VENICE.- Alison Brooks Architects
have been invited by the Curators 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara to respond to this years theme of Freespace by addressing the subject of housing and urban dwelling.
The Biennale theme Freespace celebrates architectures capacity to find additional and unexpected generosity in each project the spaces, textures and moments of human experience in architecture that can be freely enjoyed. Alison Brooks Architects has created a large-scale, site specific installation that simulates the critical freespaces of their work in housing as four inhabitable totems: Threshold, Inhabited Edge, Passage, and Roofspace. The totems invite exploration, emerging from a unifying plinth to frame an amphitheatre and collective gathering space. Each totem offers a particular spatial, emotional and sensory experience, harnessing the Corderies specific qualities of light and volume. It has been this practices mission to reveal housing architectures civic role and its potential for meaningful, subjective experience. ReCasting also communicates mystery and delight: mirrored surfaces, organic geometries and forced perspective create a series of expansive illusions. Together, the totems, plinth and amphitheatre cast an informal stage for gathering and looking outward.
The Threshold totem is a huge arch representing one of the eighty-seven brick arches defining the practices emerging high density urban block in Londons Kings Cross. These distinctive Bezier-curve arches will act as structure, destination, shelter and landscape frame. In ReCasting, an arch has been dematerialised so that it radiates light between thin sheets of plywood. Within its cross-vault, parallel mirrors create the illusion of an infinite colonnade. Resting on the raised plinth the arch creates a framed vantage point for exhibition-goers.
The Inhabited Edge totem explores the potential to enrich the experience of housing architecture with occupiable places between interior and exterior - critical spaces that mediate between the public realm and domestic life. Alison Brooks Architects often work with undulating plan geometries and folded surfaces to form these spaces between. This totem recasts the angled facades of the practices Brass Building at Accordia, Cambridge to communicate its multiple spatial and light effects. Perpendicular mirrors multiply these effects to present visitors with a kaleidoscopic illusion of the buildings complete form.
Every corridor has the potential to offer an experientially rich journey; this is the concept of Passage. This totem references the practices Exeter College Cohen Quad at Oxford University, where arched, glazed cloisters form transform corridors into memorable places. The cloisters are part of a wider spatial choreography; a narrative route that connects the Colleges public rooms, teaching and study/living spaces with their surrounding urban landscape. The Cohen Quads passages are recast in this exhibit as a vertical totem. A series of arches simulate the convex elliptical space of the Quads South Cloister, bathed in natural light from a window in the Corderie.
The Roofspace totem explores the spatial and expressive potential of roof forms in urban housing. Alison Brooks Architects work with a language of faceted geometries to make adaptable, light-filled roof spaces and distinctive roofscapes. This totem recasts a roofspace as a space of retreat. A small windowseat carved into the space of a flared dormer is washed with zenithal light. Subtly angled mirrors reflect the simulated roofspace into an infinite curve, echoing the three crescent buildings the practice has designed at Bath Western Riverside.
All housing architecture forms a stage for the complex project that is collective urban life. ReCastings four totems and small amphitheatre collectively frame an open gathering space. This arrangement echoes the massing and unifying plinth of Alison Brooks Architects high density urban housing in Londons Greenwich Peninsula. Conceived as four elements carved from single block, this projects tapered forms, informal plan geometries and loggias frame interlocking social and landscape spaces. ReCasting reflects this organic approach to urban design and places of dwelling; a choreography of form, experience and landscape in support of civic life.
ReCasting is on public display in the Corderie, Arsenale at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale until 25 November 2018.