. Technical infrastructure is produced in the advanced workshops and sold on the hidden markets of TOR as well as the physical and more traditional crafts of bookmaking and small scale production of objects such as bricks, and banners. Anarchist goods and propaganda are manufactured on site and distributed to the rest of the city. The ideas of Dead Drop City are a contemporary comment on our individual digital footprints and how we could live outside of the realm of surveillance.”

Dead Drop City is a society of digital and political resistance based in East Greenwich. It proposes an alternative reality of a society that aims to exist in a world against digital tracking or spying. The  project has been developed during my Masters of Architecture at University of Greenwich and explores ways in which we could live without intrusion of privacy within the digital world.

The idea is based around the crypto-anarchists, a cyber spacial anarchic group of individuals that set out to evade detection and harassment in the digital world, while sending and receiving data through computer networks in an effort to protect their privacy and political freedom. The project is similarly inspired by ideas of discovery and exploration from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe which REenforced the idea of a solitary island.

The secretive society live and work on their purpose built site in East Greenwich, manufacturing a range of goods through a series of cottage industries. The products manufactured range from the Dead Drop City Manifesto in the printing press, radical crypto-anarchist propaganda and and ‘digital bricks’ the building blocks for a new city which contain data information storage on which the Dead Drop City Manifesto is loaded and can be accessed by passers by. Raw materials are mined on site to allow the city to operate and produce these goods independently.

A Series of homages to important figures in this field exist throughout the city. Edward Snowden is particularly revered and a movement exists to him and other symbols and references exist throughout the site such as Stone onions (a reference to TOR).

The name of the project is a combination of a reference to the counter culture artists community from in 60’s America called ‘Drop City’ and ‘Dead Drops’ the method of digital espionage communication where files can be dropped anonymously in a public place.

The project is explored through a series of exploitative drawings, test models and 1:1 prototypes. The project culminated in a large final drawing measuring 3m X 1.7m showing the whole project in one detailed axonometric drawing, supported by a series of postcards moments explaining each individual story in Dead Drop City.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Dominic Dickens_ The contemporary relationships between the imaginary narrative of the project and the real issues of digital espionage and civilian spying that currently exist in modern society. The project is quite unusual in the way it physically represents a group of people living their lives and basing themselves around surviving within the digital realm.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
DD_ When I get time sustained periods away from architecture I like to travel, and when i’m at home I like to watch sport and look at art.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
DD_ You can never underestimate the importance of presentation details. From choosing the right paper to right pins, it can make a big difference between a good crit and a bad one.
Don’t be scared to just go for it and start design things, even if you cant see the relevance or reason for it, it may well turn into something really valuable later on in the project.

S//A : Describe your dream project
DD_ One day i’ll design my own house, and hopefully build it too!