Sunday, 4 July 2010

Roy McMakin proves once again how permeable the boundaries between art and design really are. McMakin, whose use of found furniture in his art installations led him to become a designer of furniture, interiors, and ultimately, houses, never lost interest in making art, and the pieces shown here demonstrate the futility of labeling them definitively as one or the other. An old chest of drawers is shown with two of McMakin’s interpretations of it: both have the same front as the old one, but these fronts are fake; the back view reveals one to be a bookcase and the other a cupboard that previously held the artist’s dishes. But perhaps the most captivating pieces in the show, which also includes the artist’s photographs, are those in which a found piece of furniture (generally old, with a dark wood finish) delicately collides with a new version by McMakin (spare-lined and painted white), like a pair of mismatched Siamese twins.

Roy McMakin. “My Slatback Chair With Another One,” 2008. Maple with oil enamel paint, found chair

Roy McMakin. “A New Table With a Skinny Table With a Carved Top,” 2008. Maple with oil enamel paint, found table.

Furniture architecture

Martino Gamper

Martino Gamper focuses on creating situations that include materials, techniques, individuals and spaces, and which favour meetings and discussion. His interest in the psychosocial aspects of furniture is translated especially by a love of corners and un-wanted objects that he uses to create a disparate family of objects, site-specific installations and special events.

Martino Gamper, Gallery Furniture, 2007, Installation view Centre d'Art Contemporain Geneva, © 2007 Francis Ware

Friday, 12 March 2010

Furniture exchange concept

I have been collecting old chairs that have been abandoned on the London streets with a view to regenerating them. These could be a practice run for my proposed furniature exchange in No.161 Commercial street.

Rather than them being taken to a dump, people could bring along old or unwanted furniture to the exchange and leave with something newly restored and more to their taste. Hopefully this would contribute in a small way more respect for old objects and would be a sustainable recycling process at the same time.

Pop up shop research: Parlour

I visited Parlour this week, a pop up shop recently brought to life on Clerkenwell Road, 20 minutes from my site.

"Using the site of an historic Clerkenwell shop transformed into an eclectic parlour,friends and family can gather to engage, think, express, play games, and – most importantly – relax and enjoy a unique old-world experience.

The idea behind the Parlour is to switch off your mobile phone and return to the roots of what a parlour was used for: a lovely living space where one could receive visitors in the most polite way possible. The Parlour pop up will be a place to write letters, engage in good conversation, play games like cards, drink punch and enjoy music. It’s about simple pleasures.

The wistful pop up hopes to take guests away from the fast-paced,intense, digital world we live in, inviting them to interact and engage with each other in a charming setting."

Parlour had many similarities with my scheme. It was supported by the borough of Camden as part of an initiative to keep unused spaces vacant in the borough. The furniture in Parlour was donated by a community support scheme and was all for sale with the proceeds going to the charity. The theme was also very relevent to the period of 19th century architecture that is on my site and related to the research I had undertaken in an earlier blog entry on the Geoffrye Museum.

Proposed building programme

I have decided on a draft project proposal for my site. It consists of three components defined by the existing three spaces: No.2 Elder street, No.161 Commercial Street and the Alleyway in between the two.

The driving concept of the scheme is to re-activate the spaces.

The previous uses of the spaces would directly relate to their newly proposed uses.

No.2 Elder Street

The building will be kept as is (as long as it structurally sound) and serve as a fusion of a sculpture and an historical record of the buildings in the East end that are slowly being lost in the regeneration of Shoreditch. It will serve as a record of the everyday from a time past that will slowly degrade over time. This is simply what it has been doing in recent years anyway.

Rachel Whiteread, House sketches

Gordon Matta Clark, Splitting

The Alleyway

The Alleyway will be re-opened and made publicly accessible as its original design intended. It will serve as access to the rear of No2 and will have its own building programme also. This is yet to be decided but will incorporate a way of viewing and accessing No.2 from the outside, and also serve as a public usable space with a new link to No.161.

No.161 Commercial Street

The new use of No.161 also comes from its previous incarnations - originally as a shop and recently as a communal space and 'Free Shop' used by the squatters. It will be a place of exchange and interaction still and be focused on drawing people in from the local community.

One option would be to create a furniture exchange within the space inspired by Shoreditch's former furniture production industry. It would be a place where old things could be donated, restored and exchanged giving them new life. This could also be a place to train locals in furniture restoration to ensure this skill doesn't just diminish like the No.2 building has.

Another option may be to install a 'pop-up' shop within the building. At the present time the building is being kept empty by the owners. Pop up shops require no building rates charges as they are only temporary and create interesting additions to empty buildings. They draw people into an otherwise unused space or area and give it new life.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Examining the site - The camera arm probe

As I had been repeatedly unsuccessful at gaining access to my site I decided to build a contraption that would allow me to record the interior of No. 2 Elder street. As I had no way of getting into the site on ground level, I decided to design a camera arm that would allow me to penetrate the site and record the viewing experience.

