“In the pitch black, we tiptoed through the galleries, bearing torches like art thieves…”
The Weekender: A less than grand national
The open studio weekender kicked off on Saturday with a group of visitors crowded behind one of our large MacBook screens. With varying degrees of interest, each of us cheered on the aberrant-backed horse, an outside tip to win the Grand National…until it lost.
The tip turned out to be a fugazi, so we spent the whole of Sunday repenting the sins of the previous day and swearing to give horse racing a miss until next year.
Monday: Two aberrant apprentices
Putting the mixed results of the weekend behind us, we launched into our work-in-progress presentation to the joint management board of the V&A and RIBA architecture partnership. The presentation involved a trip to the V&A boardroom – akin to Sir Alan’s lair in The Apprentice – where we faced the RIBA chief executive, Harry Rich, and the V&A’s own knight of the realm, Sir Mark Jones, the head honcho of the entire museum.
Armed with the knowledge that we were unlikely to get fired, we ran through what we have achieved in the studio thus far and we set out what we are going to be doing for the rest of the residency.
Tuesday: The E&C has arisen
On Tuesday we started to translate the original plans for the Elephant & Castle into cad. Using the drawings we unearthed from the RIBA collection, the plan is to turn the 2-D plans for this 19th century boozer (R.I.P.) into a diorama/stage-set.
The diorama will represent the architectural space within the public house and exhibit the individual stories of how people actually lived and worked within that space.
To this end, we are working with the writer Falcon B Mews and the illustrator Rosalind Richards to script and visualise the stories that will bring the scale model to life. At the end of this process, we hope the collaboration will further our own understanding of the area as well as engage the public in our research.
Wednesday: Invading art space
To our surprise, the aforementioned Sir Mark Jones decided to pay us an unheralded visit on Wednesday morning. Absent any information to the contrary, we will take that as sign that he liked our presentation at the beginning of the week, so we continued to titillate his architectural tastes with a guided tour around our studio, explaining what we are up to in a bit more detail.
And in more mid-week good news, we found out that aberrant has been shortlisted for a mobile art space competition. Our ArtBook design proposes to bring contemporary art happenings to remote communities in Kent, reconnecting residents of far-flung hamlets through an appreciation for art and creative design.
There are three other proposals on the shortlist and the competition organisers are inviting public feedback on each of the proposals prior to announcing the winners. Therefore, if anyone is so inclined, positive (and negative) comments on the aberrant ArtBook proposal are welcomed by the 22 April, so get writing, pretty please.
Thursday: Abraham, the Great Triffid and Ancient Rome
They do say that when it rains it pores, and on Thursday we saw Abraham Thomas visit us in the studio. Abraham is the V&A curator of the upcoming architecture exhibition ‘1:1 – architects build spaces’, and he came to the studio to view our ‘Great Triffid’ proposal – a re-imagining of the V&A museum’s grand staircase as a vertical village for creative flexible workers.
The grand staircase – located in a disused atrium next to our residency studio – leads to empty studio space hidden inside the Henry Cole building. Because of health & safety concerns about the height of the balustrades, the atrium and the staircase are currently restricted to staff use only.
Our Great Triffid project proposes to open up the empty rooms as studios for creative practitioners. Amongst other initiatives, the Great Triffid’s ‘flower-pods’ provide meeting points for creative collaborations and the giant organism’s electronically charged branch whips around the top of the balustrade like an extra banister, providing the resident creative professionals with USB plug-in points and power sockets to enable them to work flexibly on the grand staircase.
We talked to Abraham about the possibility of the V&A accepting the Great Triffid project into their collection and we discussed a few ideas for the upcoming architecture event, Friday Late: Escape. The late evening event at the end of June has been organised in collaboration with the Architecture Foundation as an afterhours’ exploration of the 1:1 exhibition.
After chatting about Friday Late and the Great Triffid, it made sense for us to accompany Abraham on an impromptu expedition to find a panorama of ancient Rome…obviously.
Like the grand staircase in the Henry Cole Building, the panorama of Rome is not currently on display to the public (there’s your link!) and to find the Roman vista we had to venture into the closed off parts of the museum’s galleries.
In the pitch black, we tiptoed through the galleries, bearing torches like art thieves and holding our hands out in front of faces to avoid bumping into the old frames, paintings and the other priceless artefacts hiding in the shadows…and when we found the panorama, we immediately notified aberrant’s Twitter followers of our success: the new and old worlds seamlessly combined.
Friday: And On The Seventh Day…
Unlike Craig David who got to rest and/or chill on the last of his infamously hectic seven days, we had the pleasure of welcoming our London Met students back from their Easter holidays and making sure that they are ready for their crit next week.