Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Candida Hofer

Candida Hofer is an architectural photographer who specialises in photographing historical public and semi public spaces. Since 1980 she has been photographing spaces without people, this can make her work seem a little detached but allows her to focus on the detail or the space, revealing patterns and repeated forms. The lack of people also draws the viewers attention to things that are out of place or might otherwise have gone unnoticed. I came across her work in the David Chipperfield exhibition at the Design Museum, she has taken some very beautiful pictures of the Neues Museum. There are several books of her work and she has exhibited all over the world. She was born in Germany in 1944 and studied under Bernd and Hilla Becher who were most well known for their photos of industrial buildings.

Theatre In Napoli, 2009

The Metropolitan Opera in New York, 2005

The New National Gallery in Berlin, 2002

The Neues Museum in Berlin, 2009

Ballet Studio in Hamburg, 2000

Silk Designs of the 18C

As well as experimenting with the natural waste from silk I also want to look at the design of the patterns which were popular during the time of the French silk weavers in Spitalfields. I found several books in the library about the subject but the most interesting and useful one is from the V&A and is called 'Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century'. The V&A has a huge collection of silk patterns and sample books from the early 17th Century to the collapse of the London silk market in 1830.

Silk Designed by James Leman 1708/9
In the early 1700's English design was influenced by French fashion. Chinoiserie was popular and the strong reds and yellows were due to particular types of metal thread that were widely available.

36: Silk design by James Leman 1719, 37: One of Anna Maria Gaithwaite's collection of 'Patterns not my Own' 1720

Silk Design by Anna Maria Gaithwaite 1740
As you can see the fashion for images of nature remained popular but by the 1730's designs were becoming more 3-Dimensional, this was possible due to a shading technique called 'points rentres' developed by the French in 1732.

Silk Design by Anna Maria Gaithwaite 1744
The work of Anna Maria Gaithwaite and James Leman helped to develop this distinctly English style of silk.

Samples from the order book of an unknown French Merchant from the early 1760's.
By 1760 the influence of French design returned with typical designs combining silk/lace/ribbon with floral motifs to create a stylised trompe-loeil effect.

Waistcoat woven by Maize and Steer 1789.
By the late 1700's patterns had become much more geometric and abstract, neo-classical stripes and rosettes of formal flowers were popular, colours were predominately pastels although dramatic darker shades were also popular for a few years.

I don't know yet how or if I will incoporate pattern into my own designs but it is something that interests me and I think that as I am looking at other aspects of the silk trade this is a good place to start.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Spaces and Narrations Lecture 1: Tom Emmerson, 6A Architects

Yesterday's Spaces and Narrations lecture was from Tom Emmerson of 6A Architects. He started the practice with Stephanie Macdonald after they studied together at the RCA and it is now one of the leading young architecture practices in the country. Their work ranges in scale from installations and exhibition design to larger commercial and residential projects. The project that interested me the most was their conversion of 2 Georgian townhouses in Spitalfield's into a contemporary arts centre.

Exterior of the Houses - originally built in 1690 the facade and shop fronts were added in the mid 1700's by a Huguenot silk merchant and it was altered again in the 1830's when the windows were dropped on the first floor and an iron railing added. This railing has not survived but inspired the use of cast iron cladding on the back facade.

Raven Row consists of a modern gallery space in a newly built basement and refurbished historical rooms on the upper levels. Much of the building's interiors were destroyed by a fire but their damaged remains were left and they were able to restore them. Also a complete intact interior was discovered in Chicago, it had been sold to an American in the 20's and had survived in storage. The interior was returned to the building and painstakingly pieced back together over 6 weeks.

An example of a reconstructed Rococo interior.

This fireplace is part on the original house from 1690.

The materials used throughout the building such as the charred timbers on the roof lights and the cast iron on the back facade were inspired by the buildings history as well as being practical. The burning to the timber actually stops it deteriorating further and strangely protects it from catching fire again. The cast iron was more durable to wear and tear so was used at street level.

The details such as the stair and door knob were inspired by materials and form found in the building. The stair is based on an 18C cantilevered stair but was formed out of concrete instead of stone to give it a contemporary twist and the handrail is based on the shape of the existing stair.

