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Mind the Gap: Inhabiting London's Forgotten Spaces

Part 1 Project 2009
Charlotte Bovis
Oxford Brookes University Oxford UK
This project stems from a fascination with the distinct urban fabric of London, beginning with a series of meandering explorations of the city. The spaces that I found most compelling were the gaps, the spaces between buildings or linking street to street. I became fascinated with the individual character of these spaces, the idiosyncrasies of each.

In producing a series of tiny public buildings in these left over or forgotten spaces I intended to create a series of buildings that were not only public, but distinctly personal. It was important that each building became a product of its situational constraints, not an imposed intervention, but an expression of what was existing.

The simple modular structural system exployed, which expands and contracts to fit the available space, allows the form of each building to respond to that of its immediate environment. Allowing the space to so directly affect the functionality of the building forces its users to a greater interaction with, and understanding of, the original site that the building inhabits, and recovers the lost space to public attention.

Charlotte Bovis

This academic year Unit G were initially interested in the re-use of scrapped wide-body jetliners – arguing that with the advent of new larger, more efficient aeroplanes the existing stock has become ecologically redundant and ready for re-use. Semester two asked the students to use elements of what they had learned in an accommodation project for London.

Charlotte’s tiny public building series is an evolution of her semester one project in which she recycled and re-used wide body jets to create towers of animate accommodation in the Tucson desert. She became interested in not only the seductive curves of the aluminium, but also the complex structural systems employed in modern jetliners. This technological approach lead to the development of a deployable system for in-fill architecture: an adaptable structure that, once in place, efficiently and delightfully inhabits a gap.

Gaps were chosen from several surveyed during mapped walks across London and assessed for their suitability against many criteria; the intention was to inhabit otherwise unusable spaces with useful structures. The tiny public buildings never inhibit use of the existing space and are intended to re-connect the user with the fabric that surrounds them. Carefully chosen renders are combined with digital and analogue drawing techniques to understand fully the complexities of both the sites and the architecture. In this project we see use of the system to create a library, swimming pool and cinema that show the potential for many more possible building types.

The project explores the position of the public building in twenty-first century England and can be considered a polemic against the iPod-engulfed generation – arguing that public experiences can still be extremely personal and beautifully material. Her architecture delights in the visceral qualities of material and touch.

Prof David Greene
Mr Toby Shew
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