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Biomorphic Architecture - Time Machines

Part 1 Project 2009
Joel Cullum
Oxford Brookes University, UK
The characteristic sculptural nature of the landscape at the White Horse, Uffington provides a dramatic setting for bold yet site sensitive pieces of organic design. The biomorphic nature of the structures aims to echo the surrounding environment in both form and function. The White Horse Water Point and Chronograph aim to reunite visitors with natural time, bringing them into a closer relationship with the rhythms and fluctuations of the natural world. Nestled within the protection of the existing banks of the footpath leading to the White Horse, the Water Point responds to weather conditions; opening like a flower to provide shelter from the rain and funnelling water into a collection bowl to offer refreshment in this high chalk landscape. With dramatic views over Uffington, the Water Point also directs visitors’ attention towards the breathing body of the Chronograph. From this vantage point the Chronograph's interaction with the wind currents flowing over it reflects the beat of time as it moves across the landscape.

The Chronograph utilises its very fabric to express the movement of time, drawing people back into a relationship with real time, as opposed to the human construct of mechanical time. Constant modification of the active roof marks time passing, whilst maintaining constant ventilation regardless of wind direction. When temperatures sore a tipping point is finally reached and the whole system dramatically rips open to cool and reset itself. A social space to allow interaction between different visitors, to share stories and experiences of their time on the Ridgeway and the site, is provided under this ever changing canopy. The opportunity to experience the full diurnal cycle of the site is offered through the provision of semi-external sleeping pods. The Chronograph immerses visitors to the White Horse and the walkers of the ancient Ridgeway (which runs past the site) in the natural environment of that place, and invites them to literally sleep within the air that sustains it.

Joel Cullum

In 2008-09 our responsive architecture unit explored the realm of the fourth dimension, time. We wished to question if it was possible to make architecture that relates to and expresses our experience of time, not mechanical time, but the moving, changing vibrant world we inhabit. The site on the hills near Uffington in Oxfordshire reveals an immense history; from the geological uplifting of the chalk ridge, sculpting by erosion over the millennia, through to the human interventions of the ancient Ridgeway (possibly the oldest road in Europe), the enigmatic White Horse and Uffington Fort.

Joel began an exploration into the potential of the movement of air over the sculpted contours of the landscape to illustrate the passing of time. An elegant and delicately balanced device was designed to examine these airflows and through this record the movement of time on the site. This exploration informed the development of two responsive insertions in the landscape. Firstly a small installation unfurls itself in response to the weather to provide both drinking water and shelter in this exposed location. The second intervention, the Chronograph, invites people to enter into the heart of a beating timepiece, pulsing to the rhythms of the wind and drawing them into an encounter with real time. Natural cycles subtly but assuredly replace the beat of mechanical time in their minds as they take refuge in this hikers rest.

In an analogy to the ecological crisis with which we are faced, if temperatures inside rise beyond control a tipping point is reached and the whole structure flips open, as if gasping for air. Joel’s work went on to rigorously explore these ideas taking them through to complex structural and constructional detail. Both projects are strong examples of environmentally responsive architecture and illustrate its potential to be self-sustaining.

Dr Sarah Stevens
Patrick Bonfield

Mr Patrick Bonfield
Ms Sarah Stevens
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