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Part 1 Project 2010
Albert Suen
London South Bank University, UK
Jump_London centers itself on parkour and free running located at the heart of Blackfriars. Parkour offers a mode through which to perturb normative considerations of socio-spatial practices as influenced by particular controlling logics normalised and embodied through and by architectural space. Parkour provides a medium through which the traceurs (bullet) voice is able to speak back. At its core, parkour is a practice of freedom, liberating the practitioner and allowing him or her to ostensibly move freely in an environment that constantly sets up barriers strange and familiar, real and imagined. Further, parkour provides us a new form of criticism with which to problematise normalising limitations of the totalising influence of the modern city.

By combining the theories of Henri Lefebvre, Iain Bordens’ work on skateboarding and the theories invented by Sebastian Foucan and David Belle, the founders of parkour, I was able to derive a form of expressive architecture that takes all these ideas into consideration.

Drawing from Borden’s work we see that skateboarders, much like the practitioners of parkour, produce space through complex spatial actions that “generate an extraordinary movement and production of body-centric space” whilst combining this with Lefebvre's idea that space and body share a reflexive relationship, the parkour training hall was very much derived from the combination of these two ideas. Taking the analysis of particular parkour maneuvers, and carving it out of a solid, gave birth to this body-centric space.

The double wall in the building accentuates Borden’s words ‘both the presence (the walls) and the absence (the gap) of architecture…the gap is at once stressed and removed’ Immediately it encourages an interaction with the architecture as traceurs’ treatment of the city and it’s architecture is defined not through the physicality but via a bodily interaction with it.

A series of mix and match of ideas and architectural elements at Blackfriars offer an experience to the city but at a much lesser scale. The building is what the city is to the traceur and what London is to an architect, a patchwork of different influences and ideas that stand still in time.

Albert Suen

The project is based on the idea that the contemporary urban environment can be seen as a landscape full of new possibilities for self expression and fun. In this sense, the claim is that our activities in the city can in the future become naturalized in a context that is completely artificial. Parkour, a term originating in France, is the sport of climbing and moving over buildings, and this project provides a base in London for the learning of the skills necessary to take part in relative safety. With parkour being a parasitic and illegal activity, the building itself appropriates the site near Blackfriars Bridge in such a way as to leave the majority of the space open for further development. Conceived of as a 'wall' running North/South, all the functions take place in cantilevered spaces which are little more than large ledges. The East and West facades are treated as polar opposites: to the east facing the empty site, a complex concrete surface made of elements cast on the ground in-situ then raised into position, while to the west, facing the access road to the bridge, a faceted glazed surface supported on a series of curved triangulated vertical trusses.

The Project successfully avoids the usual architectural cliches or set pieces that pervade much student work at degree level, and exhibits an assured self confidence in its' own aesthetic and philosophy that the forms generating the building come from nature adds irony to the many levels at which the project operates.


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