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folding un]folding re]folding

Part 1 Project 2002
Richa Mukhia
Ruth Oldham
University of Westminster London UK
The theoretical basis of the project is grounded in the work of Deleuze and his writings on the fold, complexity and the multiple. It responds to Le Pli with an architecture that attempts to overflow the frame of the perception of the user, with an experience that constantly incites uncertainty by inviting each guest with its antonym. The host is thus required to reassess accepted concepts.

A picturesque ramble in the secluded woodlands of the Waltham Abbey Gunpowder Mills is disturbed by the violence of distorted promenades through the landscape. Like Ts’ui Pen's ‘Forking Paths’, a labyrinth of possible divergences unfolds. Projections supply propaganda from Amnesty International, war museums, governments and individuals. Unfolding inconsistencies, and refolding opinions.

Conceptual unfolding is echoed by the warping form, the vertical wall fractures into the sky overhead whilst the horizontal ramp responds by twisting into the earth. Every fold in the architecture presents the user with yet another possible route, another angle on the landscape. Apathy is not an option. The muted acceptance of vertical, horizontal, point and node is superseded by the clashing spectacle of the multiple, of divergence and of connections.

The culmination lies in a space of debate and reflections, a space that basks in the inbetween. A maze of two way mirror glass walls morph into metaphorical bridges that confuse exterior and interior, landscape and structure, future and past. The dissolution of such fundamental boundaries anticipates a break from the accepted territorial and antagonistic debate, to one that revels in the opportunity to create new associations. A glorified hall of mirrors where users can freely share space with distant strangers, debate, listen, observe or hide, where multiple readings of depth, perception and self are [re]connected.

Richa Mukhia
Ruth Oldham


The site;
Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills. Recently opened to the public for the first time after 300 years of secrecy, a secluded woodland and an architectural wonderland where much of Britain's explosives were produced. A place where danger and explosion risk turned normal architectural and planning conventions upside-down.

The brief;
• to understand and convey architecturally, the global significance of the place and its unique social history,
• to re-connect the Mills with Waltham Abbey town, with architecture and landscape uninhibited by heritage preciousness,
• to learn from the unselfconscious inventiveness of those who built this unique garden of experiments, in order to resuscitate it.

The proposal;
Richa’s sequence of enclosing architectural promenades - through dense alder plantations, past derelict nitroglycerine hills - warp and distort ones perceptions and culminate in a space for debate and reflection.

From theoretical interests in Deleuze’s writings on the fold, complexity and the multiple, and Le Pli, to 1;20 sections and 1:5s, Richa’s architecture juxtaposes space for Amnesty International and a linear war museum. She enfolds landscape, history, memories and sky in her architecture - with a skill her External Examiner felt worthy of an Architect with 20 years experience. Take cover!

2002
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