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Wide Open / Land[s] in Lands

Part 1 Project 2009
Marcus Todd
University of Nottingham
The Isle of Sheppey is a schizophrenic other world; a barren alien landscape sitting in the Thames, just 40 miles from London.

Sheppey is flat and wet. The horizons are wide, and the skies are huge, with a unique milky quality of light, beloved of Turner in centuries past and still endlessly affecting.

The ancient Capel Fleet riverbed hosts Wide Open. The place is unique, “contextless” in many ways, but with an indelible genius loci. The landscape is rough poetry, writ vast in sluices and fleets, ditches and embankments, flocks of migrating birds and ambling sheep, all enclosed under the unlikely dome of the moulting wet sky, an unbroken horizon.

Such a strong place needs to tell a story, embedded in the place and its tide and time, weather and cycling seasons, mythology and history...

Five photographers, all suffering from seasonal affective disorder, lodge themselves into the fabric of Sheppey, escaping a life of predetermined cyclic depression. Throughout the winter months, the five live in isolation, almost hibernating in the blasted landscape near the eastern coast of the island.

They spend their short days preparing for the season ahead, building photographic instruments and developing work from the previous summer. They carefully catalogue and archive all of the work of the year to date, rarely leaving the settlement at all.

As summer approaches and the worst of their depression lifts the group begin to expand their sheltered topography, opening it up to form a workshop exhibiting their work and inviting participation from the influx of visitors in the summer months. The photographers document the unique conditions of this strange fluvial island using the devices they have spent the winter constructing. They teach and interact with the local population and visitors, as well as caring for the exhibitions they have built up.

With the shortening days comes the dismounting of the workshops, their careful deconstruction and storage. As visitors return to their lives away from Sheppey, the five retreat once more to their sanctuary, beginning anew the processes of archiving and developing, constructing more equipment, awaiting the following year’s activity.

Marcus Todd


The Transient Tectonics Studio explores the duality of the physical/scientific and the emotional/cultural layers of experimental architecture in a natural environment of continuous change, cycles and scales.
“Wide Open/Land(s) in Lands” on the Isle of Sheppey investigates this duality through a sensitive balance between the integration of related lyrical texts, the photographic exploration of the (emotional) landscape through a pinhole camera and the narrative developed from the technique of investigation on the one hand, and the harsh physical and social reality of the place on the other.
The landscape is described through the wide line of the horizon as well as its perspective depth, relating back to photography. The surface of the land is cut and manipulated to receive the built structures, which through their orientation and dimension explore scale and proximity. The project adapts and reconfigures complex contextual conditions to suggest new possibilities. It exploits the opportunities of seasonal (weather, climate), visual (light, openness) and cultural (marshland, tourism) dynamics and translates this into a specific yet imaginative architectural articulation.

Tutor(s)

2009
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