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Institute of Measurement and Control

Part 1 Project 2001
Paula Fitzgerald
Oxford Brookes University, UK
In my design for the Institute of Measurement and Control, I wanted to create experiential spaces that are defined in terms that are disciplined, restrained and calculated, just like the research activities that go on within the institute. Each space works individually, yet interlocks with others to create more complex spaces within. The overlapped fractures of space inform subtle forms of measurement and communication, allowing one space to react visibly to another.

The landscape proposal and the actual building are extensions of one another. By relaxing the spatial control of the landscape, sliding veils of information can be shifted to create introverted and extroverted spaces that measure their own interaction. Shadows create new and ever-changing territories across the site, out of which dynamic effects unfold. People and their shadows fade and float past continuously, just like the information shown on the screens. A multi-layered ambience is created out of interactions on various levels, mixing together emotional thought, scientific information, and physical scale and movement. Whispers of the urban landscape outside are hereby echoed in the institute.

The DSE (Decanting Soul Environment) 42/170 integral purifier and protection embryo acts as a key detail of the institute. It creates a form that allows the body to break free of its own constraints and those imposed on it by the laws of nature. The pod is not bound by practical necessities. Instead, it responds to our strongest emotions: anger, fear, joy and desire. In this walled sanctuary, the soul is removed from the frenetic pace of life outside, allowing you time to navigate personal experience with a sense of balance. The pod condenses the mental activities that are needed for your well-being, and you are eased into expressing your emotions. It is an antidote for the inner self against the city.

Paula Fitzgerald

The project was to design a new headquarters building for the Institute of Measurement and Control in a quiet street not far from its current offices in Bloomsbury. The site that was chosen was a sunken garden bordered by mature trees, close to the British Museum and the Senate House of the University of London. It is thus to be located right in the heart of central London, but also in a place characterised by a sense of removal from the city. The Institute of Management and Control is a professional body whose members are the inventors of all types of measuring devices, ranging from the humble bathroom scales to scientific equipment designed for infinitesimal accuracy. It was suggested that the building might contain a library/archive, exhibition space, lecture hall and administrative offices.

Paula’s project for the Institute of Measurement and Control takes as its subject the notion of the immeasurable and qualitative. The scheme represents a withdrawal from the empirical world of the city, and at times it becomes quasi-spiritual. Her project is explored initially through a series of intense and obsessive conceptual drawings. Various media (drawing, photographs, found images) are overlaid in a process that begins to suggest a haunting atmosphere. Fleeting qualities of light and darkness are drawn out of the textural possibilities of gauzes, translucent fabrics and meshes.

A similar process is adopted in the development of the spatiality in the building, which emerges as a series of spaces that are overlapped and collaged in a manner that eschews clear categorisation. The library occupies the same curving space as the exhibition pavilion and entrance hall. The lecture theatre juts out from the side of the entrance area, and the administration offices hang above the exhibition area both inside and outside of the building.

The project culminates in two extraordinary pieces of work: a large scale drawing of one of the fabric meditation pods that are suspended on wires on the outside of the curving raking wall of the library; and most stunning of all, a set of photographs of a twisted Perspex model of her proposal. These capture beautifully both the complex and elegant formal qualities of the building, as well as the lighting and atmospheric qualities that lie at the heart of this exemplary project.

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