This transparent and diaphanous installation attempts to make manifest the intangible allure of [Albion] an ephemeral concept that draws people from all around the world to our shores ever year. Some come of their own accord. Others are compelled to make the journey by those who wield power over them.
All these individuals are moving towards the same geographical signifier, drawn like moths to a flame, they quickly discover that their guiding light is nothing more than a false shepherd and are ensnared in its burning embrace.
Like the Grecian sirens who lured ancient sailors to their doom and the flickering marsh lights that drew pilgrims from the safety of the well-trodden road, this sculptural piece exists as an ephemeral and transient marker in the landscape. A beacon to draw the citizens of this city from the safety of their established positions and out into the darkness of Walthamstow marshes to engage in a discourse about the unseen elements of our society and the forces at work on us all.
The Hyperuranion is the mythic cradle of life for a host of new artificial beings born of the deregulated genetic engineering industry and disputed political landscape of Northern Cyprus. Often cited as the last taboo in science, the growth of a genetically synthesised entity is an act almost within our grasp, an act of creation that erases the line between gods and man.
This project seeks to explore a potential future of corporate sponsored artificial life and the ideologically driven architectures that would shape perception of this ethically questionable industry through the elevation of scientific acts to a quasi-religious state.
Inspired by the ritualistic spaces of both the factory and the cathedral, the building evolves along a defined hierarchical narrative all watched over by the Holy Lady Reagan.
A devotional icon appropriated by the corporate creators to act as both surrogate mother and legitimising deity for their endeavour, an aesthetic tool to inspire un-paralleled loyalty from both their creations and the adoring public below.
Acqua Alta imagines a radical reordering and reconstruction of the political and infrastructural systems of the city of Genoa in order to save the city from the dual threat of highly destructive seasonal flooding and civic decline at the hands of ineffectual bureaucrats.
The project proposes the transformation of an existing fascist era piazza into a sunken water garden and storm water retention chasm, an ornamental landscape which has at its head a new city hall and river authority building housing the Ingerneri Acqua, a new council of technocrats dedicated to the city’s salvation.
“La Superba once more”
A House for Lovers
The House for Lovers is a theoretical dwelling conceived for a remote site on the Italian island of Capri.
Designed for two souls, the house draws inspiration from both the nearby ruins of the Villa Jovis and the rural retreat of the emperor Hadrian in the cypress scented hills above Rome.
The house, which began to emerge on a transatlantic crossing in the summer of 2016 remains unfinished.
The author does not anticipate that it will be completed in the near future.
Who influences you graphically?
The drawn works of Paulo Zermani, Mario Botta, Franco Purini and Ricardo Bofill feature heavily in my architectural library alongside some beautiful books of Expressionist architectural drawings by the likes of Dominikus Böhm and Hans Polezig.
What is your take on the classical orthogonal projections, what defines the exploration of the various projects mainly through these?
I find orthographic drawing an incredibly seductive way of describing architectural space. After spending most of my childhood visiting various archaeological sites both at home in Wales and around the Mediterranean I became really fascinated by ruins and particularly the drawings of these places that always seemed to be present on sun-faded display boards wherever I went. These were I suppose the first architectural drawings I ever encountered, and I have been returning to them ever since. By representing my architecture in this fashion, I feel like I add a certain legitimacy to them allowing unconventional spaces to be easily read and understood as part of the accepted architectural canon. My goal is I suppose that they appear as real as possible without becoming actual built objects, which would in many ways destroy the actual architectural potential of the drawings. For me, drawings like these have the potential to blur the line between the imagined and the real, the built and the unbuilt.
Acqua Alta, Palazzo dell’Acqua Plan
What is your take on colour, what is the effect and purpose of a continuous monochromatic palette?
Colour is a complex issue for me. Since I began to work solely in this reduced and strict form of representation I have worried about the possible disconnect between my drawings and the potential buildings they describe. For example, The Hyperuranion was to be constructed of a highly polished brass alloy, a building as gaudy as the ancient reliquary’s and devotional objects that were its inspiration. Similarly, The House for Lovers was always in my imagination a combination of pastel pinks and vibrant blues. There is still I think something very radical about using colour in an architectural drawing, something very personal about it and I suppose that by eliminating the colour all that remains is the architecture. I feel like I am ready to confront colour soon, perhaps my next drawings will venture into this uncharted territory.
House for Lovers
What is your work process in terms of concept development and production of images, to what extent are these part of the process rather than purely final architectural outcome?
I think that for me my drawings are an integral part of my architecture. The spaces and structures that I am creating when I draw are as much formed by the desired graphical appearance of the drawing as they are by my spatial and architectural intentions. This is always supported by a significant period of research where I collect what feels like endless images and references sometimes from very un-architectural sources that eventually get woven, along with everything else in my life into the final design in some form or another. For example, The House for Lovers was as much formed by JG Ballard’s descriptions of the pleasure palaces of Vermillion Sands, the architecture of Hadrian’s villa and the characters Dante’s Inferno as it was by my own life and my desire to design my first domestic space.
