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The Printworks

Part 2 Project 2000
Eleanor Rennie
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) London UK
The building is a print works on a disused airfield in Northamptonshire. Used during World War II as a base for covert agent and pamphlet drops over France, and later as a launchpad for Cold War missiles, the site has a history of concealment. The proposed print works is both literally and metaphorically an ‘underground press’.

In this proposal new technologies embrace antique printing presses, which are embedded in the ground and within a building where environment and envelope are integral constituents of the printing process. From a well carved out of one of the L-shaped blast shields of the former launchpads, ink is pumped up into the roof canopy. When required the ink drops down to the presses through vessels which, modifying its pH content, change its colour on demand.

The plan cracks opens to channel the prevailing southwest winds between the two shields, setting in motion a cloud of turbine propellers which generate power to drive the presses. The wind continues through the printing hall and, if the pressure accumulates, lifts the roof a little to release it. Above the heavy built forms, solar ‘flowers’ grip tenuously onto a thin veil of cables, responding to the intensity of the light.

Eleanor Rennie


Eleanor Rennie’s has enriched the language of architecture by inventing, over her fourth and fifth years, a formal dialect – nervous, complex, powerful, and entirely her own. Her thesis project, a print works, demonstrates her mastery of it. Sharp splinter-like fragments are flung like shrapnel across the site (a former missile launchpad in Northamptonshire) and deep, almost archeological, undercrofts are scored into the ground. The result: an intense interweaving of brooding volumes, densely-packed spaces, clouds of propeller turbines, and the wiry trajectories of ink supply-lines. She investigated an important aspect of the project, the use of wind for natural ventilation and power-generation, in an imaginative and thorough technical dissertation. And she used a vivid combination of hand-drawings, physical models and computer projections to develop as well as to present the project. It, and she, are a true one-offs.

2000
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