DS7 2016-17: Haunted Landscapes

What exists is not necessarily all that might be.” Horror in Architecture (p.g. 23)

Tutors: Manijeh Verghese, Danielle Hewitt
Technology Tutor: Ed Blake

Architecture is haunted – haunted by inhabitants, activities, incidents, programmes, and materials – the past given shape in the present. But architecture is also a haunting – it exists as a ghost of former occurrences and agents; histories, environments, obsolescences, shifts in social, political and material frameworks on which it was constructed. This year DS7 will continue its enquiry into the ‘continuous present’, exploring the notion of ‘haunting’ as a perspective through which we can examine the seen and unseen forces which continue to linger in and construct the landscape.

Our site will be Dungeness, a coastal headland on the southern edge of England. This low-lying landscape, rare in its eerie beauty and specific fragility, is a spectre between land and sea. Sceptics believe that its shingle terrain will be returned to the tides that formed it within two lifetimes from now. This rebel movement of Dungeness’ natural landscape has been echoed historically in the unplanned nature of its settlement and the development of its largely lightweight and semi-transient architecture, which rests tentatively on the landscape. In contrast to the informality of the low-rise cottages that dot the shores, two nuclear power stations and a series of lighthouses sit heavily on the flat horizon. This is a place of contrast, intrigue and powerful presences.

To start to measure and quantify this landscape, we will begin to forensically scan and survey objects and territories to reveal the hidden clues and embedded data obscured within its contours. Employing a range of surveying methods we will reveal the quick and slow forces that are acting upon the landscape and objects of Dungeness. We will work with experts to use scanning as a tool to reveal glitches as the ghosts in the machine, and reveal the otherwise unseen spectral presences within this seemingly static but always changing landscape.

Returning to the studio, we will construct landscapes that synthesise the material and immaterial, and explore ephemerality, transience, and presence to provide us with a new understanding of what it means to build in a landscape that is at once defined by its impermanence, and yet is acutely sensitive to change. Technology will address different forms of lingering – how nuclear energy, shipwrecked objects, shingle beaches, pollution, tourism and plant-life can all be seen as a basis for architectural projects. Between object, architecture and landscape, our spectral networks will shed new light onto Dungeness, giving form and significance to what already exists in the landscape, in the present.

For inspiration on how to construct haunted landscapes that visualise the immaterial forces at play on Dungeness, we will travel to Cluj-Napoca in Transylvania, Romania. Here, we will visit the Salina Turda salt mines as an imaginative example of adaptive re-use, including the balconies of salt and the Echoes room of the Iosif mine to the huge subterranean salt lake with a saturated island at its centre that now houses a theme park only accessed by boat within the Terezia mine. We will study a range of landscapes and scales ranging from intricately-painted church interiors to the ornamental plantscapes of the local Botanic Gardens, to the Hoia Forest, which is known to be one of the most active areas in the world for paranormal activity.

Field research trips:

A map showing Dungeness as a promontory off the Southern coast of England

2 day / 1 night visit to Dungeness. Taking the train from Oxford to Kent and staying at a local historic inn. The trip will include scanning and surveying workshops as well site selection and research.
Estimated costs: £210 pp

Turda Salt Mine is one of the most important salt mines in Transylvania, one of the largest in Europe.
Salina Turda is one of the most important salt mines in Transylvania, one of the largest in Europe.

5 night visit to Transylvania. Flights from Luton to Cluj Napoca, visits to landscapes of various scales including the Hoia Forest and the Salina Turda salt mines.
Estimated costs for accommodation, travel and visits: £400-450pp

Key themes:
transience v permanence, change v stasis, the seen v the unseen, material v immaterial, tangible v intangible.

DS7 2016-17 Brief

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