The door knob has a thumb print in which gives it a very tactile quality.

From Waterloo to Shad Thames: A Foggy Walk along the Southbank

Yesterday I spent my afternoon walking along the Southbank from Waterloo station to the Design Museum on Shad Thames. My walk took me past the Oxo Tower, the Tate Modern, Clink Street and the remains of Winchester Palace, The Golden Hind, Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, More London Place, Tower Bridge and through the converted warehouse development on Shad Thames. It was a very foggy day as you can see from the photos below but still a really interesting walk. I stopped at the Tate to see Miroslaw Balka's How It Is installation which was impressive in scale but I thought slightly disappointing once you were inside.

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Along the Southbank walk it is easy to see how London has changed from an industrial city reliant on the Thames for success to a modern commercial centre and tourist destination. The converted warehouses of the Oxo Tower Wharf and Shad Thames are now luxury apartments, restaurants and boutiques. I think that the Oxo Wharf has been a very successful project, it was developed in the 1990's after facing demolition in the 70's and 80's. The architects were Liftschutz Davidson who won the RIBA award for Architecture for the project in 1997. I found the walk inspiring and I think that some of the projects such as the Tate Modern and Oxo Tower will be useful in my research.

The Design Museum

My final stop along the Southbank was the Design Museum to see the exhibition on David Chipperfield Architects. I was aware of his work before this project but it was only when I researched the Neues Museum that I became really interested in the practice. The exhibition explores Chipperfield's increasing interest in historical work and his sensitivity to architectural history and memory. I thought the exhibition was very good and it had a lot of information on the Neues Museum as well as an interview with David Chipperfield about the design of the project and the approach they took to restoration. The line drawings on the wall are graphically very strong but simple and represent the essence of his designs. I also really enjoyed the models on display and thought that they really added to the photography and drawings.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Silk Weaving

Silk weaving started in Spitalfield's with the arrival of the French Huguenot refugee's, silk weaving existed in London before this time but not on the scale that occurred from 1685 onwards. Money was raised to help the newly arrived immigrants who came with nothing but their knowledge of their occupation. This quote from the editor of Stow's Survey of London shows how highly the skills of the silk weavers were regarded:

'Here they have found quiet and security, and settled themselves in their several trades and occupations; weavers especially. Whereby God's blessing surely is not only brought upon the parish by receiving poor strangers, but also a great advantage hath accrued to the whole nation by the rich manufactures of weaving silks and stuffs and camlets, which art they brought along with them. And this benefit also to the neighbourhood, that these strangers may serve for patterns of thrift, honesty, industry, and sobriety as well.'

The silk weavers mainly came from Lyon and Tours where the best quality silks were imported from, soon though the skills of the London silk weavers meant that some of the best silks in Europe were being manufactured in Britain. The refugees passed on their skills to local people and the area thrived. This is a drawing by William Hogarth from 1738 called Noon depicting the rich and godly French Huguenot's with the British residence of Spitalfield's.

In 1721 silk weaving was described as one of the countries main branches of manufacture. Parliament raised the tax on imported goods to further encourage the growth of local industry and in 1764 after protests from weavers they also reduced the import duty on raw silk and prohibited the importing of silk ribbons, stockings and gloves.

In Fournier Street many of the houses were owned by wealthy silk weavers. The looms would be in the generous roof spaces and the family would live below. To stop the noise of the looms from travelling through the house the weavers would stuff the spaces between the floorboards with silk throwsters waste. Throwsters waste is the virgin silk fibres that are discarded during the reeling process. When reeling the silk cocoons the fibres can become tangled and they have to be cut from the machine. This tangled fibres are still soft and lustrous but not any use for weaving. In modern crafts throwsters waste can be used to make felt, silk paper and as a quilting material. It comes either in it's natural state; still coated in the sericin gum from the cocoon or it can be cleaned. In it's clean state it can be spun to form silk yarn. I bought some of the cleaned throwsters waste:

I also pressed some of the fibres to try and create a material, it was quite successful but I think that it would unravel over time so I have decided to purchase some the uncleaned, natural waste to try and create a silk paper.

