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Car Crash Test Centre

Part 2 Project 1999
Martin Bull
University of Nottingham | UK
This project consists of three layers. The first is a memorial garden that transforms a wasteland site. The rhythm of densely planted trees and formal open clearings reflects the strange relationship between the incidence of road fatalities and the density of cars.

The second layer is the process of crash-testing, distilled into three essential moments: Preparation - Testing - Analysis. These are expressed as discrete volumes arranged horizontally across the site. An industrial architectural language highlights the mechanistic nature of the process, with cor-ten steel and glass enclosures linked by elevated circulation gantries.

The third layer is a public promenade connecting the three elements of the process - leading from the preparation and exhibition building to the observation hall over the central crash-test space and finally returning to reconsider the animated spectacle provided by the 'storage-wall' of previous crash-test wrecks.

The garden exists as a constant reminder of those who have lost their lives on the roads in Britain. With 9169 plots, representing the highest ever annual death-toll, the site will gradually fill up with trees as this number drops each year, until the figure is zero and the testing procedure can be abandoned...

From 'Epcot' theme experience to fly-on-the-wall documentary, the interaction of these three layers sets up an ambiguous cultural agenda - driven above all by the desire for openness and transparency.

Martin Bull

This project is the result of a fascinating process of thinking, even though this is not immediately obvious from the rather enigmatic presentation. The idea behind the memorial garden was the starting point for the project and came entirely from the student's own research and was developed in parallel with a separate dissertation.

The site was a wasteland on the edge of Derby, sandwiched between busy roads and railway lines, and by stretching the components of the programme and working successfully at a landscape scale, Martin was able to transform it into something both spectacular and poignant, through the boldness of his ideas. The building, at a detail level, has perhaps taken second place to the concept of the landscaped park, which if his facility proved successful would ultimately become a piece of 'industrial archeology'. Having said that, his 'wreck storage' building did become a fantastic spectacle in itself, with its lifting gantries displaying smashed cars awaiting their final ejection into the adjacent scrapyard.

The simplicity and matter-of-factness with which the buildings perform their functions belie the sculptural power and intrigue of the site as a poetic 'garden of remembrance'.

• Page Hits: 8637         • Entry Date: 08 January 1999         • Last Update: 10 May 2001