Looking back, do you see a common thread within your architectural projects developed at University? To what extent and how have these shaped you into the architect you are today?
When I was studying for my BA a lot of the work I was developing was very idealistic. My proposals were always an attempt to solve one crisis or another usually environmental in nature. During my masters I began to get interested in ornament and began to develop projects that were more overtly political examining the legitimising role that architecture plays in society and searching in-between the lines for my own particular architecture. My interest in the political ramifications of architecture has certainly shaped how I work as a professional but the place that I think my interests are most visible is in the direction of that the studio I co-lead at the University of Westminster.
Acqua Alta_Council Chamber Floor
To what extent is the way through which we represent a project a means to legitimise it?
All architecture is political and by association so are the ways in which we communicate it. By using a visual language that is as much about power and privilege as it is about architectural representation, it becomes possible to gain a sort of “passing privilege” which enables even the most radical and politically charged proposals to escape censure and ridicule. This subversion from within, deploying the serious and respected tools of architectural representation to describe projects that challenge the existing social, sexual and political hegemonies that exist is part of my wider interest in “queering” architecture and finding ways to challenge the notion that architecture is the preserve of straight-white men.
What prompted you to explore the relationship between film and architecture at the DS301 at Westminster?
The studio brief evolved out of a desire to oppose the spread of architecture that is driven purely by technical, environmental and functional performance and trying to get the students to think about developing an architecture that favours spatial pleasure and visual delight. We saw film as a way of exposing the students to phenomenal, extraordinary spaces that had been conjured from the minds of directors completely unbound by ideas of technical performance and commercial value and by engaging in a dialogue with film a wide variety of film we were able to have discussions about what it means to choreograph space and explore the possibility of elevating the everyday to the extraordinary.
How do you as an architect perceive the medium of the moving image? To what extent do you relate to Schoning’s view of the ‘The production of images by cinema is the epitome of the physical construction of space by architecture’?
Although I don’t think I would never want to make films myself I am completely seduced by the power of the moving image. As an architect I think films can make you feel a little inadequate and perhaps a little jealous too. When I develop my designs I usually begin with a story, a narrative or a scenario and then flesh out the architecture around the imaginary inhabitants as they traverse through space. Inevitably these narratives develop into larger themes that then run though several projects until a new direction emerges. Spatial and experiential obsessions that leave little traces in every drawing. So in answer to the second part of this question, I wholeheartedly agree with Schoning’s stance on the interconnectedness of architecture and film. Whether we are aware of it or not, architects are always engaging in the same directorial actions and choreography as a film-maker. The only difference being that what we see when we watch a film is a record of process, and what we see in a piece of architecture is a conclusion.
What role does the film director play in the choreography and programming of space? Can we call him an ‘architect’?
As I said I think that the mental processes of a director and an architect are not dissimilar. However I would say that for me the roles diverge in terms of the the relationship to choreography and programming. A director creates landscapes that are in themselves events and exist but for a fleeting moment to serve a highly specific purpose whereas architects are tasked with creating landscapes upon which events may happen. There is an essential difference in potential energy, the landscape wrought by the director is carefully choreographed to engineer a very particular scenario while the architect must create something that accommodates the entirety of life from the most banal of encounters to the most extraordinary.
What is your take on the relationship between architecture and film through elements as the stripe window and the architectural promenade in Villa Savoye?
I think that the sensational vertical promenade of the Villa Savoye and the constant relationship of the individual within and the world without is as much about the long shadow of Renaissance and Baroque ideas of total composition, where elements wrought by human hand and by nature unite in perfection to from something sublime, as it is about architecture and film. I think in many ways architects (myself included) are seduced by film because if offers the possibility of directing the eye in a way that is impossible to do outside of such an intensely controlled medium. While we might spend hours arranging vistas and moments of spatial revelation within our architecture ultimately we have no control over the final experiential outcome. However there is some perhaps some solace to be found in the possibility that, in the distant future two lovers might find shelter amongst the ruins of your architecture and discover one night that the full moon is framed perfectly by an opening drawn by your hand a century before.
Thomas Grove is a part II architect currently working for a small practice in Soho, London. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Westminster where he is co-leader of undergraduate design studio DS3(01). His work so far has focused on contemporary ornamentation and the social/political ramifications of architecture and architectural practice. More broadly Thomas is fascinated by the act of drawing and the possibility of re-visiting traditional modes of architectural representation. Speculative architectural works include; a corporate cathedral for a cult devoted to former first lady Nancy Reagan, an observatory for solar radiation, a cut glass tower for the financial services industry and a water garden for a cabal of Italian hydrological engineers.