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New England, Lanzarote

Part 1 Project 2010
Nicholas Elias
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL), UK
The British do not travel well.

As tourists they often miss that which reminds them of home, particularly in those places which accentuate the differences. Lanzarote is one such place: hot, dry and the struggling opportunistic plant growth barely matches our greens back home. Perversely it is in such places that the British often choose to spend their retirement.

The island is littered with water and grass oases that struggle to sustain themselves, due to such shortage of natural water sources. Nevertheless the demands of droves of tourists justify the investment of time, money and design. An ‘oasis’ is therefore created to epitomise all that British ex-patriots may have left behind.

The scheme and aesthetics of the building are reminiscent of the English eccentric and his surroundings back home, occasionally hinting at the processes and mechanics needed to sustain this image in the adverse climate. This image could be presented as a micro-colonisation of Lanzarote, providing British imagery and most importantly the scheme adapts to the climate and local architecture that is suppressed during a 4 week tournament season: dew & rain water collecting devices peak above the surface of volcanic rock, appearing as parasols to compliment a British picnic site. The remainder of the structure is hidden underground where water, saturated with nutrients from the surrounding volcanic rock, is held.

Grass is the word.

Hydroponically grown grass is draped over the various hidden irrigation structures needed to sustain it. The grass populates the scorched and tired landscape that surrounds it, mimicking a swarm of rapacious ex pats entering the complex for the sake of British Bowls. Water is used both for public consumption and landscaping, two variables dependent on each other. The scheme allows the bowlers to interact with a time stricken experience, where if a rapacious attitude were adopted towards water consumption it would jeopardise the rate of withering of the grass and landscaping, prematurely ending the 4 week tournament, transforming it back into a redundant state for the remainder of the year, reminding tourists of the structure necessary to provide the tourist with the amenities they desire.

Nicholas Elias

Nick’s project: New England was nominated because it represents a remarkable level of endeavour for a student at his stage of studies. Through the witty and the whimsical - but always with an eye on the real - the project explores the contemporary condition of Lanzarote as a hub of expatriates, tourists and athletes under the auspice of the architectural quirks derived by Cesar Manrique. The project is extremely lucid in identifying itself as an infrastructure upon the island, recognising its place amongst the island’s myriad desalinisation plants and patchwork salt evaporation pans. New England investigates the spatial and atmospheric implications of using sustainable technologies and prevalent site conditions to propagate a grass landscape for a bowls tournament in a hostile environment.

The pervading sense of the project is one of exploration and invention, whether through 1:1 material tests, or investigative drawings which are worked into. The architecture is interrogated through many scales, each of which is lovingly crafted from the tiniest detail to the largest space. For intance, the architectural implication of the freak Calimas wind from the Sahara desert shifts the vast swathes of the building in a manner imperceptible from outside but intrinsic to its function. The sensitivity of the project is rooted in the realities of living on an island containing some seven climates in the middle of the ocean, and the unique circumstances these produce.

Despite the project being rooted in a real and contemporary malaise, the bravado with which Nick weaves his architecture is exceptional. The project is delineated between intricate and articulate technical studies and beautiful hand drawn expressions of their spatial results. Through investigating an architecture of attitudes and expectations, Nick places his project within an alien environment and immediately begins mediating with it in order that we might realise they are one and the same. As tutors it was an absolute pleasure to have conversations with a student who is so incredibly lucid with his architectural intentions, and it becomes difficult to accurately express what a labour of love the project represents and the amount of unadulterated craft behind it.


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