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Shifting House For The Train Spotting Family

Part 1 Project 2002
Christoph Klemmt
Architectural Association, UK
A "shift" is the movement of two elements against one another and the change in their relationship. As an example of a shifting system I studied the labyrinth game with its sliding game board. I proposed and built a spherical version of the game, creating a continuous game surface. The sphere is made of cast resin parts rotating around a machined aluminium core.

Gorgy Legate's piano etude "Desordre" is an important example to illustrate how rhythmic patterns shift against each other, creating a beautiful and complex composition. This led to an analysis of a shifting rhythmic system. Perforated layers moving at different speeds would create a composition of open and closed spaces which was later translated into a vertically moving room shifting against an outer skin.

I wanted to design a physically shifting house, so I tested the opposite condition by casting myself in plaster from the waist down. The plaster block fixed me into a position and became my non-shifting house.

Moving up in scale I build a shifting folly for star spotting. The shift of the house registered the relationship between the movement of the stars and observers on earth.

After meeting a train spotter, who told me that his wife and his daughter are involved in plane spotting, I decided to design a house for this family. This site is between two railway lines. The proposed house has three shifting rooms, one for each occupant. The room of the father shifts between the two railway tracks. The rooms of the mother and the daughter follow the routes of the planes over London as mapped out in the Jefferson Chart. The three rooms establish a relationship between occupier and the larger scale movement of the city.

The rooms rotate around a central core, to which they connect. Further shifts occur within the core on a smaller scale. All the furniture in the house is movable, allowing the program to continuously shift the way it occupies the core. Any space in the building can be used for any function. The core has windows to see the trains and planes approaching.

The shift was used to establish a new, dynamic relationship between the elements at play.

Christoph Klemmt

The candidate has been selected because he has excelled in fulfilling the aspirations of the unit program, to encourage students to develop and claim a central issue within their work. He has successfully related the different elements within his projects and pursued an independent direction within the overall umbrella framework we provided. The student chose his program, site and concern.

We taught two major projects. In the first students were required to select and hybridise two different games (a 'programme' consisting of a board, pieces, and a set of rules). The nominee combined a game of labyrinths (a flat limited, defined game board) with a Rubicks cube to create a "labyrinth sphere" – a game board with an indefinite, continuous surface. Precisely constructed by making three silicon rubber moulds to cast resin parts from plywood positives which were machined to fit together around a milled aluminium cubic centre. It required the very careful production of the parts to ensure the parts of the sphere rotated smoothly; along with some complex drawings of the intersecting planes (made in pencil).

The student attained a high standard in drawing and comprehending its relationship to fabrication, and an equally comprehensive knowledge about materials and processes. But most important was his isolation of a central concern for mechanisms and movement.

The final project was taken as an opportunity to synthesis this criteria. It was not a direction that we initially encouraged, but he trod a fine line between stubbornness and determination. His first attempts to explore possible conflicts involved casting himself up to his waist in plaster for 48 hours (for which he consulted a doctor to ensure there were no problems with ablutions and thrombosis.) The proposal was an in depth study of his concern. We appreciated his independence and responsibility in developing an ambitious and thorough proposal, but mostly his success in building a line of thought.

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