Next Project

a likely story

Part 1 Project 2000
Bruce Ross
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK
Student Report, by Bruce Ross of Edinburgh University

It was only after the funeral of David that the general public got to see the building. The trustees of the new museum realised the importance of this event and commissioned the resident artist-in-captivity (who, along with freedom, gained the suffix: ‘the last known example of a-i-c’). The four print series (listed i-iv, see below) tastefully maps out the final movements of owner David’s ultimate hour. Rumour has it that he slipped off his perch and impailed himself on a sculpture, metres below.

Many of the recent stories to emanate from the one-time gallery stem from the twisted (physically) lips of the last a-i-c. She explains how she met David for the first time on 13th February, intruiged as to how long it was taking him to ascend from pre-gallery, to gallery proper: an hour a step it took him. On her second visit, the following day, she noticed that the sun travelled with him. The affair started shortly after.

The current museum exhibition highlights the dynamic of the house: an exercise in cataloguing sees parts of the house and gallery fully labelled - thus converted into attractions. The garden – newly open to the public – boasts a pond and folly, whilst inside, aside from the scene of the death, the bathroom and the artist’s and owners’ living rooms have been included in the tour (which leaves hourly from the stairs at reception - £4).

When the paper mentioned all those weeks ago that I was to cover this story, little had I known what to expect. I was told by the crime officers that I was at liberty to nose through anything that I might find. And so it was on the third day of looking that I discovered the original architect’s statement, recorded shortly after building work had commenced. Several extacts follow:

The nature of the original brief was such that a full resolution of the scheme, whilst desirable, was not strictly necessary. Most effort was poured into investigating the mask ‘performers’. Naturally a great deal of attention was paid to the reconciliation of the elements and the brief’s requirement for the production of a series of isometric drawings meant that all elements were granted a reconciled context by the end of the term. A series of three-dimensional models referenced the building’s immediate context and spoke of the material qualities that could be expected.

The original brief was constructed so as to allow each of the students to explore the notion of working with their ‘prejudices’. Rather than attempting to represent a seemingly objective consensus opinion, the pupils were granted the opportunity, in effect to design for their own perverse tastes, under the support of the brief.

One of my strongest initial desires was to formulate a house / gallery / museum that involved itself actively in the playing out of the characters’ lives, aiding and abetting their movements.

An initial response to the site propelled the importance of the ephemerality of the elements, provoked by the transient patterns of weather there. Elements such as fallen leaves were mapped in relation to the residual forms of, say, the pavements. It was noticed here how a recording of the ‘flight paths’ of the leaves on a blustery day coincided very nearly with the walled boundary of the site and thus allowed the temporary to trace the permanent.

All parts of the building, although possibly quite enigmatic on first inspection are intended to be non-duplicitous. Materials outside, whilst hard-wearing, will be expected, encouraged even, to weather, exhibiting the signs of their passage through time, rather like a tree amassing concentric rings with the passing of each year.

The internal elements aim to bridge the divide between ‘architecture’ and ‘furniture’. The materials employed will need to be both inviting and prohibitive, comfortable and austere. The point of each mask is to fully engage the human subject.

Whilst the masks were the most highly considered aspects of the design, and boast claims to influencing the occupation of the spaces they constitute, the detailing never really approached the sensual, never really experimented ‘hands-on’ with the climate.

It is evident from both the brief and the completed project that a great deal of subjectivity and ‘story telling’ was involved in the fabrication of the building. One criticism that would be easy to make of it, is that in ‘over-determining’ the behavioural patterns of the owners, it plays into the hands of the un- or ir-real. The planning of the masks in relation to each other was not done for predominantly aesthetic reasons – a danger that can result from treating the overall plan as one manipulable object – but purely to assist the fortunes of the masks. An admittance of functionality.