The result was a 6.5m camera arm made simply from a small tripod with camera, some timber, gaffer tape, string and nails.

The arm's length came from three 2.5 metre timber batons nailed and strapped together with gaffer tape to be as light as possible. We wanted joints that were both very strong and an efficient use of material.

Above is a film I made on my phone of the camera arm being lifted and positioned through the left window of No.2 Elder Street.

It proved very successful and was able to enter the obstructed spaces and be manoeuvred through them. This gave me a new understanding of the transition between the elevation of the building and the unknown aspects of the interior space. It also showed viewpoints into the spaces that I had not encountered before.

The films from the camera arm probe:

Examining the building 01

This film shows our first attempt at recording the interior of No.2. It's taken through the left hand window on the first floor and viewing down into the derelict building. It shows that all the floors have collapsed just leving the building as a shell.

Examining the building 02

Taken through the right hand window it shows a 360 degree rotation of the camera with a view back out of the building to Elder street. It then moves to a film the alleyway between No.2 and No. 161.

The film also briefly captures a view of the front door and window of the ground floor of No.2 which I had seen before from a different angle in a previous video:
Revealing the obscured 02

Examining the building 03

Starting with a shot showing the full length of the alleyway from a first floor level, the film then moves along and into the right hand window of No.2. We can then see an almost eye level view of the first floor front room and a view into the backroom. There also seems to be a bricked up window that overlooked the alleyway from No.2.

Examining the building 05

My last video shows footage taken when the camera arm is fully extended vertically and moves horizontally towards the end of Elder Street from No.6 to No.4 to No.2 to the Alleyway. It then zooms in and moves back towards No.2 and has a short capturing a layered view showing the street elevation, through into the front room, into the back room and out a rear window into the space behind the building.


Retrieving this primary research was invaluable. The inside of the building is mainly intact and there are even shelves and mirrors still attached to the walls. The space is almost like a museum piece showing the decay of its life. I see connections to Dennis Severs' House and the Soane museum (both mentioned in earlier blog entries) even more than before. It is a time-capsule-like space.

I want to keep this space as it is and make it a voyeuristic experience to be sensitively viewed by the public. There is something I really like about only being able to view the building from the outside. It could almost become a house sized 'cabinet of curiosity'.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The site changes - the Free shop squatters are evicted.

Last week the squatters from london free school who were living in No.161 Commercial street were evicted. Wooden boarding has been erected over the front of the alleyway to prevent anyone accessing the site. It is now even more secure than before! The workers have also put temporary rooves on some of the small buildings near the railway line for further protection.

Everything the squatters had brought in for their free shop has been completely removed and only an empty shell remains. The only signs that they were ever there are their slogans painted on the walls.

I don't know yet if this means anything may be being built on the site but it may be a possibility. Maybe by the end of my Ma there will be nothing left of the building!...

The wooden boarding looks permanent which means the covered roller shutter and graffiti is just a memory and may not be seen again.

It also may mean that my project has become an in depth record of a forgotten building.

You can see below before and after images of the back passageway between No.161 and the railway lines:

Taken on the 10/12/2009

Taken on the 15/2/2010

Memories - Buildings and Spaces

From looking at the work of Rachel Whiteread and Simon Head I wanted to start a photographic essay to record spaces or buildings that display memories - or more precisely showing an impression or history of their identity, use or lifespan.

Rachel Whiteread, House 1993

Simon Head, Waiting 2009

Simon Head, Patient airing shelters series 2008

Beginning with the photo I obtained from the alleyway on my site I began recording instances where I thought I could see the memories of spaces around London that had been and gone...

Obviously this is just a start and some of the images convey my view of building memory better than others but I want to continue this exploration. It would be made better if I focussed only on instances near my building where I noticed remains of buildings or spaces. It also would relate to the mapping of the forgotten corners I undertook in the first term.

New site photos

As I have stated before the only image I had been able to obtain of the interior spaces of my site is the one below. It shows the alleyway between No.2 Elder street and No.161 Commercial street. You can see the unused warehouse at the rear (marked number 8 in the building plan diagram further below) and a suggestion of spaces behind No.2 (on the left of the picture)but little else.

Finally after a fair amount of blagging I was able to access No. 4 Elder street to try and take some photos of the rear of my site. As you can see in the diagram below I had originally thought the space (marked number 7.) was a warehouse and couldn't tell what it was used for as the space was cordoned off on all sides. The spaces I have marked in red are all divisions within the space I couldn't see before. There is a glazed and roof lit area extending from No. 4 and three empty and uncovered areas behind No.2 that adjoin the alleyway between No. 2 and No.161 Commercial street.

Taken from the second floor of No. 4 Elder street

Taken from the first floor of No. 4 Elder street

You can see on the left of the pictures the glazed ground floor extension to No.4 Elder street. In the middle are the three small open spaces extending from the rear of No. 2 and on the right is the rear half of the alleyway adjoining No.161. I really need to continue finding ways of accessing the site to take photographs as a way of recording the site.