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Matter Out Of Place, Dalston Project

Part 2 Project 1998
David Richard Hills
University of Westminster, UK
The project attempts to offer an alternative means of redevelopment, summarising the past activities of buildings and assessing their future relevance. A deprived inner city area, Dalston has a great many derelict buildings in various stages of decay. The proposal harnesses this process and exploits it, producing a gradual process of change, perhaps in some cases taking many years, rather than the 'instant' solutions offered by planners. Society changes over a period of many years, not overnight. Why then, do we expect the built environment to?

The negative aspect of decay is turned into a positive force, highlighting the creative possibilities that emerge from the state of dereliction. Controlled, precise decay is used to alter a structure as an alternative to direct physical action, expressing layers of occupation to the outside world, evoking memories of former uses and suggesting possibilities for the future.

By exploiting the effects of decay the possibilities presented by these structures can be revealed. Through the removal of elements such as walls, floors, and ceilings, openings can be created where previously there had existed only enclosure. Demolition offers a rare glimpse into another’s world, exposing the containerisation of the individual, wallpaper displayed on the party wall of a terrace, the fireplace distinguishable on a car park wall. The individual is encouraged to re-assess their condition and explore a new spatiality, at the same time they are made aware of that which has existed previously.

As a building decays, it becomes necessary to introduce additional support in the form of shoring and propping in order to make the building safe. These take the form of highly adaptable and flexible elements, such as scaffolding and other specialist structural systems. As well as preserving the existing building, these elements provide an additional framework within which to inhabit the structure, infinitely changeable. When combined with the existing structure these suggest a myriad of temporary functions, constantly changing, expanding and contracting according to the occupants needs.

The proposal presents an innovative strategy for the redevelopment of Dalston: preserving its unique character whilst encouraging cultural diversity and physical change.
David Richard Hills

Matter Out Of Place, Dalston Project

David Hills's project developed in response to the material conditions of Dalston. The decay and abandonment of this inner city area inspired him to a forensic-like study of the actual conditions of the city fabric. His architecture situates itself between tabular rasa policies of total demolition and the preservation and conservation movement in a territory that prioritises
the present conditions of decay and seeks to work with them.

The anthropologist Mary Douglas's studies of purity and dirt armed him with the concept of dirt as 'matter out of place' - a cycle of changing values.

He made studies of patterns of dirt in Dalston alongside detailed investigations of rot. The project focused on the disused Maberly Chapel that was, fortuitously, once the headquarters for Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists.
David began to operate on the building, constructing a scaffolding frame off site onto which a number of elements from the original building were displaced in new changing relationships. From this he made a series of proposals for alterations to the hall that sought to speed up selective conditions of decay into new conditions of spectacle and life.

The work is an original contribution to contemporary architecture and urbanism carried out with great rigour and personal commitment.

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