I really like the natural properties of the throwsters waste, it is very soft but also very strong and I would like to find a way to incorporate it into my project. For now I am going to continue to experiment with it.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Wrapped Reichstag by Christo and Jeanne-Claude

The wrapping of the Reichstag by Christo and Jeanne-Claude took 24 years to complete after fierce debates surrounding the fate of the building. When it was finally wrapped in 1995 it was to celebrate a new era of German parliament and a new era for the building. Foster and Partners were commisioned in 1993 to restore the building and propose a new design for the destroyed cupola. By wrapping it in fabric the artists allowed people to appreciate the scale and beauty of the building without the prejudice of political opinion or historical knowledge. It drew attention to the building for new and positive reasons and it once again became the centre of the city.

Time-lapse video of the wrapping process:

Site Analysis

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Satellite Image of Fournier Street and the Surrounding Area.

Site plan showing the site and surrounding buildings.

Site Plan showing listed buildings in the area.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Famous Residents

Many famous people now own houses on Fournier Street. Here are a few of their views on the area and how it has changed:

Gilbert and George's Eastenders - Alistair McKay for the Evening Standard (31.01.07) talking to Gilbert and George

"Fournier Street was occupied by buttonmakers, furriers and hat-makers, and the area was Jewish. "The front doors were open all day," says George. "All the windows were open, so people would speak to each other from one side of the street to the other. Extraordinary antique behaviour. "This area has been everything. It's been a Roman cemetery, it's been part of the hospital for the returning Crusaders. It's been a manufacturing base for guns which, curiously, was staffed entirely by Germans. "In between the Jews and the Bangladeshis, it was briefly Maltese, then Somali. It was extraordinary when it was Maltese because they all had Alsatian dogs, they kept ferrets, they played cards all day."

"To explore this further, Gilbert and George take me on a tour. The first stop is the mosque on the corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane. "That was the synagogue when we were students," says George. "The posh synagogue at that." "It was a French church," says Gilbert. "A Huguenot church. They tried to convert Jewish people to Christianity. It didn't work." Facing the end of the street is the BanglaCity cash-and-carry, where we pause to admire some tumblers. "This section of the design is like a hand grenade," says George. "And this is like the butt of a revolver. Somehow or other it's found its way into glassware. We wondered where these were from, and we looked underneath - Saudi Arabia."

Me and My Home: A House with History - Caroline Wingfield for the Independent talking to John Nicolson.

"The room in the basement, which is now the kitchen, was completely underground and I've restored it back to its original proportions. There was a staircase that came down from the shop above, but it was really just a tunnel that you could barely crawl in. It had originally been a room, and the fireplace is still there. We think it was used to dye silk and they would use the chimney for ventilation. The strange thing is that because they were very poor, the people who lived in the house didn't, as we would do, renovate by ripping everything out and replacing, they renovated by enclosing. So each new generation built walls across the walls and ceilings over the ceilings, floors on top of floors. So the whole thing gradually became like a Russian doll, all boxed in, and it was much smaller when I came than it is now. What I did was peel off layers: plastic wood, then hardboard, then metal sheeting, then layers of wallpaper and finally you got to the original panelling."

"The Huguenots used to hide horseshoes round the house and I've found four so far. After the discoveries, I decided to leave a time capsule in the house myself. I thought to myself, 'What would I like to find?' I thought I'd like to find who was in the house, what they thought about their period, what they thought about the house, where they came from, what their families' names were, what they thought about social attitudes at the time. When you think what this house has been through, it's been through wars and famine, through the Jacobite rising of 1745 - that was happening when this house was 30. I would love to know what the people living here thought about these big issues. So I put in some pictures of the way the house was before I renovated it and now, wrote about the job of renovating it, wrote about my job. I then wrapped it in plastic and put it in a wooden box. They'd have to do major work to find it, but if they did major work, they would find it."

At Home in the 18th Century - Caroline McGhie for the Telegraph talking to Dan Cruickshank

"All these streets were derelict in the early 1970s," he says. "The houses were gaunt, open to the sky and the street. I walked into this house over a pile of rubble and through that window." He points to the black shutters at the back of the house. It was incredible. Perfect. With rain pouring into buckets on the top floor. The families had left their furniture. The whole street was up for demolition. The fact that houses were listed meant nothing."

