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.

Period Interiors Research

As I haven't been able to enter the inside of No. 2 Elder street I visited to the Geffrye Museum to get a better understanding of the interiors of Georgian and Victorian buildings. The museum actually exhibits rooms from these periods so I really got an experience of what it would have been like to be in these spaces when they were built.

A London house in 1695:

This drawing shows a typical London townhouse for the 'middling sort' (the members of the middle classes of the time). At this level of society the head of the household might have run a small business or been a merchant. It was likely that the ground floor of the house would have been used for commercial purposes while he and the family lived upstairs. The main living room (the parlour or dining room)was on the first floor at the front of the house with views onto the street. The upper floors were divided into chambers which were used for sleeping but also had a social function.

A london house in 1880:

This shows a typical house for a middle class family. By now the home was a more private space for family life so the head of the household would have worked away from home. The main reception rooms were the drawing room or dining room now on the ground floor. Larger houses now had additional rooms on the ground floor which included a morning room (a sitting room for the daylight hours), a study or a conservatory.

A parlour in 1695:

This room represents the parlour on the first floor of a townhouse with the windows overlooking the street. Houses built for the middle classes after 1666 had a parlour or dining room or both, rather than a hall as their main living space. They were more private spaces where the family gathered, received guests and ate. This way of living meant there was an increased seperation between the family and their servants. The trend was for walls and floors to be left bare but made of good quality wood or panelling.

A parlour in 1790:

The use of the parlour remained mostly the same for the next century, but the way it was decorated and furnished changed considerably. They became more bright and stylish with lighter colours and more delicate decoration. Wallpapered walls replaced heavily moulded panelling. I think N0.2 Elder street was designed in the style of the house in the building above. Although it is a less refined version and more likely to be closer to 1850 in age than 1790 the basic design style is similar. Behind the timber boarding the design of the door and windows is in keeping with the 1790 house.

A drawing room in 1830:

By this time the style was to have windows extended so they touched the floor, with elaborate curtains and ornamental balconies. Light inside your house was a commodity, it expressed how well off the owners were. The drawing room was a multi-purpose space where female members of the family in particular may spend their time reading, painting or playing music. There was generally a large table and other small pieces of furniature were flexible and could be moved around. By this time colour schemes were more unified and matching fabrics were used to decorate.

A drawing room in 1870:

This room represents a ground floor drawing room in one of Londons expanding suburbs of the time. It would be used by the lady of the house who received visitors here. As a room for guests it would be carefully furnished with an eye for current fashion. Different patterns and styles were used for walls, floors and curtains to give a 'busy' effect. Commercially made furnishings went alongside home-made items in crochet or needlework. Electricity in the home was becoming more common so decorative lighting was being used also.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Rirkrit Tiravanija and Parenthesis

Rirkrit Tiravanija has created several full-scale architectural representations, which act as a tool to generate the social interaction of the viewers. With his 1996 work ‘untitled (tomorrow is another day)’ , Tiravanija created a full-scale structural replica of his New York apartment.


The aim was to make the ‘apartment’ fully accessible to anyone, at all times of the day for three months, to use however they wanted. Tiravanija says his work was ‘about use, and through this use meaning is constructed.’ It is also comments that rarely are buildings meant for public use - accessible for everyone at any time.


As an artist he is ‘interested in the people and how they came and went, how they may have had different views and memories of what they had passed through’. Through his work he is asking people to engage with architecture as a social space in a new way, as a construction to specifically create memories and character. It could also be argued that we do this anyway in our own homes everyday.

Tiravanija often uses ‘parenthesis’ in the titling of his work, suggesting that he ‘wants to direct our attention to the subtext, or the subtitle, of how we can direct our thoughts and ideas toward the experience we are having with his works'.

Co-relation between my theoretical research and my practice

In practice I want to create a building which demonstrates an interactive use inspired by the methodology of Tiravanija. I could design a space whose use is interactive, taking real people and their activities and exhibiting them in some form. I want to see if Tiravanija’s interest in ‘parenthesis’ could be transposed onto a building or combination of buildings.


My site is ideal for this it is being used by a community of people with the intention of making it public and accessible through their idea of the 'free shop'.

So I end on several questions: Can a building have a subtext? Can it have an implicit use or identity to coincide with an explicit one? Could this concept of ‘parenthesis’ be physically represented or designed as well as interpreted in its use by the public?

A little bit of history

I wanted to investigate the history of Spitalfields and the area around my site so I visited the Tower Hamlets library to try and find out more. The building just so happened to be another great example of late Georgian architecture.


I trawled through their photo records and found some old photographs of Elder street and Commercial street from 1989. You can see from this image that No.2 Elder street was even derelict and empty twenty years ago. I'd love to try and find out when it ended its useful life.


You can see from the photograph of Commercial street too that No.161 is still essentially the same. The ony recent addition being the large advertising board on the rear of the building and some anti capitalist paintwork.

I really like the idea of the alley way between No.2 and No.161 being a used space in my project and possibly a very important one. I managed to find a picture of another alleyway arch fom no.101 Commercial street from 1953.

It shows that these were active places to transport goods in and out of the warehouses around the back of the shops. It's such a shame that I can't really access the alleyway on my site to get a sense of what it feels like inside. You can see from the two pictures above that the styles of the arches are very similar and i'm sure that they would have been for the same purpose.

With the aid of some guerilla climbing work I managed to get some photographs and a film of the alleyway to get an understanding of what the space is like.

The alleyway has obviously been left unused for years. You can see that at some point it also had a covering but the brickwork of the bracketing buildings suggests this was only a later addition. The space could definitely provide a very interesting link between the neighbouring buildings. It could be a space to be left open for public use, it could house a spatial intervention or an architectural form could be added to enhance it.