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Instrumental Architecture

Part 2 Project 2008
Kyle Buchanan
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) London UK
My work this year has focused on two reclaimed landscapes on the Essex coast. The first, Canvey Island is surrounded by a sea wall, that was built in response to the disastrous floods of 1953. However, the wall, whilst protecting the island, dislocates Canvey from its marine context. The second site, Tollesbury, is set amongst farmland, reclaimed from salt-marsh some two hundred years ago. As pressure on the embankments around the village increases, and maintenance costs rise, the future of the landscape is uncertain - in places the sea has already been allowed to flood back into the fields, forming new marshland.

The two sites represent opposing conditions that arise from the same problem of rising sea-levels, each with its own architectural problems. In Canvey I propose a way to overcome the visual barrier of the sea wall without diminishing its significance to the island. In Tollesbury I explore an architecture, set in an imagined future of 2065, that mediates between the village and the metamorphosing landscape around it.

The projects draws on 17th Century scientific instrumentation, that in its time was an important tool in investigating the dynamic connections between the material world and immaterial ideas or perceptions. The ‘Instrumental Architecture’ that results, operates in a similar fashion, and treats context as a series of interrelated systems (rather that a set of picturesque views and historiographies) that inform the dynamic interaction between the schemes and their changing coastal landscapes.

The projects are explored in models and drawings, that have a deliberately ambiguous presence between architecture and instrument. The ‘architectural instruments’ themselves speak of the landscape from which they are abstracted, but are also intended to be experienced as actual objects that allow the viewer encounter, at first hand, the performance of the proposals, and reveal new interpretations of the two landscapes.

Kyle Buchanan

Kyle’s thesis project takes two conceptual routes by which to scrutinize site and social context in the liminal sites of the estuaries of the east of England. Firstly, he examines the pressing contemporary problem of sea level rise with reference to historic examples, existing constructions and current propositions. Secondly, he determines a working method that draws from 17th Century navigational tools of scientific experimentation and discovery. He constructs idealised environments and beautiful exquisite instruments that combine technical inventiveness, landscape reconfiguration with architectural proposals—machines, site and their use become entwined.

The ‘super-sextant’ is notionally sited at Canvey Island in the Thames Estuary. By means of optical devices, weighted and counter-balanced platforms, the scheme penetrates the wall that since its construction in the 1950’s has, for all intents and purposes, dislocated the land from the sea and the islanders from the distant horizon.

Kyle’s Jam Port and Instrumental Architecture proposal is sited, 50 years hence, at Tollesbury in the vulnerable Essex Blackwater Estuary, where contentious land management schemes such as techniques of managed realignment, are being tested. These offer a ‘sustainable’ alternative to sea defence by sharing land with the sea. He proposes a relocation of food manufacture and distribution that moves from international and intensive systems to local. The ‘instrument’ uses the tides and passive energy to entwine the fabric of the port with the wet edge of the land.

Kyle’s technique is original, rigorous and truly exploratory. His work demonstrates a meticulous attention to detail. His architecture too incorporates a variety of scales and at the same time scalelessness. His machinic viewing devices, utilise lenses that focus, enlarge and distort, prisms that bend views and triangulate trajectories. His delicate assemblages and ingenious constructions demonstrate an awareness of the materiality and of the performance of the instruments. His patience and inimitable tooling convince us of the precision, appropriateness and responsivity of his architecture.

Ms Laura Allen
Mr Mark Smout
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