Monday, 4 March 2013

Heligoland and Absence

Today was spent reading Peter Zumthor’s "Thinking Architecture" and John Pawson's "Themes and Projects" to help my design thesis exploration of concepts. I have always had huge admiration for Zumthor and after reading Thinking Architecture this respect has been strengthened. The clear language used to explain his personal complex understanding of buildings and materials is immensely enjoyable and it is evident how he has become such a prolific architect.

I have decided to adopt some of the ideals mentioned by Zumthor in this book when designing any of the built elements required for the thesis. He mentions that all of his architecture should strive to simply exist but virtually impossible to imagine a place without it. The investigation of possible themes that could emerge from potential sites in Boston, Lincolnshire will be articulated in this text. There are a number of sites in the town centre that are calling for an intervention to draw the place back to the coast. What I find interesting about Boston is the strange sight of deep hulled fishing boats dominating a town that could be misunderstood as an inland river. From reading Thinking Architecture these boats become beautiful because they have been placed in an area that seems to be out of context and missing something. "The more we miss something the more beautiful may become that which we have to mobilize in order to endure absence" (Zumthor, 2007).

Location of Boston UK
I find this idea of absence intriguing and it is a secret passion that will be brought into this project. This theme is something I deal with most days when living in Nottingham which is quite far away from the sea. Simple waterways and their adjacent buildings are rendered beautiful in my mind through intense feelings of absence from the coast. The river Witham through Boston accommodates roads and buildings with names such as Fishermans Court, Custom House Quay, and Doughty Quay e.c.t. These names suggest a place that is struggling to come to terms with absence from its main lifeline so like my personal experience in Nottingham, anything that is used to endure this absence emanates a powerful and beautiful presence.


The sea area forecast that is played on VHF channel 23 and 84 is a sound that immediately changes how I feel in a particular place. Memories of being in a sailing club or the lifeboat station with my father when the broadcast starts and immediate attention is demanded by everybody present in the room. Anybody who comes from a coastal background will have a connection with the soothing sound of the broadcaster’s voice. Boston and its people have such a strong relationship with the sea so by introducing sounds, emotions and volumes that are usually absent we can make truly powerful spaces. After an immensely busy day in the studio I usually listen to Radio 4 and the shipping forecast which introduces the coast and tranquillity to my landlocked Nottingham kitchen.

A song that has been produced by a band called Overseer also recognises this feeling I have towards the weather. The protagonist speaks as a VHF broadcaster and links the sea area forecast to his feelings of solitude and emotional changes relating to the weather.Overall I think that the power of absence and the introduction of missing elements will be an interesting design thesis theme. The proposal of using objects that one would initially perceive to be out of context to render the areas of space beautiful hugely inspires me.

The image below is of lobster pots in my hometown of Dunmore East which are quite fitting in their harbour surrounds but how would these sit in Boston? I would be very interested to hear feedback on this proposal and ideas presented in this post so if you have any thoughts please leave a comment below.

Lobster Pots Dunmore East


2 comments:

John Colfer said...

"Plastic has been a huge problem at sea for a long time but the situation of plastic being dumped at sea has improved significantly in the last decade. Merchant ships and Ports must have a waste management system in place for garbage, food waste, sewage and waste oil etc., They are obliged by international law to account for the disposal of such waste through licensed waste disposal companies. If a ship or port can not prove how they disposed of their waste they are liable for severe penalties. This legislation and the active enforcement of same has significantly improved the situation around our shores. The problem is getting worse offshore and is an environmental disaster on a global scale affecting all our Oceans and Marine Life.

Large oil spills are an environmental disaster on a huge scale. Plastics, derived from oil, continue to be a major problem even after the improvements discussed above. All is not perfect because ships, fishing boats and ports continue to dump or loose garbage and plastics.

An incident of dumping a small amount of garbage and plastic waste is not an environmental disaster in itself. Accumulations of small amounts of waste are the beginnings of this environmental problem. The gulls and fish will get trapped in or consume some of these materials and the plastics will disburse only to eventually gather in mid ocean forming great masses of plastic. Plastics dumped in the English Channel for example will drift East and West. Some of it will be blown onto the shore causing unsightly pollution and more of it will be carried out to the Atlantic Ocean where it gathers and drifts around for many years causing environmental damage These islands of plastic are an environmental disaster. The plastic will erode and break down after many years forming micro beads of plastic that continue to destroy the wildlife of the oceans and shore lines of the globe.

Diapers and plastic bags sink to the Ocean floor and smother huge areas of seabed killing all sorts of Marine Life.
Discarded or lost fishing gear, such as mono-filament nets and lobster pots, continue to fish before rolling up into a rope of plastic which will eventually break down into micro beads of plastic. Waste Plastic simply does not go away."

You tube: Waste Plastic at Sea, Captain Charles Moore on the Seas of Plastic."

John Colfer said...

Sorry - I ment that to be a comment on SEA CHAIR STUDIO SWINE