A full list of catelogued drawings is also available, priced £60. At the back one find reproductions of the aforementioned ultimate hour comemoratives.


front cover shows wet footprints on sun-glazed travertine

plan of house / gallery: approx. 1:250
four sections [faint]: approx. 1:250

mask one - a perch for crouching: section looking north-west, upper level plan, section looking south-west @ 1:50

mask two - a case for starage: plan of treads, section looking east @ 1:50

mask two - a case for starage: plan of under-tread sun void,
section looking south @ 1:50

mask two - a case for starage: sections through hourly treads; 9, 10, 11am, 12pm @ 1:50

mask two - a case for starage: sections through hourly treads; 1, 2, 3, 4pm @ 1:50

mask three - a garden fit for an aquarium: long section looking north @ 1:50

mask three - a garden fit for an aquarium: plan of walkways @ 1:50

mask three - a garden fit for an aquarium: three short sections looking east @ 1:50

mask five - room for the spare: section looking east, plan involving mostly living and dining quarters @ 1:50

mask seven - a space for soaking into and passing through: section looking south, plan at gallery walkway level @ 1:50

mask four - a suitable seat: interior plan, section looking north @ 1:50

adventures in isometry - introducing mask four as garden madness @ 1:50

adventures in isometry - introducing mask three as garden madness @ 1:50

adventures in isometry - sites to stop and stare from @ 1:200

adventures in isometry - cells of special artistic interest @ 1:200

adventures in isometry - surfaces on which to gorge one's apertite @ 1:200

adventures in isometry - domestic enclosure: form and structure @ 1:200

adventures in isometry - spare domesticity: light and vision @ 1:200

double selection - stepped, cranked long section looking north-east presenting masks seven and one @ 1:200

domestic details - mask 7 - detailed section I @ 1:10 - 'the owner returns home and hangs up his coat after a busy day'

domestic details - mask 7 - detailed section II @ 1:10 - 'David puts both taps on full and heads back downstairs to the kitchen, for a glass of wine'

domestic details - mask 7 - detailed section III @ 1:10 - 'the thundering aluminium basin slowly fills, offering up loose lungfulls of steam, which condense on the windows and trickle down'

domestic details - mask 7 - detailed section IV @ 1:10 - 'the now silent bath lavishly overflows, whilst outside an unhappy drain, blocked by leaves, weeps'


a fallen leaf from one of the site's trees lies broken at the foudations of what it once called home

a sharp and icy wind carries it over what was once neighbouring foliage sporadic gusts draw the leaf away from the garden, towards the pavement, the sewers and the traffic of the roadway

the gentle curbside traps the travelling leaf

in time the latter is joined by its one-time neighbours and a natural tide of foliage laps against the contructed shore

Bruce Ross

Why nominate this student?

Bruce produced a project for ‘A Magnificent Museum of a House for an Art Lover’, also entitled ‘The Fragmentation of Formal Totality’ and subtitled ‘A likely Story’. The ‘Art Lover’ is a fictional character. It was deemed appropriate that a house (which would be a museum after the death of its fictional occupants) could be designed as an aggregation of its fictional characters. The fictional characters were seen as fragments that not only housed art in the conventional sense, but also were to be thought of as artefacts in their own right. The narrative was constructed by an elision of fragments rather than as a story with a pre-conceived beginning, middle and end. The process of design and the shifting patterns of movement around the proposed building compromise any preconception of an end to this story. In my view, Bruce proposed a very ‘likely story’. The characters he brought together were very well defined, but like all interesting characters had their idiosyncrasies. Many ideas, from utility to fictional event to art lover’s fetish, came together to define the characters. For example, there is a perch for contemplation, pools designed from the imagined perspective of a frog as well as viewer, and a Valentine’s Day sun dial staircase constructed as a perpetual monument to the occasion of a romantic interlude in the collector’s life. Like the Venice that was every one of Calvino’s Invisible Cities each fragment houses its own story whilst becoming part of the overall story of the house. In my view, it is a wonderful example of how to avoid formal preconceptions. It is a marvellous project.

• Page Hits: 2630         • Entry Date: 09 February 2000         • Last Update: 10 May 2001