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Architecture in a Suitcase

Part 1 Project 1999
Anna Mac Dougall
Nick Wilde
University of Lincoln Lincoln UK
The displacement of peoples to new national and international areas for economic reasons is now a common occurence in our age of globalisation. Airports are symptomatic of this globalisation. They are spaces where time and space become relative. They are a new type of "edge city", a catalyst for urbanisation - fed by consumption and fueled by the enforced pauses in the event of travel.

It is the space between passport controls which this project investigates. How can it be inhabited in a more productive and joyous manner? The event becomes one of social interaction, not just consumption.

The site for the project is a departure satellite at Stansted Airport. Stansted has been designed as a ruthlessly rational system for the transportation of peoples around the globe. It can be seen as rational "institutional architecture" which reflects the institutional operation of all airports.

The concept of the project is one of infiltration and release. It aims to create "freespace" architecture which deconstructs the functionality and rationality of the existing to create space for emotion - space for culture. It aims to break free of the control of the host and expand through the "freezone" to the next point of development.

Anna Mac Dougall
Nick Wilde

Before studying Architecture, Nick Wilde worked in quality control at British Aerospace. His work took him to airports throughout Europe to inspect aircraft maintenance. His experience led him to ask what might be created in the bland, non-space between passport controls. He recognised that this secure zone offered opportunities for colonisation by stateless refugees, entrepreneurs and service industries. Working with this paradox of freedom and control, he developed a parasitic architecture that allows a global community to grow without compromising the function of the host.

The host for his design project is Norman Foster's strictly rational Stansted Airport. Foster described his design approach in a lecture at Hull School of Architecture. He stripped the contemporary airport of its complexities by listing the elements of a basic airfield: a landing field, a windsock, a shed and a telephone. The main terminal and satellites of Stansted retain the simplicity and clarity of this approach, however, occupation by real people has begun to undermine the purity of Foster's vision. The informality and clutter of social interaction has generated travellers' encampments, themed coffee shops and informal bicycle parks.

Nick Wilde's work has been supported by 'Free Zone', a design and research group in the Hull School of Architecture. 'Free Zone' seeks creative forms of resistance to the postmodern conditions of contemporary life. It explores the conditions that lead to the marginalisation of groups in society and the artefacts and environments that such groups develop in the space between society's dominant institutions. It explores ways in which architects (usually compromised by working for institutional interests) might contribute to this creative resistance.

Working from a postmodern perspective implies that, rather than designing from an accepted set of rules, the design process is used to discover those rules. Nick Wilde is currently applying his skills at Studio BAAD. 'Free Zone' continues to ask questions that architecture finds difficult to answer.

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