"Indeed the City Fringe is now so sought-after that it is no longer thought of as East London but as Central London. "No one used to live in these areas apart from council tenants," says David Salvi of Hurford Salvi Carr. "But now it is one of the most fashionable places to live and work. It's where the young artists and designers are plying their trade." In his time he has seen the Fringe take off like a Mexican wave, starting with Clerkenwell in the early 1990s, then Shoreditch and Spitalfields, followed by Borough and Bermondsey."

"More money is being spent on them, but they are empty. These people come and go and don't make a community."

24-28 Fournier Street

24-28 Fournier Street is the site I have chosen for my project this year. Fournier Street links Brick Lane to Spitalfield's Market and contains some of the best examples of Georgian townhouse architecture in London. The beginning of Fournier Street is marked by the imposing Christ Church Spitalfields, built by Hawksmoor in 1714 and completed in 1729. The church faces Commercial Street and towards the City of London. At the other end of Fournier Street is Brick Lane and the thriving Bangladeshi community.

Survey of Fournier Street from 1870. Image courtesy of British History Online.

Fournier Street was the last street to be built on the Wood and Michell Estate, a 96 year licence was granted to Samuel Worrell who began building the houses in 1728. In the early 1700's London was home to a lot of French Huguenots who had fled to England to escape persecution by the French King Louis IX, by 1710 there were around 50,000 Huguenots living in England and half of these in London. The east end had cheap rents and the large houses on Fournier Street had excellent loft spaces ideal for small industry,the Huguenots were attracted to the area and soon set up prosperous silk weaving businesses. Until the 1800's the silk trade continued to do well but with increases in travel and trade silk was soon available cheaper from India and the area quickly declined. The rich Huguenots moved out to the suburbs of London or to the surrounding country and the area fell into decline. In the late 1800's persecuted Jews fled from Eastern Europe and settled in England, again they were attracted to Spitalfields by low prices. The Huguenot Church became a Synagogue and the grand houses were subdivided to form smaller dwellings. By 1905 the Jewish immigration prompted the first 'Alien Act' to limit immigration and by the the 1930's the antifascist movement had installed fear in the Jewish population of East London. Soon the Jewish population also moved away from the area and were replaced by other immigrants from Africa, India and Bangladesh. The synagogue on Fournier Street was converted once again, this time into a Mosque. The Bangladeshi community because very strong and now 68% of the areas population is Bangladeshi, earning it the nickname Banglatown. Spitafields has got closer and closer to the wealth of the City, Spitalfield's market is now an upmarket shopping destination for City workers and tourists and the bars and pubs attract people from all over London. The shadow of the city can be felt in Fournier Street, with the high rise, modern buildings clearly visible. Fournier Street feels almost like an oasis, untouched by modern development. The only visible change is the colour of the front doors and wooden shutters, now all fashionable shades of plum and mustard yellow. The uniqueness of Fournier Street has made it very desirable, many famous faces have made it their home although this means that security is tight and the street has lost it's community atmosphere. Amongst the famous inhabitants are the artists Gilbert and George and the architectural historian Dan Cruickshank. Both rescued their houses from demolition in the 60's and 70's when post-war development destroyed large parts of London's history.

24 to 28 Fournier Street is at the end where it meets Brick Lane, opposite the Mosque. 24 to 26 is relatively modern warehouse style building which has recently been converted into offices. 28 is a gap between this modern building and 54 Brick Lane. The gap extends all the way back to Seven Stars Yard. It is currently being used as a garage and kitchen area for the restaurants on Brick Lane.

An Image of the site taken from Google Street View

The yard at the back of the site is named after the pub it backs on to, The Seven Stars. This pub is now derelict, the pub has been there since 1711 and was rebuilt in 1937, it closed down in 2002. Numbers 24-28 were demolished before the street became part of a Conservation area, all other buildings on the street are now listed, including 54 Brick Lane which forms the corner.

I do not yet know exactly what I want to put on the site but I do want to continue my work on recording memory and history in buildings which I started with my earlier castings. I intend to design a new intervention for the gap (number 28) and also to propose alterations to 24-26. I want to use this historically interesting and unique street to explore my ideas on alteration, restoration and preservation. I hope that this will link into my research ideas and help me to understand the difficulties of designing in a historical context.