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Part 2 Project 2003
James Horner
Costa Elia
University of Sheffield UK
As sea defence funding is diverted to urban flood prevention, the isolated tourist village of Robin Hood’s Bay – like many coastal communities – will be increasingly vulnerable to the force of North Sea storms. Existing defensive walls and breakwaters present a misleading solidity, as previous defences (and half of the village) have simply disappeared under the waves. The village where “little has changed since the last century” has become a fictitious construct for the benefit of seasonal tourists, oddly unimpeded by issues of its own mortality.

The ‘Endgame’ scheme acts as a critique of unreality - a consciously overstated re-engagement of a complacent population with external forces - using the ‘device’ of an offshore cult commune (an equally closed and impenetrable group) as a vehicle for both internal and external comment on the illusion of permanence. The cult adopts the role of the elements; arriving by sea, precisely removing land and experimenting on the buildings, possessions and inhabitants of the Bay. All are displaced, exhibited and examined along and through conveyor belts, circulation routes and pavilions that converge towards an emerging, landless community.

Working with selected materials removed from the Bay, the constructed parts of the project exploit the characteristics of corrosion, material degradation and tidal fluctuations to periodically and peremptorily alter the experience of movement, space and sensation in a constantly changing series of aesthetic and functional mutations. Galvanic reactions cause components to react sequentially in a staged production of controlled failures; circulation flow and spatial experiences are dependent on tidal fluctuation; reflective acoustics become claustrophobically dulled at high tide and deafening during storms. Each element decays progressively over a period of seven years until its mere existence can be questioned.

The project confronts the village’s underlying state of disintegration with a wide-angle, cinematic paranoia of technological failure; revelling in the natural process of change.

James Horner
Costa Elia

Design work in this studio has often explored the means of dissolving, subverting or inhabiting those man-made barriers – political, economic and physical – that are created and protected at immense cost to protect the past against the inevitability of change.

With a fine sense of history foreshortened, Jim has designed a new community to ravage and replace the vulnerable clifftop village of Robin Hoods Bay, while having the seeds of its own decay and destruction consciously built into its fabric.

His creative occupation of the fertile junction of land and water - in place of the usual concrete defence against inevitable disaster - uses the changeable and ultimately destructive power of nature as an integral partner in his design process rather than something to be feared and excluded. He also eschews (most of) the pictorial abstractions and/or distractions that have been so appealing to post-Renaissance architects, using the full 3-D capabilities of the computer as an integral part of his design explorations and making the creation and disintegration of his structures a truly human experience rather than an abstract concept.

Accommodating the ravages of both time and nature has brought depth and strength to his stated critique of human complacency (and given him a lot of useful knowledge on building failures). A few words – and even the selected drawings - cannot begin to convey the complexity, detail and resolution of his imagined world.

Dr Jane Rendell
Dr Iain Borden
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